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.

●  SAVE THE DATE – Revealing the Power of Freedom of Expression Jurisprudence: CGFoE Database and its usefulness for the Latin American legal academia. October 20, 2023. The webinar will discuss the CGFoE Database, in which numerous cases have been translated into Spanish, as an important resource for use in the academic field of constitutional law and human rights in Latin America (e.g., for legal research, in constitutional and human rights courses, for writing papers, or as a consulting tool in international human rights moot competitions, among others). The panelists will share their experience using the database and how it contributes to the judicial and academic field of freedom of expression. We wish to invite Latin American universities, lawyers, professors, students, human rights activists, legal professionals and anyone interested in understanding and promoting freedom of expression in Latin America to attend. The webinar, conducted in Spanish, is open to the public. October 20, 2023. 9-10:30 am COT (Bogotá) / 10-11.30 am ET (New York) / 11-12:30 pm ART (Buenos Aires). Register here.

● Upcoming Event – Symposium on AI, Free Speech, and Human Rights. The Future of Free Speech Project and Vanderbilt University are hosting a conference on AI technology and its impact on freedom of expression and access to information. Bringing together industry experts, scholars, and activists, the symposium will explore a variety of AI and human rights intersections and challenges. The panels and presentations will cover inclusivity in AI models, individuals’ empowerment through open-source AI, trust and safety questions in generative AI, and strategies to counter AI-generated disinformation. October 12-13, 2023. Nashville, TN. Learn more about the event’s schedule. To attend virtually, fill out this registration form.

● Upcoming Event – A Supreme Fact-Check: How the Supreme Court gets U.S. history wrong. Join the Brennan Center for Justice online to hear historians discuss the Supreme Court’s originalist turn. The event, organized in partnership with the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic, will dive into “the past [as] a battleground for the future of the Constitution,” asking, “But should history be the sole source of rights? And what if the history that the Court has relied on is flat-out wrong?” The speakers are Laura Edwards, Princeton University, Kate Masur, Northwestern University, and Karen Tani, University of Pennsylvania Law School. Adam Serwer, Staff Writer for The Atlantic, will moderate the discussion. October 12, 2023, 6:00 pm ET. Register here to attend virtually.

● Job Opening – Executive Director at Reporters Shield. Expanding its reach and influence, Reporters Shield is seeking an individual with senior management experience to lead the initiative in defending journalists from legal harassment. A global program developed by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and the Cyrus Vance Center for International Justice, Reporters Shield is designed as a membership organization and draws on the precedents of numerous OCCRP investigative journalists, who have been targeted by SLAPP lawsuits. The successful candidate will “guide Reporters Shield’s strategic development and overall direction, ensuring that it grows its membership in all countries where SLAPPs are a concern.” Read more about the position and requirements here

Decisions this Week

Software Freedom Law Center, India v. State of Jharkhand 
Decision Date: September 11, 2023
The High Court of Jharkhand, in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), directed the State Government of Jharkhand to publish all the previous internet shutdown suspension orders on its website. The case concerned a writ petition filed by the Software Freedom Law Center against the internet shutdown orders imposed by the State Government of Jharkhand on multiple occasions, wherein the State Government also failed to publish the order giving the reasons for the internet shutdowns. The Court held that while the internet shutdown suspension orders imposed by the State Government were not at fault, however, the Respondents should have published the order on their website, proving the reasonable rationale behind the suspension order. Furthermore, the Court noted that any order passed for internet suspension in the future must comply with the guidelines provided by the Supreme Court of India in the cases Foundation of Media Professionals (2020) and Anuradha Bhasin (2020).

European Court of Human Rights Zrt v. Hungary
Decision Date: September 7, 2023
The Chamber of the First Section of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) unanimously ruled that Hungary violated media outlet Zrt’s freedom of expression by imposing objective liability on it due to an allegedly defamatory article. The case concerned the publication of a story about the President of Hungary’s conduct during military service, which was part of a media initiative to counter a smear campaign. The ECtHR found that the domestic courts had not properly balanced the right to freedom of expression against reputation protection, as the story addressed a matter of public interest. Additionally, the ECtHR criticized the imposition of objective liability, stating that it hindered the media’s role as a “public watchdog” and ran counter to established case law under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECtHR concluded that Hungary’s interference with the Applicant company’s freedom of expression was not necessary in a democratic society, resulting in a violation of Article 10.

User v. YouTube
Decision Date: October 11, 2021
The Regional Court of Cologne (LandgerichKöln), Germany, issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting YouTube from deleting a video containing medical information about Covid-19. After a user uploaded a video on YouTube with reports and interviews about Covid-19, the platform deleted the video. YouTube did not provide information about the reasons why it deleted the video. The user requested a preliminary injunction to prevent YouTube from deleting the content. The Court held that YouTube was contractually obligated to upload the user’s video and that its deletion was not justified, as YouTube did not provide any reasons for it.

Lee Hsien Loong v. Leong Sze Hian
Decision Date: March 24, 2021
The High Court of Singapore directed Mr. Leong Sze Hian, a columnist, to pay Mr. Lee Hsien Loong, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore, the sum of S$133,000 in a suit of defamation. Mr. Hian had shared an article titled “Breaking News: Singapore Lee Hsien Loong Becomes 1MDB’s Key Investigation Target – Najib Signed Several Unfair Agreements with Hsien Loong In Exchange For Money Laundering” on Facebook. The judge opined that the article’s headline implied that the plaintiff and Mr. Najib had made a number of “unfair” agreements which were the result of a quid pro quo with the plaintiff providing the assistance of Singapore banks in laundering stolen money. The judge consequently determined that the article insinuated that the plaintiff was involved in criminal activities. The court also held that the publication by the defendant occurred even if the defamatory statements were made available online by sharing an article and the defamatory material was received by a third party.

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.

Disinformation, pandemic and human rights
The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has launched a new Report which analyzes the problem of disinformation and its impact on freedom of expression in the Americas. The report has a particular focus on the problem of misinformation spread during the global pandemic and its impact on public health in the region. It further explores content moderation policies of the platforms and the complex balancing required to uphold international human rights standards to protect public debate as well as health. Based on the findings, the Office of the Rapporteur recommends that States “respect and guarantee human rights, including the right to freedom of expression; repair the effects on rights and mitigate the risks of violations in scenarios of future health emergencies.”

Post Scriptum

Fellowship Opportunities at Max Planck Institutes:

MPI-CSL Journalist in Residence Fellowship. The Max Planck Institute for the Study of Crime, Security, and Law is inviting freelance and staff journalists to apply for a visiting fellowship. Aiming to encourage collaboration between science and different media sectors, the fellowship will allow journalists to carry out their research. The applicants should have several years of journalistic experience and focus on the issues of “criminal law, public security law, and criminology/psychology for the purpose of political, social, economic, or scientific reporting.” Based in Freiburg, Germany, the fellowship can last between six weeks (minimum) and three months (maximum). Its dates will be determined individually. Apply by October 31, 2023.

Research Fellow for the Research Group “Humanet3: The Third Attempt at a Human-Centered Internet.” The Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition is accepting applications for the position of Research Fellow to join the team of Humanet3. The research group will tackle the question of “how a human-centred digital transformation, as proposed by the European Commission in its ‘European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles for the Digital Decade’, can be defined and be worked towards.” Based in Berlin at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, the fellowship will start in December 2023 or later. The position is full-time and limited to three years. Apply by November 13, 2023.

Global Engagement Center Special Report: How the People’s Republic of China Seeks to Reshape the Global Information Environment. Global Engagement Center has released a report about information manipulation methods employed by the People’s Republic of China and their future impact on the global information space. The report singles out Beijing’s five approaches: “leveraging propaganda and censorship, promoting digital authoritarianism, exploiting international organizations and bilateral partnerships, pairing cooptation and pressure, and exercising control of Chinese-language media.” The report argues China’s information manipulation goes beyond public diplomacy and challenges global freedom of expression: Beijing promotes digital authoritarianism and leads toward a future in which it dominates by controlling content, technology, and foreign governments.

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