Global Freedom of Expression, Columbia University: Newsletter

1 12 2019

Columbia Global Freedom of Expression seeks to contribute to the development of an integrated and progressive jurisprudence and understanding on freedom of expression and information around the world.  It maintains an extensive database of international case law. This is its newsletter dealing with recent developments  in the field.

Community Highlights and Recent News

● The Secretariat of the Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network has launched the world’s first Internet & Jurisdiction Global Status Report. The Report includes extensive documentation of topics of concern, related to expression, security or the digital economy and lists the increasing diverse legal or technical approaches adopted by governments and private actors to address key issues.

● Amnesty International has published a new report Surveillance Giants: How The Business Model Of Google And Facebook Threatens Human Rights. The report argues that Google and Facebook’s surveillance-based business model is inherently incompatible with the right to privacy and poses a threat to a range of other rights including freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of thought, and the right to equality and non-discrimination.

● The Internet Society (ISOCannounced that it has sold the rights to the .org registry for an undisclosed sum to a private equity company called Ethos Capital. A special report by the Register discusses how the sale of one of the internet’s most popular registries to a private equity firm has revived concerns over how the domain name system is governed.

Decisions this Week

Kenya
Andama v. Director of Public Prosecutions
Decision Date: July 31, 2019
The Nairobi High Court in Kenya ruled that a provision criminalizing the publication of “obscene information in electronic form” was an unjustifiable limitation of the rights to freedom of expression and to a fair trial. The case had been brought by an individual who had been charged with three counts under the provision in relation to tweets he had published which were critical of public officials and which used “impolite” language. The Court noted that the legislation in question had come into force before the adoption of the new Constitution in 2010 and represented an era where “government was used to forms of communication that it could easily access and control.” The Court held that the vagueness of the words and phrases in the provision allowed for subjective interpretation and so infringed on the right to freedom of expression and denied an accused a fair trial.

European Court of Human Rights
Times Newspapers Ltd. v. United Kingdom
Decision Date: November 13, 2018
The European Court of Human Rights dismissed a right to access information claim brought by the Times Newspaper (Times) on the ground that they had not exhausted domestic remedies. The Times complained that the United Kingdom was in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights because the exemption provided under Section 32(2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“FOIA”) did not assess whether the denial of access to information was appropriate and necessary. As part of a journalistic investigation into alleged misappropriation of funds by a charitable organization, the applicants followed the FOIA procedure to request documents from the Charity Commission. The Charity Commission initially refused to disclose the requested documents claiming absolute exemption under section 32(2) of the FOIA but eventually released some documents after a protracted legal process. The Times did not seek the alternate path of judicial review to gain access to additional documents finding that the delay would render the information no longer newsworthy and the legal costs would constitute an excessive and disproportionate burden on the right to freedom of expression.  After a lengthy review of domestic procedures and European case law, the Court concluded that the common law alternative to seeking judicial review under the Charities Act would have provided an effective legal remedy satisfying the requirements of Article 10.

The Frontier of Expression: Russia and Central Asia

Back next week


Post Scriptum

● The Information Society Project at Yale Law School is now accepting applications for ISP Resident Fellowships 2020-21. The ISP Resident Fellowship is designed for recent graduates of law or Ph.D. programs interested in an academic career and whose research is related to any of the ISP research areas. Deadline: January 2, 2020.

This newsletter is reproduced with the permission of Global Freedom of Expression.  For an archive of previous newsletters, see here.


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