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
● Upcoming Event – The Collapse of Freedom of Expression: A Round Table. Join Global Freedom of Expression and Columbia Journalism School for a discussion with Jordi Pujol about his new book The Collapse of Freedom of Expression: Reconstructing the Roots of Modern Liberty. In his book, Professor Pujol examines the sustainability of the free speech liberal tradition through emblematic cases from the U.S. and Europe that show some important fractures within the liberal tradition of freedom of expression: weaponization of speech, the threat of new orthodoxies banning dissent and compelling speech, or a new-school censorship on the internet, among others. A panel of scholars from different disciplines will discuss the architecture of Freedom of Expression and the threats to its sustainability in the digital age. Discussants include, Richard R. John, Professor of History and Communications (Columbia University); Michael Schudson, Professor of Journalism and (affiliated faculty) Sociology (Columbia University); and Hawley Johnson, Associate Director, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression. March 9, 2023. 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM ET. Register to participate online here.
● Upcoming Event – Online Safety and Digital Empowerment of Women Journalists: Combatting Online Threats and Harassment. Join the Permanent Missions of Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia to the United Nations for a side event in the margins of the sixty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women. The event will provide a space to discuss the challenges and threats faced by women journalists online, as well as good practices of UN Member States and other stakeholders to create a safe online environment for women journalists. March 9, 2023. 10:00 AM – 11:15 AM ET. Register here.
● Report launch – Freedom in the World 2023: Marking 50 Years in the Struggle for Democracy. Join Freedom House for the launch of the 50th edition of Freedom in the World, which has been tracking global trends in political rights and civil liberties annually since 1973. The event will feature researchers presenting key findings from the 2023 report, followed by a panel discussion on the implications of those findings and the state of democracy worldwide. Speakers include, Michael J. Abramowitz, President, Freedom House; Nury Turkel, Chairman of US Commission on International Religious Freedom; Leopoldo López, Venezuelan political leader, pro-democracy activist and Sakharov Prize laureate; and Dr. Rachel Kleinfeld, Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Freedom House Trustee. March 9, 2023 at 10:00AM ET. Register here.
● Call for Papers: Symposium on digital safety issues faced by journalists. The Journalism Safety Research Network (JSRN), hosted by the Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) in the Department of Journalism Studies at the University Sheffield, is organizing a series of online symposiums to enable academics and civil society organisations to come together to discuss digital safety threats and research surrounding them. Digital safety themes include, but are not limited to: online harassment of journalists; nline surveillance (by both state and non-state actors); digital shutdowns (by both state and non-state actors); and lack of online training on best practices.The symposium will be held March 28, 2023, and the deadline for abstracts is March 10th. Please send abstracts of 250-300 words, including a bio of ca.100 words to Dr Gemma Horton (firstname.lastname@example.org). More information here.
Decisions this Week
Muzamil Butt v. State of Jammu and Kashmir
Decision Date: April 22, 2022
The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir in India refused to quash a complaint against the petitioner under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 (“UAPA”) in relation to his Facebook Posts. The petitioner had published a series of Facebook posts regarding a blast at a gunfight site that had occurred in his village on October 21, 2018, wherein six civilians were killed and more than sixty people were injured, including men, women and children. The incident triggered outrage across Kashmir. The police officials contended that the petitioner was responsible for spreading sedition by posting pro-separatist content on social media. The Court ruled that while the petitioner had the right to criticize the negligent attitude of the government authorities and inhuman behavior of security forces under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, he could not advocate separatist claims by suggesting that the people of Kashmir were treated as slaves by the Indian military occupation, and further question the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.
Alliance More Information More Rights v. National Disaster Risk Management Unit (NDWMU)
Decision Date: September 30, 2021
Colombia’s Administrative Court of Cundinamarca ordered the National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (NUDRM) to deliver to More Information More Rights Alliance (Alianza Más Información Más Derechos) the confidentiality clauses of the agreements signed by the National Government for the acquisition of vaccines in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government denied the request for information on the ground that they were confidential under an exceptional legal regime that regulates contracts with foreign agencies and companies. NUDRM further argued that disclosing such clauses would be a violation of the contracts signed with pharmaceutical companies and, therefore, could result in these companies not supplying them with COVID vaccines, which could harm the public health of the Colombian population. The Court held that the refusal to disclose the confidentiality clauses violated the petitioner’s right of access to information. In particular, it established that the NUDRM’s position was neither appropriate, necessary nor proportional. It also held that the refusal to provide such information violated standards of international human rights law and Colombian domestic law. Consequently, the court ordered the release of the information because it did not affect public health and there was no reason to limit the petitioners’ right of access to information.
CNIL v. Google LLC
Decision Date: March 27, 2020
The French Council of State overturned a public financial penalty imposed on Google by the restricted committee of the CNIL (French data protection authority) for failing to uphold the right to be forgotten. The CNIL had ordered a pecuniary sanction against Google Inc. on the grounds that it refused a delisting request on all the domain names of its search engine. The Council of State noted that European law requires national authorities to balance the individual’s right to data protection and the general freedom of information, and that as the CNIL had not conducted this balancing exercise its judgment was wrong in law.
CNIL v. X
Decision Date: March 10, 2016
The French national data protection authority’s (CNIL) Restricted Section held an internet company responsible for breaching its users’ right to be forgotten. The company had received requests from internet users for the company to dereference links to webpages from search results of their name, and when the dereferencing was not done the users sent complaints to the CNIL. The CNIL instructed the company to follow the dereferencing requests for all geographical locations. When the company had not respected the time limits given by the CNIL to correct their breach of the law, and did not propose a sufficient measure to improve its referencing system, the CNIL imposed a financial sanction of 100,000 euros and a public statement of the judgment on the company.
X v. Google
Decision Date: January 28, 2014
The Paris Tribunal of Commerce held Google Inc. responsible for not responding to an individual’s request to stop the association of his name with some words referring to his criminal past, in the “Google Suggest” function. The Court held that the appearance of personal data in combination with other terms constitutes a processing of personal data, “communication by transmission” and “dissemination” and so Google Inc was obliged to accede to the request. The Court distinguished this request from one to block the access to the contents or for their delisting, and said it was merely to stop the association of phrases with names, and this does not infringe the right to communicate information, the freedom of expression, and the freedom to receive and seek information.
In re Law No. 2009-669 furthering the Diffusion and Protection of Creation on the Internet
Decision Date: June 10, 2009
The French Constitutional Court held that certain parts of sections 5 and 11 of the Law No. 2009-669 of June 12, 2009 furthering the diffusion and protection of creation on the Internet, commonly known as the HADOPI law, were unconstitutional. Members of the National Assembly requested the French Constitutional Court to adjudge the legality of this law arguing that it gave an administrative authority, albeit independent authority, the power to suspend access to the internet for copyright infringement, which was a “patently disproportionate penalty” and constituted a violation of the fundamental right of freedom of expression and communication. They placed reliance on Article 11 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen of 1789. The Court ruled that although the Parliament was at a “liberty to lay down rules intended to reconcile the pursuit of the objective of fighting infringement of copyright on the internet with the right of free communication and freedom to speak, write and publish” under Article 34 of the French Constitution, it didn’t have the liberty to vest powers to suspend the internet in an administrative authority for the purpose of protecting holders of copyright and related rights.
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.
Guide on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights
This Guide, updated in 2022, “is part of the series of Case-Law Guides published by the European Court of Human Rights to inform legal practitioners about the fundamental judgments and decisions delivered by the Strasbourg Court. This particular Guide analyses and sums up the case law under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. It covers the period from 1957 to 31 December 2020.” Readers will find key principles in this area and the relevant precedents. The case laws cited have been selected among major judgements. However, it does not include cases concerning Article 10 where an admissibility decision was given as a result of their exclusion from protection by the Convention as per grounds under Article 17 and cases where the Court found no violation of Article 17.
In case you missed it…
Strategic Litigation as a Tool for the Protection of Human Rights- analyzing cases from the Republic of Georgia. The Leitner Center for International Law and Justice hosted a presentation by Mari Kapanadze, Civil and Political Rights Program Director, Georgia Democracy Initiative. Kapanadze discussed a range of the cases she has worked on, in particular, those involving the protection of different vulnerable groups such as LGBTQ+ activists and journalists. She shared her insights based on more than nine years monitoring cases of discrimination, hate speech, and hate crimes; litigating strategic cases; and advocating for changes in legislation and practice. The event was co-sponsored with the HRAP, Institute for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University. Watch the video here.
This newsletter is reproduced with the permission of Global Freedom of Expression. For an archive of previous newsletters, see here.