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

● New Publication: “Special Collection on the Case Law on Freedom of Expression: Inter-American System of Human Rights.” The first in a new series by Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, this publication aims to provide an overview of the case law on freedom of expression in the Inter-American System of Human Rights. It includes a general introduction of the structure of the regional system and a systematized description of all the decisions to date of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights regarding freedom of expression, as well as the most relevant cases decided by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights that did not reach the Court. The paper further provides a topical classification of the Inter-American case law on freedom of expression, highlighting the main issues being discussed in the region.

● Upcoming Event“Global Attitudes to Free Speech and The Future of Content Moderation.” Join Justitia, a Copenhagen-based think tank that focuses on human rights, freedom of speech, and the rule of law, for a panel discussion on pressing questions around intermediary liability. Panelists will consider Justitia’s global survey on attitudes towards free speech conducted amongst 50,000 respondents in 33 countries and their 2021 report on international human rights as a “framework of first reference” for content moderation. The event will take place online Thursday, 17 March 2022 from 15.00-16.30 CET. Register here.

● Upcoming Event“Democratic recession or breaking point for the ‘bulwark of liberty’?” Join Columbia Global Freedom of Expression for a conversation between Jacob Mchangama, Founder of Justitia and Joel Simon, Fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School and former director of the Committee to Protect Journalists about this moment in human history with the war in Ukraine and what it means for the future of free speech. Mchangama has just released a new book Free Speech: A History From Socrates to Social Media and will offer some historical perspective on threats to this “first freedom” and the current struggle for democracy in the digital age. The event will take place online Tuesday, 22 March 2022 from 12:00 – 1:00 PM EST. Register here.

● Upcoming Event: Chapter 5: Human Rights Standards for the Protection of Journalists in Europe & States’ Best Practices. Join Columbia Global Freedom of Expression for the fifth in a series of 6 workshops on the protection of journalists. The fifth workshop will focus on regional findings in Europe. 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 Wednesday, 23 March 2022 from 11:00AM – 12:30 PM EST. Register for the online event here.

Decisions this Week

United Kingdom
Bloomberg LP v. ZXC
Decision Date: February 16, 2022
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom unanimously dismissed an appeal holding the Appellant liable for violation of respondent’s right to privacy in relation to information relating to a criminal investigation into his activities. The Respondent, ZXC, and his employer were the subject of a criminal investigation by a UK Legal Enforcement Body. The Appellant, Bloomberg, obtained a copy of the confidential Letter of Request sent by the enforcement body to a foreign state seeking information and documents relating to the respondent, and published an article referring to the fact that information had been requested in respect of the Respondent and detailing the matters in respect of which he was being investigated. The Supreme Court held that a person under criminal investigation has, prior to being charged, a reasonable expectation of privacy in respect of information relating to that investigation. It reasoned that a balancing exercise must be done in such cases to determine whether respondent’s article 8 right to privacy or the publisher’s article 10 right to freedom of expression should prevail, with neither of the right having the right of precedence over the other.

European Court of Human Rights
Šeks v. Croatia
Decision Date: February 3, 2022
The European Court of Human Rights unanimously decided that the Croatian authorities did not violate the applicant’s right to freedom of expression by denying him access to twenty-five classified documents from the presidential archive related to the recent Croatian history. The applicant argued that the national authorities did not conduct a proper proportionality test, nor did they explain why the national interest overrode the applicant’s interest in gaining the information for his academic research and a book. The Court rejected the application on the ground that five national authorities had examined his case and provided enough information supporting the secrecy of the documents. The Court concluded that decisions involving national security did not have to be explained with the same detail as decisions in ordinary administrative or civil cases.

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.

The Concept of Chilling Effect: Its Untapped Potential to Better Protect Democracy, The Rule of Law, and Fundamental Rights in the EU
“This publication from the Open Society European Policy Institute…examines whether it is possible to use the chilling effect to promote and protect democracy, rule of law, and fundamental rights. In its negative form, the chilling effect is used by some governments to create a climate of self-censorship that deters democratic actors such as journalists, advocates and judges from speaking out. To stop autocratic-minded authorities from achieving their goal of inspiring self-censorship among democratic actors, this report recommends systemically integrating the concept of chilling effect into the EU’s infringement framework of analysis. This will establish a foundation to better allow the EU to protect freedom of association, judicial independence, and media freedom.”

UN Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Freedom of Opinion and Expression
“This research report concerns the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, and through any media – including in the form of art. As such, it provides an overview of the human rights law framework applicable to artistic freedom of expression, highlights several contemporary instances of threat to artistic freedom, and concludes with a limited number of recommendations for States, private actors and civil society.”

Post Scriptum

● ARTICLE 19 and IFEX have launched the first in a series of #JournoSafe AdvoSheets, comprehensive but easy-to-use advocacy tools for media freedom and safety of journalists advocates. This first AdvoSheet focuses on the protection of women journalists, setting out what States must do to protect journalists, their obligations under international human rights law and their commitments.

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