Columbia University has launched an online global database of freedom of expression case law and court rulings. The novel platform developed by Columbia Global Freedom of Expression currently includes some 250 rulings from 65 nations and will be updated and expanded with relevant judicial decisions on a weekly basis. The database is available free to the general public.
In addition to the analyses of court rulings, the digital platform includes, comparative reviews of jurisprudence, blogs and other publications by international freedom of expression experts. The database will reinforce global understanding of freedom of expression jurisprudence and support the development of international norms and institutions protecting the free flow of information.
“This is a unique resource that I believe will help move us closer to a global public forum where information can be freely exchanged and journalists can work without the kinds of intimidation, censorship and threats of legal prosecution that are all too pervasive around the world,” said Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger. “The platform has been designed by and for those working on the front line of freedom of expression, including lawyers, judges, scholars and policy-makers. We are grateful for the insights offered by legal experts, researchers and activists around the world who have contributed to creating this valuable new tool that establishes the international legal norms for free press and speech.”
The database encompasses rulings that both expand and contract legal protection for freedom of expression and information. For example, the online platform includes a ruling of the African Court for People and Human Rights decriminalizing defamation in its first ever judgment on freedom of expression; the ruling of a Thai court sentencing a student and an activist to a jail term of two-and-a-half years on lese majeste charges for participating in a play; and a decision by a Russian court to shut down an online forum for LGBT teens on the grounds that it encourages homosexuality in a public place.
“Every week we hear about violations to freedom of expression in some part of the world,” said Dr. Agnes Callamard, director of Columbia Global Freedom of Expression who was previously executive director of the international human rights organization, ARTICLE 19. “But we rarely hear about the legal battles that go on to protect this freedom in the courtrooms across the world. Columbia’s global database will provide knowledge about these cases and improve our understanding of global legal trends on freedom of expression, contributing to stronger global protections of these rights.”
President Bollinger launched Global Freedom of Expression last year to advance understanding of the norms and institutions that best protect the free flow of information and expression. This past March, it awarded its first annual Global Freedom of Expression Prizes for significant judicial decisions in Turkey and Zimbabwe and to a U.K.-based legal services organization in recognition of its contributions to strengthening freedom of expression and a free press.
More information can be found here.