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

● Columbia Global Freedom of Expression hosted an online event, “The Recent Case of Jineth Bedoya Lima vs. Colombia: The Emblematic Case of International Law in the Fight Against Impunity for Crimes Against Female Journalists & its Global Impact.” Panelists Jineth Bedoya Lima, Editor, EL TIEMPO; Jonathan Bock, Executive Director, Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa; Viviana Krsticevic, Executive Director, Center For Justice & International Law; and Joel Simon, Executive Director, Committee to Protect Journalists discussed the historic ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights which recognized, for the first time, the use of sexual violence as a form of silencing and control of a woman journalist in the context of the Colombian armed conflict. The conversation focused on the impact of the sentence on female journalists, challenges during the litigation process and its global importance for the protection of journalists. Video available here.

●  Balkan Insight reported that the Belgrade Higher Court in Serbia has “convicted four former Serbian state security officers of the 1999 murder of journalist Slavko Ćuruvija, an outspoken critic of Slobodan Milošević’s regime, sentencing them to a total of 100 years in prison.” This was the second ruling by this court, after the first conviction was overturned on procedural grounds by the Belgrade Appeals Court in 2020 and a retrial was ordered. The Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation has stated that this decision confirms that “the murder of Slavko Ćuruvija was orchestrated by the state” and that “it [not only] represents an important step in confronting the politically motivated crimes of the Slobodan Milošević regime, but also criminalised structures within the state apparatus.”

● The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation has translated into English the complete Public Inquiry Report on the circumstances of Daphne Caruana Galizia’s assassination. The landmark report concluded that the journalist’s assassination was “either intrinsically or directly linked to her investigative work,” in particular as it related to the Panama Papers and offshore companies. The report details a range of tactics employed by authorities to silence her including verbal abuse, harassment, political propaganda, stalking and vexatious lawsuits, all enabled by a “culture of impunity not only for senior officials in the public administration, including ‘persons of trust’ but also for a restricted circle of politicians, businesspeople and criminals.” The Report upholds international standards to strengthen the rule of law in endorsing recommendations made by the Venice Commission and the PACE Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee.

●  The Columbia Global Book Series presents “Media Capture: How Money, Digital Platforms, and Governments Control the News.” Chaired by Safwan M. Masri, author Dr. Anya Schiffren will discuss her new book with Mark Nelson, Felix Salmon, and Joel Simon. The book features pathbreaking analysis from journalists and academics of the changing nature and peril of media capture—how formerly independent institutions fall under the sway of governments, plutocrats, and corporations. Contributors also chart a way forward, exploring the growing need for a policy response and sustainable models for public-interest investigative journalism. Tuesday, 7 December. 12:00-1:00pm New York; 8:00-9:00pm Istanbul. Register here.

Decisions this Week

Inter-American Court of Human Rights
Bedoya Lima v. Colombia
Decision Date: August 26, 2021
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared the Colombian State responsible for the violation of the right to personal integrity, personal liberty, honor and dignity, and freedom of thought and expression of Colombian journalist, Jineth Bedoya. On May 25, 2000, the reporter visited “La Modelo” prison in Bogota, Colombia to conduct an interview, but before entering the prison she was abducted, kidnapped and taken to a warehouse where she was sexually abused and assaulted by several men. The Court considered that the State violated its obligation to guarantee Bedoya’s safety because it did not implement effective protection measures for the victim, even when it was aware of the risk she faced because of the issues she covered and because she was a female journalist.

In cooperation with UNESCO, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression will be publishing a series of analyses of important decisions relating to privacy and freedom of expression. Below are the case analyses published this week.

P v. A
Decision Date: September 24, 2021
The Bombay High Court stressed the importance of protecting the identities and personal information of all parties from disclosure in proceedings under a law concerning sexual harassment of women in the workplace. The Court ordered a set of initial guidelines for other relevant Courts (including the Registry), parties and the media to follow during any proceedings under the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act and Rules, 2013. Set as a minimum standard, the Court passed a number of key orders to protect not only the plaintiffs and defendants in any case, but their witnesses too – through measures that target anonymization, access to documents, media coverage and the conduct of proceedings.

Justice Dery v. Tiger Eye
Decision Date: February 4, 2016
The Supreme Court of Ghana ruled that article 146(8) of the Constitution mandating that the processes for the impeachment of judges be held in camera prohibited publication of information related to those processes. The Chief Justice and a private company had publicized the names and details of a petition for the removal of a Judge of the Supreme Court accused of bribery and corruption. The Judge approached the Court, arguing that the publication infringed the Constitution and that this rendered the impeachment process null and void. The Court held that the disclosure of names prior to the Chief Justice’s decision whether a prima facie case for impeachment was made out, violated article 146(8) but that this did not invalidate the entire impeachment process. The Court emphasized the need to balance the right to privacy and confidentiality of the judge with the right of the State to investigate allegations made against judges. It also stressed that the restriction on publication of impeachment processes was limited to the period of the impeachment, and that any permanent injunction against publication would stifle the right to freedom of expression.

Over the next few weeks Columbia Global Freedom of Expression will be completing its collection of all relevant decisions from the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights. The following were published this week.

European Court of Human Rights
Hashman v. the United Kingdom
Decision Date: November 25, 1999
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held that the United Kingdom violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights as the legal basis for the imposition of an order on two individuals was not “prescribed by the law”. Two protesters had attempted to disrupt a fox hunt and had been ordered to “keep the peace and be of good behaviour” in future. The domestic courts held that the protesters’ behavior was “contra bonos mores” which justified a guarantee that they would abstain from disrupting the hunters. The Court held that as they had not been found to have acted unlawfully in their protest against the hunt, the order was one to refrain from undetermined and uncertain behavior and therefore was not foreseeable and not a justifiable limitation of the protesters’ right to freedom of expression.

Nilsen v. Norway
Decision Date: November 25, 1999
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human held that Norway had violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights by finding two police officials liable for defamation. The police officials had responded to the publication of a series of reports and articles alleging police abuse and accused the author of the reports of being dishonest. The domestic courts held that the police officials’ statements were defamatory of the author. The Court found that the officials’ statements were value judgments expressing their opinions and that there was circumstantial evidence to support their statements. The Court concluded that the officials’ statements did not go beyond the boundaries of acceptable criticism under Article 10 of the Convention and that they had been made in the context of a heated public debate in which there was no room for reformulating the message or correcting the tone.  The Court held that the interference in the officials’ rights was disproportionate to the legitimate aim of protecting the reputation and rights of others.

Teaching Freedom of Expression Without Frontiers

This section of the newsletter features teaching materials focused on global freedom of expression which are newly uploaded on Freedom of Expression Without Frontiers.

Resilience to Online Disinformation: A Framework for Cross-National Comparative Research
This article by Edda Humprecht, Frank Esser, Peter Van Aelst in The International Journal of Press/Politics explores whether some countries are able to better resist and manage online disinformation than others. The authors take a comparative cross-national approach to develop a theoretical framework for the variety of conditions among 18 Western democracies and to identify quantifiable indicators for comparison. Employing a cluster analysis, they isolate “three country groups: one group with high resilience to online disinformation (including the Northern European systems, for instance) and two country groups with low resilience (including the polarized Southern European countries and the United States). In the final part, [they] discuss the heuristic value of the framework for comparative political communication research in the age of information pollution.”

Democratic Disruption in the Age of Social Media: Between Marketized and Structural Conceptions of Human Rights Law
This article by Barrie Sander in the European Journal of International Law examines content moderation and data surveillance practices among social media companies and their reliance on “two rival conceptions of human rights law – marketized and structural” to address transparency and accountability failures. Sander argues “in favour of a more structural conception of human rights law, one characterized by an openness to positive state intervention to safeguard public and collective values such as media pluralism and diversity as well as a systemic lens that strives to take into account imbalances of power in the social media ecosystem and the effects of state and platform practices on the social media environment as a whole.”

Post Scriptum

● Digital Freedom Fund (DFF) is looking for a Communications Officer to strengthen and coordinate DFF ́s communications strategy. Download the full job description here. The position is based in Berlin and the deadline for applications is 12 December 2021 with a start date on 1 February 2022.

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