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 & Recent News

●  Section 230 of CDA and US Supreme Court Case Law on Free Speech. October 30, 2023. Join the online seminar on Section 230 of CDA and a series of US Supreme Court cases that revolve around intermediary liability. Scott Wilkens, Senior Counsel at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, will discuss the US Supreme Court’s general criteria used in the analysis of cases regarding freedom of expression and private actors. Agustina Del Campo, Director at the Center for Studies on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information at Universidad de Palermo, will cover Section 230 of CDA, current attempts to regulate social media in the US, and how relevant case law can impact content moderation and social media’s civil liability. The webinar is part of the Online Course on the Internet and Freedom of Expression, hosted by the São Paulo School of Judges in cooperation with Columbia Global Freedom of Expression. October 30, 2023. 9-11:00 am ET / 10-12:00 pm BRT. The event will be in English and Portuguese with simultaneous interpretation. Register to attend (find registration instructions here).

● Upcoming Event – Journalism Safety During Election Times: CFOM Online Panel. Join the Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM), based at the University of Sheffield, for their online panel marking the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (IDEI). Commemorated on November 2, IDEI spreads awareness of how dangerous impunity for crimes against journalists can be. The panel will address journalists’ safety during elections and strategies to mitigate the risks journalists encounter at this particular time. November 1, 2023. 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm UK time / 8:00 am – 9:00 am ET. Sign up here to join the panel. 

●  Upcoming Event – International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists – 2023 Global Commemoration.On another occasion to commemorate IDEI, UNESCO has partnered with the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights, and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression to organize a two-day conference that will center on the interrelations between crimes against journalists, elections’ integrity, and public leadership. Day 1 will touch on the following issues: “How to build the population’s trust in the media and ensure the safety of journalists? How to preserve their memory and ensure all killings are accounted for?” Day 2 will mark 25 years of the Special Rapporteur’s Office of the OAS alongside its achievements and challenges. November 2-3, 2023. Starting at 9:00 am ET. At the headquarters of the OAS, Washington D.C., USA. Register here to attend in person or follow the live stream on UNESCO’s social media (the link will be posted on the day of the conference).

●  How Third-Party Social Media Middleware Can Protect Contextual Privacy, by Richard Reisman. Writing for Tech Policy Press, Reisman responds to the article of Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci and Ethan Zuckerman in which they develop the argument that “privacy is not as simplistic a binary of personal ownership as many presume” but “a nuanced matter of social norms, in specific contexts, governing just what should be shared with whom, for what uses.” Reisman expands on that and offers an architectural structure that safeguards contextual privacy: he argues social media platforms’ data and metadata should be managed through multiple levels, “Tightly controlled data intermediaries can support lightweight and less tightly controlled attention intermediaries by limiting how data is released, or by requiring that the algorithms be sent “to” the data, rather than the other way around.”

Decisions this Week

Krishna Kishore Singh v. Sarla A. Saraogi
Decision Date: July 11, 2023
The High Court of Delhi ruled that the father of a deceased actor could not seek to restrain the broadcast of a film on the actor’s life. After his son died and he learnt that a film was being made, the father brought various applications to restrain the use of his son’s name, caricature or lifestyle in any projects or films without his prior permission on the grounds that doing so would infringe his son’s personality rights. The Court held that the rights to privacy, publicity, and personality were not inheritable and ceased to exist upon the actor’s death and therefore, his father could not pursue them. The Court noted that the information used in the disputed film was derived from publicly available sources in the media, and so the filmmakers had not violated any rights using this information as it had been unchallenged when originally published. The Court held that any injunction about distribution of the film would infringe the filmmakers’ rights to freedom of expression.

Media Rights Agenda v. Nigerian Broadcasting Commission
Decision Date: May 10, 2023
The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Nigeria held that the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) had violated the right to a fair hearing in imposing fines on broadcast stations. A media rights non-governmental organization applied to court to have the fines set aside on the grounds that the NBC had acted ultra vires (beyond its powers) and had failed to provide the stations with an opportunity to be heard before the fines were imposed. The NBC did not respond to the suit. The Court found that as the NBC is neither a court nor a tribunal it is not capable of imposing fines on erring entities, and that its actions in imposing fines on the stations without affording them fair hearing is a nullity. The Court stated that it would “not sit idly and watch as a government agency arbitrarily imposes fines on a broadcast station which is capable of curtailing the freedom of the press and the media. The media must be free at all times and imposing fines on them without fair hearing will be met with stiff resistance by this court”.

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Advisory Opinion on Request No. 001/2020 by the PALU
Decision Date: July 16, 2021
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights held that State parties may decide how to conduct elections in the context of a public health emergency or a pandemic, but only if the electoral organs consult with health authorities and political actors, including representatives of civil society, and adhere to international human rights law. The Pan African Lawyers Union had submitted a request for advisory opinion as 22 countries in Africa were due to have elections in 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Court highlighted the importance of regular, transparent, free, and fair elections and stressed that postponement of elections constitute a limitation of rights and so must accord to the principles that it be done in accordance with law, be for a legitimate purpose and be necessary in a democratic society.

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.

Resolution 54/21 on the Right to privacy in the digital age
The UN resolution acknowledges that some new and emerging technologies may not be compatible with international human rights law. Evidence shows that emotion recognition technologies are fundamentally incompatible with human rights, and future resolutions should ban these technologies. The resolution also introduces stronger language on remote biometric surveillance systems, such as facial recognition, which raises concerns about their proportionality. The increasing use of biometric technologies has chilling effects on freedom of expression and behaviour, deterring people from participating in public assemblies or expressing their ideas or religious beliefs. Governments are called to prohibit remote biometric identification in publicly accessible spaces and mass surveillance. However, the core group failed to address new challenges for privacy, such as social media monitoring. The resolution is urged to include strong recommendations to ensure social media intelligence collection, analysis, and sharing strictly conforms with human rights standards and data protection frameworks.

Post Scriptum

●  Perspectives on Press Regulation, Volume 1: Europe, edited by Paul Wragg and András Koltay. This recently published book is the first part of the two-volume set that depicts the global press, along with its freedom and limits, asking, “How do we measure successful press regulation? What concessions can the state and/or society demand from the press? What constitutes the irreducible core of press freedom?” Volume 1 focuses on key jurisdictions in Europe, and the book’s twelve chapters look at Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, the United Kingdom, and the ECtHR’s press freedom jurisprudence. The book is a valuable resource for policymakers and scholars who seek to bring change about. Order online and use the code GLR AQ7 to get 20% off.

●  European Journalism on the Docket Thanks to Bogus Lawsuits, by Jessica White and Alexandra Karppi. The authors outline the global increase of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) – “meritless suits that entangle, exhaust, and ultimately silence media outlets, individual journalists, civil society groups, and activists.” The article’s spotlight is on Central and Eastern Europe, and it draws on examples of Gazeta Wyborcza and in Poland, Mediapool reporters in Bulgaria, and RISE Project in Romania, among others. Citing Freedom House’s study Reviving News Media in an Embattled Europe, the authors note the region’s journalists are coming up with strategies to defend themselves from SLAPPs: they are building networks of support across borders and organizing crowdfunding campaigns. “But media cannot turn the tide on their own,” and the authors call on regional donors, political leaders, and judiciaries to step in.

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