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.

● Upcoming Event: Global Freedom of Expression Prize Ceremony. Columbia Global Freedom of Expression is proud to recognize the judicial decisions and legal representation around the world that strengthen freedom of expression by promoting international legal norms. The 2022 Significant Legal Ruling Prize will be awarded to the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for its ruling in Amnesty International & Ors v. The Togolese Republic. The 2022 Excellence in Legal Services Prize will go to the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) for their legal assistance and advocacy on behalf of Jineth Bedoya Lima in the case of Bedoya Lima v. Colombia. The online ceremony will premiere on Tuesday, 1 March at 4:00 PM (EST) on YouTube and here. Register here.

 Upcoming Event: Chapter 3: Human Rights Standards for the Protection of Journalists in Asia & States’ Best Practices. Join Columbia Global Freedom of Expression for the third in a series of 6 workshops on the protection of journalists. The third workshop will focus on regional findings in Asia. Speakers will refer to and discuss relevant case law in the region related to the protections of journalists. They will also share their viewpoints on the main global challenges to freedom of expression related to violence against journalists. The event will take place online Friday, 4 March 2022 from 7:00AM – 8:15 AM EST. Register for the online event here.

● 2022 Oxford Media Policy Summer Institute is currently accepting applications! The course for 2022 will focus on Technology and Policy During Times of Crisis. It will examine key issues in media law and policy- topics include AI and online content moderation of extreme speech; internet shutdowns during elections and conflict; public diplomacy in a time of mis/disinformation; big data and humanitarian interventions; social media and migration; and innovation in the global south. With the participation of speakers from around the world, the course will explore media policy in current events such as the escalating crisis in Ukraine, media development under the Taliban in Afghanistan, and online hate speech and conflict in Ethiopia. Jesus College, Oxford 1-12 August 2022. Apply Now

● The Mapping Media Freedom Monitoring Report 2021 has launched “outlining the state of media freedom throughout all EU member states, candidate countries, and the United Kingdom in 2021. The report, which collects and visualises all press freedom violations from 2021 recorded by the Media Freedom Rapid Response partners for Mapping Media Freedom (MapMF), reveals that 626 media freedom violations were registered in 2021. These violations affected 1,063 individuals or media entities in 30 countries. The report continues with a breakdown of the most common types, sources, and contexts of violations.”

Decisions this Week

European Court of Human Rights
Hurbain v. Belgium
Decision Date: June 22, 2021
The European Court of Human Rights held that an order to anonymise an article in a newspaper’s electronic archive (which referred to a person’s involvement in a fatal road traffic accident for which they were subsequently convicted) did not breach the applicant publisher’s right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The applicant, Patrick Hurbain’s newspaper Le Soir published an article reporting on a series of fatal car accidents which had occurred in a short period of time. It mentioned the full name of one of the drivers involved, “G” who successfully sued the applicant and received an order in their favour. The ECtHR upheld the decision of the domestic courts and emphasized that a person who is not a public figure may acquire notoriety in the context of a criminal process/trial but that may decline with the passage of time, with the effect that they may be able to rely on the right to be forgotten in order to go back to being someone who is unknown to the public.

Selistö v. Finland
Decision Date: November 16, 2004
The European Court of Human Rights held that a Finnish journalist’s criminal conviction for publishing a series of articles regarding a case of possible medical negligence due to alcohol intoxication violated Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. A Finnish publication had published three articles which discussed the death of a patient, allegations that the unnamed surgeon had been drunk, and general comments on the need for surgeons and pilots to be sober when working. The Finnish Courts had convicted the journalist on two counts of defamation, finding that the surgeon was identifiable and that the allegations had not been proven and so diminished the surgeon’s honor and reputation. The European Court of Human Rights came to the opposite conclusion, finding that the journalist had not acted mala fide and had not violated any journalistic ethics, and so the conviction and sentence was not necessary in a democratic society.

United Kingdom
Director of Public Prosecutions v. Ziegler and others
Decision Date: June 25, 2021
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom confirmed the District Court’s decision that the arrest and prosecution of a group of protesters infringed their rights to free speech and assembly under Article 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case concerned a group of demonstrators apprehended for lying down in the middle of a road on one side of the highway, blocking traffic towards an arms fair venue. The District Judge found that the protestors were not guilty of a criminal offence since their rights to free speech and assembly gave them a lawful excuse to protest. However, the prosecution appealed on a point of law, and the Divisional Court reversed the acquittals. The Supreme Court concluded that the prosecution failed to prove that the defendant’s use of the highway was unreasonable, and therefore it overturned the Divisional Court decision, and the convictions were revoked.

hing 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.

Free to Think 2021: Report of Scholars at Risk Academic Freedom Monitoring Project
The report analyzes 332 attacks on higher education communities in 65 countries and territories around the world between September 1, 2020 and August 31, 2021. While Free to Think 2021 only reflects a fraction of attacks on higher education that have occurred over the past year, the report argues that [t]hese attacks demonstrate the range of tactics by diverse actors seeking to punish and silence scholars, students, and other members of higher education communities exercising their right to ideas. They discourage research, teaching, and discussion. They undermine universities, colleges, and research institutions attempting to provide solutions to problems that impact everyone, from COVID-19 to climate change. They impede the ability of higher education to help shape tomorrow’s leaders.”

Post Scriptum

● Freedom House has launched Freedom in the World 2022: The Global Expansion of Authoritarian Rule. According to the report, global freedom has been in decline for 16 years, with 60 countries slipping towards autocracy over the last year, and only 25 showing signs of improving.  “Authoritarian regimes have become more effective at co-opting or circumventing the norms and institutions meant to support basic liberties, and at providing aid to others who wish to do the same. In countries with long-established democracies, internal forces have exploited the shortcomings in their systems, distorting national politics to promote hatred, violence, and unbridled power.”

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