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 is hosting the first in a series of 6 workshops on the protection of journalists: Chapter 1: Human Rights Standards for the Protection of Journalists in the Inter-American System & States’ Best Practices. The first workshop will focus on the regional findings in Latin America. Speakers will discuss the human rights standards for the protection of journalists in the Inter-American system and states’ best practices. In particular, speakers will discuss the rich history of Latin American case law on the issue of violence against journalists, focusing on the cases of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Participants will analyze the more relevant precedents as well as the latest trends, including the significant decision by the Inter-American Court on the case of Jineth Bedoya v. Colombia, that has recently developed the standards on matters of violence against women journalists. Join us on Thursday, January 27, 2022 from 10am – 11:15am ET. RSVP

● CASE, the coalition against SLAPPs in Europe, has just published its submission to the European Commission’s Public Consultation on EU action against SLAPPs.  The submission is a policy brief which reflects the views of a wide range of non-governmental organisations, associations, legal experts, and practitioners active both at national and EU level based on a thorough analysis of data collected on SLAPPS in Europe. Additional information on the issue, including a summary of the submission, is available from the CASE website and examples of recent SLAPPs in Belgium are discussed by Dirk Voorhoof in a blog for the Legal Human Academy.

● The Berkman Klein Center at Harvard University and the Lumen Database are hosting a Research Sprint. The Lumen Database “collects and studies online content removal requests.” The program is designed for upper level Master’s and Ph.D. students from around the globe working in potentially relevant academic disciplines, as well as professionals from related fields, to focus on the global content takedown ecology, and transparency efforts broadly. It will take place virtually each Thursday from 8:00-10:00 am ET between March 3 – May 5, 2022 with an average time commitment of 10 hours a week. Participants will be compensated USD $1,000 for their participation. Research Sprint applications are due by Monday, January 31, 2022 at 12:00 ET. More information, including the application can be found here.

● The Committee to Protect Journalists has issued a special report by Leonard Downie Jr.  “‘Night and day’: The Biden administration and the press.” The  report observes that despite the dramatic improvement in Presidential engagement with the media, “press freedom advocates remain concerned about issues like the president’s limited availability to journalists, the administration’s slow responses to requests for information, its planned extradition of Julian Assange, restrictions on media access at the U.S. southern border, and its limited assistance to Afghan journalists.”

Decisions this Week

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.

Nelson Curi et al v. Globo Comunicação e Participações S/A
Decision Date: February 11, 2021
The Brazilian Federal Supreme Court held that a general right to be forgotten is incompatible with the Federal Constitution. In 2004, the family of a murdered woman had approached the courts, arguing that the use of images of the woman and her relatives in a broadcast of a television program detailing her 1958 murder infringed their rights to privacy. The Court stated that the Constitution does protect the rights to privacy, honor, image, and personality and that situations which have invoked the right to be forgotten can be determined under those existing laws. It held, however, that a general and abstract right to be forgotten would be an excessive and authoritarian restriction of the right to freedom of expression and information.

The Case of the Anti-Fascist Dossiers
Decision Date: August 2, 2021
The 10th Civil Court in São Paulo, Brazil held that a state representative who had compiled and shared with the police dossiers of individuals he accused of being “antifascists” had violated the privacy of those individuals. After the state representative had asked his followers on Twitter to share information on people he said were “antifascists” he said that he had collated information on more than 1000 individuals. The information was leaked which included personal information of the individuals concerned. The Court found that even though it was not clear who had leaked the information, the state representative had contributed to the information’s dissemination, and so held that he had harmed and should pay damages to the individuals whose right to privacy had been infringed.


Robinson v. Attorney General
Decision Date: April 12, 2019
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Jamaica held the National Identification and Registration Act (“NIRA” or the “Act”), in its entirety to be unconstitutional on the grounds of violating the right to privacy and equality. The Act required Jamaican citizens and residents of more than six months to mandatorily enroll in the database and provide biographic and core biometric data. To ensure enforcement of the Act, criminal sanctions were provided for individuals who failed to enroll themselves. The Court, while giving an extensive interpretation of the right to privacy held the mandatory nature of the Act and the criminal sanctions to be in violation of informational privacy and liberty of the individuals. The disproportionate measures used to enforce the Act, the lack of necessary and a legitimate purpose, and absence of safeguards against misuse of the data collected under the Act were the primary grounds on which the Court declared the Act to be unconstitutional.

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.

The Impact of Disinformation on Democratic Processes and Human Rights in the World
This study by the European Parliament proposes “steps the EU can take to build counter-disinformation more seamlessly into its global human rights and democracy policies.” Recognizing the evolving complexity of the spread of disinformation and available remedies, the study begins by defining disinformation and identifying the main perpetrators as well as their motivations and tactics. It then evaluates disinformation’s impact on human rights and democratic processes. A chapter on its role in the pandemic, observes the dynamics “unleashed more intense waves of disinformation, allied to human rights and democracy setbacks.” The study further assesses legislative and regulatory responses as well as best practices.

Artificial Intelligence and Freedom of Expression
This paper by the OSCE “maps the key challenges to freedom of expression presented by AI across the OSCE region, in light of international and regional standards on human rights and AI. It identifies a number of overarching problems that AI poses to freedom of expression and human rights.” The paper looks at AI’s impact on freedom of expression, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when States and the private sector employed it as part of their response mechanisms without “without adequate societal debate or democratic scrutiny.” The paper presents four case studies, “security threats”; “hate speech”; media pluralism and diversity online; and the impact of AI-powered State surveillance on freedom of expression. The paper concludes with recommendations based on an understanding  “that there is a need to further raise awareness, and improve understanding, of the impact of AI related to decision-making policies and practices on freedom of expression,” in coordination with OSCE regional approaches.

Post Scriptum

●  Saving Journalism 2: Global Strategies And A Look At Investigative Journalism by Anya Schiffrin, Hannah Clifford, and Theodora Dame Adjin-Tettey explores developments over the past year in new business models and global efforts to support media viability. Poynter published a summary of the report which focuses on the shift in governments and philanthropy supporting media “as a public good” to ensure quality information is widely disseminated “to reduce corruption and fight autocracy.” The Columbia Journalism Review also has a  piece on the report which talks about the aftermath of the Australian News Media Bargaining Code, the debate over tax credits for journalism and how economists look at supporting journalism.

●  Sarah Cook has an article, “Countering Beijing’s Media Manipulation” in the January 2022 issue of the Journal of Democracy (available for free through 15 February). The article discusses how the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) influence campaigns have gone global over the last decade to “manipulate foreign information environments in four key ways: disseminating propaganda, spreading disinformation, censoring critical coverage, and controlling the infrastructure used to convey news. This article considers which efforts have yielded gains for the regime, obstacles that Beijing has encountered, and the response of nongovernmental actors. It concludes by considering how to enhance democratic resilience to the covert and coercive dimensions of the CCP’s global media influence.”

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