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 True Costs of Biden’s Saudi Visit: A Meeting With MBS Undermines Human Rights Globally. Agnès Callamard, Secretary General of Amnesty International and former Director of Global Freedom of Expression, has a piece in Foreign Affairs which argues that a rapprochement between the US and Saudi Arabia at this critical juncture where the US needs to unite democratic states against authoritarianism and Russian aggression, “will not only undermine the pursuit of justice for [murdered journalist Jamal] Khashoggi; it will also reinforce the view that the United States only selectively stands up for human rights.” Callamard asserts that US and global interests would be better served if he used “this trip to meet with Saudi human rights defenders… demand that the kingdom end its systematic crackdown on freedom of expression and association…and to announce a permanent end to the sale of arms that Saudi Arabia would use in Yemen.”

● Guide for Journalists on How to Document International Crimes. The Centre for Law and Democracy and News Media Europe have published a Guide which offers “concrete recommendations for journalists and editors on how to capture information about international crimes so that it may be admitted as evidence in court.” The Guide provides definitions of core international crimes and has sections with advice on a range of legal issues including different types of evidence and basic rules regarding admissibility of evidence; how to gather information in a way that promotes its legal reliability; how to interview victims and witnesses; and explanations of privileges regarding the protection of confidential sources and not having to testify. It further includes a section on Resources with links to various written documents, apps and civil society organisations which can provide support.

● Upcoming Event: Cross-border Digital Policies for Africa Data Collection Event. The Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network Cross-border Digital Policies for Africa Project seeks to leverage existing networks of actors to frame, map and address cross-border digital policy issues across Africa. This data collection event, in hybrid format (Malawi) on the occasion of the African Internet Governance Forum (IGF),  aims to foster progress in the region and represent the amplified and shared perspectives of African digital policy practitioners. Tuesday, 19 July. More information and registration here.

● Upcoming Event: Hong Kong Today. The Human Rights Foundation is hosting a conversation to discuss the deterioration of freedoms in Hong Kong since the national security law, and highlight the Chinese government’s aggression. Speakers include Hong Kong activists-in-exile, Sunny Cheung and Anna Kwok from the Hong Kong Democracy Council, who have an extensive history advocating for a free Hong Kong. Washington Post journalist and columnist Josh Rogin will be moderating this conversation. Monday, 18 July 18. 5PM ET on Twitter Spaces.

Decisions this Week

South Africa
Right to Know Campaign v. City Manager of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality
Decision Date: June 10, 2022
The High Court in Johannesburg, South Africa held that the levying of fees for planned protests was irrational and unjustifiably limited the right to protest. After the convenor of a planned protest was charged a nominal fee of R297 (approx. US$18) by the City of Johannesburg’s police department, two civil society organizations approached the Court, seeking a declaration that the policy governing the levying of these fees was unconstitutional. The Court held that the reason given by the City that the fees contributed to the costs of policing the protests was irrational. It also referred to international jurisprudence in finding that the levying of any fees is an unconstitutional limitation to the right to protest and ignores the State’s positive obligation to provide services to facilitate the enjoyment of the right.

Majul v. Moyano
Decision Date: October 16, 2020
The Argentinian National Court of Appeals in Criminal and Correctional Matters decided to close the investigation into P. Moyano, since the required elements of criminal threat were not met. Luis Majul, a journalist, filed a criminal action against P. Moyano because he believed that Moyano was responsible for coordinating a group of people who hung posters against him and his wife along public roads. Those posters contained the slurs “squeezer and extortionist of judges and prosecutors” and “Repudiate and remember this face”. The Appellate Court considered that even though the posters aimed to undermine the professional reputation of Mr. Majul, they did not meet the threshold necessary to constitute a threat by Mr. Moyano against the complainant. The Court reasoned that it was not proven that the communications contained an “announcement of a future certain and clear harm, an unavoidable requirement of the criminal qualification proposed by the plaintiff in his appeal” [p. 4].

Nieto Marquez v. Las Igualadas
Decision Date: August 6, 2019
The Constitutional Court of Colombia found that a journalist’s online video commenting on and criticizing an influencer’s opinion on the LGBTI community did not violate the latter’s fundamental rights to good name and honor. The Court established a test to distinguish between factual information and opinions by considering six contextual elements. Further, some topics due to their public interest value, such as gender equality or discrimination against the LGBTI community, should be considered as specially protected speech in light of Colombian and Inter-American standards of freedom of expression. Hence, the Court held that the video was protected by the right to freedom of expression because it represented a critical opinion based on publicly available, true and verifiable facts related to an important social issue.

European Court of Human Rights
Najafli v. Azerbaijan
Decision Date: October 2, 2012
The First Section of the European Court of Human Rights unanimously held that Azerbaijan violated the rights of Mr Ramiz Huseyn oglu Najafli, a journalist, under Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) and Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Najafli and five of his colleagues had been severely beaten by the police while they were reporting on an unauthorised political demonstration in Baku. Not only the ill-treatment itself, but also the authorities’ subsequent failure to carry out an effective criminal investigation into the incident, resulted in a breach of Article 3. Additionally, the fact that Najafli was not a participant in the demonstration but a professional journalist exercising his task of imparting information and ideas on matters of public interest, led the Court to conclude that there had been a breach of Article 10 ECHR.

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.

Creating Safe Online Spaces for Women: Policy Brief
This policy brief by Liz Orembo and Mwara Gichanga “aims to understand the nature of cyber harassment and the existing policy gaps” in Kenya. The study is based on case studies from Twitter over a four-month period. The main finding of the report is that while Kenya has good laws and policies on paper to address gender-based violence, they are ineffective in practice. The authors find that a “narrative change” is necessary and hence they recommend “bringing more women into these spaces to challenge and change the narrative, for example, suggesting that media organisations should support female journalists in information and communications technology (ICT) reporting and other male-dominated fields.” It also calls for creating online reporting and support platforms as a more direct approach to online harassment. While the report focuses on Kenya, many of the findings and recommendations are relevant on a global level.

Post Scriptum

Below are articles written by Tow Fellow Patricia Campos Mello for the Brazilian news outlet Folha De S.Paulo which discuss concerns over potential incitement to violence due to false claims of election fraud in the upcoming 2022 elections in Brazil. The articles have been translated from Portuguese to English for the Tow Center Center on Digital Journalism.

“Agreements with platforms for elections in Brazil fall short of policies in the U.S.,” by Patricia Campos Mello discusses how recent agreements between the Brazilian Superior Electoral Court and internet platforms do not adequately address how the platforms will react in the event of a massive campaign of electoral disinformation, potential contesting of the election results and even incitement to violence, such as what took place after the US 2020 Presidential election. The article details the platforms updated policies on election disinformation and how they vary among specific countries.

“YouTube Moves to Remove Videos With False Allegations of Fraud in the 2018 Election,” by Patricia Campos Mello explains how YouTube, in response to calls to combat election disinformation, has retroactively removed “all videos containing false allegations of fraud, errors or technical problems in the [Brazilian] 2018 election.” According to the article, YouTube had previously only taken down “false claims of widespread fraud, after final election results have been officially certified” in relation to US presidential and German federal elections, but the policy has now been extended to Brazil.

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