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.

 LAST Call for Proposals: The CYRILLA Collaborative Will Award Four Grants for Advocacy-Oriented Initiatives – Deadline Extended. The CYRILLA Collaborative has extended the deadline for proposal submissions until August 15, 2023. Through the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT), CYRILLA will distribute four grants of USD 5,000 to digital rights advocacy initiatives. Limited to non-profit non-governmental organizations, the call particularly welcomes initiatives focusing on digital rights policies with an impact on marginalized communities. The targeted regions are Latin America, Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia (East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia). The application package includes a cover letter, proposal (not more than five pages), and proposed budget. Submit by August 15, 2023, to Learn more about the requirements here

● RSF and Partners Launch International Committee for an “AI Charter in Media”. IFEX member Reporters Without Borders (RSF) announced the launch of an international committee that will be working on a charter aimed at regulating AI in media. To manage the initiative, RSF has partnered with other press freedom NGOs, media representative organizations, and investigative journalism associations. The committee consists of 21 journalism, AI, and digital technologies experts. The committee’s chair is Maria Ressa, a journalist and 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. In response to the challenges that AI presents to the media industry, the initiative will “develop a set of principles, rights, and obligations for information professionals regarding the use of AI-based systems.” The committee will deliver the charter by the end of 2023. 

● New Techtonic podcast: How Will AI Affect Elections? ARTICLE 19 has launched Techtonic, a new podcast series covering the influence of Big Tech and social media on freedom of expression. In the most recent episode, host Chris Stokel-Walker interviews Eddie Perez of the Open Source Election Technology Institute (OSET) about AI’s potential impact on upcoming elections in the US, Egypt, and South Africa, among many others. Perez is the former Head of Election Integrity at Twitter and draws on 30 years of experience working on the issues. He discusses the dangers of “[d]eepfakes, fabricated and synthesised audio or enhanced micro-targeting capabilities,” and other tools made possible by the growth of generative AI, which are easily exploited by bad actors. Available on Apple podcastsSpotify, and Amazon Music

Decisions this Week

European Court of Human Rights
Glukhin v. Russia
Decision Date: July 4, 2023
The European Court of Human Rights held that Russia violated the rights to freedom of expression and to privacy by arresting and convicting an individual for a peaceful protest. An activist protested against his recent arrest by holding a cardboard cut-out of himself, with a phrase questioning his arrest, in a Moscow subway. Police identified him through the subway’s CCTV facial recognition technology and charged him with breaching public conduct. The national courts confirmed his conviction and he appealed to the Court. The Court found that the conviction infringed the right to freedom of expression because his demonstration was peaceful, and that the use of facial recognition technology was not necessary in the context of locating a peaceful protester and so infringed his right to privacy.

Miroslava Todorova v. Bulgaria
Decision Date: October 19, 2021
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that the Bulgarian authorities violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights concerning a judge from Sofia, Bulgaria, accused of misconduct and facing disciplinary proceedings. The Applicant judge claimed violations of Articles 6 (right to a fair trial), 8 (right to respect for private and family life), 10 (freedom of expression), and 18 (limitation of rights for improper purposes) of the Convention. The ECtHR found no violation of Article 6, stating the disciplinary proceedings and composition of the disciplinary college did not breach her rights. However, it found violations of Article 10, as the proceedings were seen as politically motivated and aimed at stifling her criticism of the judicial system. Additionally, the ECtHR held a violation of Article 18, ruling that the disciplinary measures were primarily intended to punish and intimidate her for her critical stance, rather than ensuring compliance with case deadlines. The ECtHR ordered the Bulgarian authorities to pay compensation to the judge.

Z.B. v. France
Decision Date: September 2, 2021
The European Court of Human Rights held that France’s conviction of a man who gave his nephew a shirt with terrorism related slogans did not infringe his rights to freedom of expression. The man had been convicted for the apologia for crimes of willful attacks on life when his nephew wore the shirt with the inscriptions “I am a bomb” and “Jihad born on September 11” at his pre-school. The lower French court held that the convictions were an infringement, but this had been overturned by the appellate courts which held that the inscriptions were not humorous but rather an attempt to justify mass crimes. The Court examined the interference of the right in light of the overall context, including the recent terrorist attacks in French schools, and concluded that the conviction was justified, and so did not constitute an unjustifiable limitation of the right to freedom of expression.

Mrs X v. Union of India
Decision Date: April 26, 2023
The Delhi High Court held that the intermediaries are required to remove all offending content from their platform in the case of Non-Consensual Intimate Images (NCII), and not just links to specific URLs provided by the users/victims. A woman had had explicit photographs of her posted online by a third party and had been unsuccessful in various attempts to have the images removed. The Court highlighted the damage the posting of NCIIs can cause and how victims being required to search the internet for new uploads of these images for the purposes of requesting their removal can cause trauma. The Court held that the Indian legislative framework required that intermediaries make “reasonable effort” to ensure that their users do not post content that does not belong to them or is obscene, and that intermediaries must apply technology to ensure that the repost of offending images are removed.

Smart Exit c.s. v. Facebook
Decision Date: October 13, 2020
The Amsterdam District Court denied the reinstatement of two Facebook pages that were removed by the company as they contained information that violated Facebook’s Covid 19 policy. In 2020 Facebook deleted the pages “No against 1,5 meters” and “Viruswaanzin”arguing that they breached their Policy on Covid 19 information. Plaintiffs Smart Exit, Viruswaarheid, and Plaintiff 3 (collectively referred to as Smart Exit c.s.) sued Facebook requesting the pages to be reinstated. The Court considered that in this case there was no horizontal direct effect of Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, concluding that as a private party, Facebook has no obligation to ensure that the right to freedom of expression must be exercised on their platform. Regarding the horizontal indirect effect of Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, the Court determined that the removal of the pages was a legitimate restriction of freedom of expression under Art. 10(2) since Facebook created and applied its COVID-19 policy at the request of the European Commission —which asked social media platforms to help prevent the spreading of medical misinformation about COVID-19 in the context of protecting public health. Moreover, the Court held that Facebook’s property rights constitute a second legitimate restriction to Article 10 of the European Convention of Human 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.

Free to Create: Artistic Freedom in Europe. 
A 2023 report by Sara Whyatt entitled Free to Create: Artistic Freedom in Europe examines the challenges European artists and cultural workers face in the practice of their right to freedom of artistic expression. These range from laws that curtail creative freedom, attacks from non-governmental groups and online threats to the “under-the-radar” pressures that contribute to self-censorship. Artistic freedom is a core human right requiring protection and it has worsened recently under multiple challenges – political extremism, economic collapse, a global pandemic, threats from digitisation, an emerging environmental catastrophe, and the return of war within Europe – all crises with major impacts on human rights across society.

Post Scriptum

● The Definition of Peaceful Assembly, by Yuval Shany. A chapter in the Oxford Handbook of Peaceful Assembly, the article surveys and analyzes two definitions of “peaceful assembly”: one is authored by the Human Rights Committee, the other – by the Venice Commission and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Looking at how the two international human rights bodies approach the term, Shany discusses the corresponding implications of the positions adopted. The article unpacks the components of the right to peaceful assembly and describes “specific interpretative choices relating to the purposeful gathering requirement, as well as specific issues relating to online assemblies and conditions for ‘peacefulness’.”

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