The Centre for Law and Democracy participated in the Nepal International Media Partnership (NIMP) mission to Nepal from 19 to 23 April. The aim of this Mission was to assess the media freedom situation in Nepal and to provide support for reform initiatives. The Mission focused on two key areas, the creation of a specialised safety mechanism to address attacks on those exercising their right to freedom of expression and the ongoing need for legal and policy reform. A Joint Statement was issued at the end of the Mission setting out key findings and recommendations.
CLD joined with a number of Canadian and international organisations in signing a joint statement calling for Bill C-51, which would significantly expand Canada’s surveillance apparatus, to be scrapped.
Canada’s Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault, released a report which includes recommendations for revamping Canada’s right to information system. CLD joined with a number of other Canadian NGO’s to put out this statement in support of RTI reform in Canada.
A coalition civil society organisations sent this letter to the European Investment Bank (EIB) regarding plans to substantially weaken their transparency policy, including recommendations on how to bring the draft in line with international standards.
An international delegation visiting Indonesia raised concerns about the state of media freedom in the country, calling on the Widodo administration to take a new approach towards freedom of expression. The mission concluded with a Joint Statement, including observations and recommendations for reform.
CLD signed this statement, along with 21 other NGOs, supporting the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity and calling for strong measures to implement it.
The Centre for Law and Democracy has sent a letter to His Excellency President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives calling on his government to do more to fulfil its obligation to protect journalists and the media. The immediate focus of the letter is the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan, missing since 8 August in an apparent abduction related to his work as a journalist.
Centre for Law and Democracy joined 130 other organisations in an open letter to UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, calling on him to recognise freedom of expression and information in his Post-2015 report. Ban Ki-moon and his team are drafting a report on Post-2015 which will kick off formal negotiations for the Sustainable Development Goals next year.
CLD issued a letter to MPs in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) urging speedy passage of the proposed Law on Access to Information (Loi sur l’accès à l’information). CLD’s letter also notes that Africa remains one of the world’s weaker performing regions in terms of right to information legislation, but that is beginning to change. Over the past five years, the number of African right to information laws has more than quadrupled. CLD hopes that the DRC will continue this positive trend towards greater openness and transparency across the continent.
The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) have sent a letter to Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, the Honourable Sheikh Hasina, urging her government to reconsider passage of the proposed Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act, 2014 (the Bill). The Bill would grant the NGO Affairs Bureau, a department under the Prime Minister’s Office, extensive powers over NGOs, including a veto over their ability to receive foreign contributions of any kind.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) is undertaking a consultation process towards conducting a review of their 2010 Transparency Policy. In a letter to the EIB, CLD, in a collaboration with a coalition of international transparency organizations, has outlined specific reform proposals to the Policy itself, and called on the EIB to provide a fully inclusive and meaningful consultation process in undertaking the review.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) adopted an Access-to-Information Policy which fails to live up to international standards and better practice by other inter-governmental organisations (IGOs), and also the very standards which UNEP has recommended to States in this area. In a letter to UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, CLD has called on the UNEP to do better after the pilot phase of the Policy expires in one year.
Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, a prominent human rights defender, was detained by the Burundian government for exposing, with photographic evidence, that the ruling party was training youth militia groups in preparation for the next election. CLD authored this letter calling for his release. The letter is also available in French.
CLD was among several organisations to sign this letter to Ireland’s Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform calling for reform of the freedom of information process, specifically around fees.
CLD, along with several other organisations, have forwarded this letter on Ontario’s Attorney General calling on her to prioritize the passage of Bill 83, the Protection of Public Participation Act, 2013.
CLD signed this letter to the President of the World Bank urging him to expand funding for B-SPAN, their Internet-based webcasting system.
CLD is among several signatories to a letter to the Moroccan government urging them to drop all charges against journalist Ali Anouzla, whose detention is a violation of freedom of expression and of his right to inform the public, and is unfounded in international law. The letter is also available in Arabic.
CLD signed onto a letter to the Open Working Group to fully integrate the governance recommendations of the UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons Report (A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development) into the proposed Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, specifically in relation to its recommendations to establish a specific goal to “ensure good governance and effective institutions” and to include as components of this goal a clause to “ensure people enjoy freedom of speech, association, peaceful protest and access to independent media and information” and to “guarantee the public’s right to information and access to government data”. The letter is also available in French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
CLD signed onto this letter urging the OGP to recognise the need to update understandings of privacy and human rights with regards to surveillance. The letter urges OGP member states to review their surveillance laws, and to commit in their OGP Action Plans to transparency around the mechanisms for surveillance, exports of surveillance technologies, aid directed towards implementation of surveillance technologies and agreements to share citizen data among states.
Irish and international civil society organisations participated in a campaign against a threatened policy change which would charge multiple up-front fees for requests deemed to include more than one question. CLD, along with Access Info Europe, wrote a letter to the Irish government as part of this.
CLD signed onto a letter drafted by the World Wide Web Foundation which calls on the member countries of the Open Government Partnership to ensure that their Internet surveillance policies are proportional and transparent, and do not unduly undermine online privacy.
CLD participated in a campaign by Montenegro’s Network for the Affirmation of the NGO Sector (MANS) calling on the Montenegrin government to maintain the Company Register and State Cadastre Register, which has become a key source of information for civil society organizations and media to investigate cases of corruption and organized crime.
CLD was among 60 organisations to sign a letter to the Moroccan government demanding the release of Ali Anouzla, editor of the Arabic edition of the news website Lakome. Anouzla was arrested after his organisation reported on a Youtube video by Al-Qaeda which was critical of Morocco’s King and called on Moroccan youth to engage in terrorism. Although the article was critical of the video, it also contained a link to it, which the Moroccan government characterised as an incitement to terrorism.
UPDATE: October 10 CLD also was among 60 human rights groups which signed a follow-up later after Ali Anouzla was indicted, which is available here
Over 140 groups, including environmental organizations, unions and freedom of expression advocates, signed a letter calling on the Ontario legislature to adopt strong legislation to prevent Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) from being used to limit freedom of expression, public participation and prevent the abuse of libel laws.
The Centre for Law and Democracy has joined a growing group of concerned individuals and organisations in a call to action against SLAPPs or “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.” These lawsuits are designed to inhibit and silence individuals in important matters of public concern and have a concerning impact on their rights to freedom of expression.
The Centre for Law and Democracy is joining a large group of international human rights organisations as signatories to an open letter to President Obama. The letter cites growing concern over the response to whistleblowers and journalists in the United States in the wake of the Edward Snowden’s recent disclosures. Signatories are concerned over criminal charges filed against Snowden and that it may represent a growing trend.
In February 2013, the Centre for Law and Democracy was contacted by the Canadian Press regarding a Memorandum from the Treasury Board disputing CLD’s RTI-Rating of Canada. The Memo makes two key points in defence of Canada’s performance on RTI. The first is that the RTI Rating only measures the letter of the law and not the strength of its implementation and the second is that, notwithstanding problems in the legal framework, Canada’s overall commitment to openness, and to open data in particular, is strong. CLD Executive Director, Toby Mendel, responds to both points and calls for Root and Branch reform of the Canadian Access to Information Act, along with major shifts in official attitudes towards openness.
The 15th Philippine National Congress failed to pass a right to information (RTI) law, despite promises by the Aquino administration – to the Philippine people and in its Open Government Partnership (OGP) Action Plan – to ensure the adoption of this key democratic legislation. The Centre for Law and Democracy and the Philippine based Institute for Freedom of Information have written to the OGP Steering Committee asking it to take action on this signal failure by the Philippine administration to live up to its promises and commitments. Efforts to adopt a right to information law, which continued until the very last minute, were ultimately unsuccessful, in circumstances reminiscent of the similar failure of the previous Congress.
The Centre for Law and Democracy, as part of the International Media Mission to Nepal, has written to Dr Baburam Bhattarai, the Rt. Honourable Prime Minister of Nepal, urging him not to obstruct the murder case against Dekendra Thapa, a journalist who was brutally tortured and then murdered in 2004. From 3-5 January 2013, the police arrested five suspects in the case. However, reports suggest that the Prime Minister has sought to halt the investigation, on the basis that political crimes committed during the ten-year conflict period should, pursuant to the 2006 peace agreement, be dealt with by a truth commission. This is troubling in light of the danger that journalists face in Nepal, with their attackers often enjoying immunity from justice.
CLD signed this letter, alongside International Federation of Journalists, Southeast Asian Press Alliance and Committee to Protect Journalists, protesting the lack of progress made in investigating the perpetrators of the Ampatuan Massacre, which killed 58 people, including 32 journalists. The letter was sent to Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III.
CLD, along with the International Federation of Journalists, drafted this letter to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen protesting the conviction of Mam Sonando, a prominent broadcaster and opposition figure. Mr. Sonando has now been sentenced to 20 years in jail for exercising his right to freedom of expression.
This open letter, signed by CLD along with Southeast Asian Press Alliance, Media Defence-Southeast Asia and Centre for Independent Journalism, urges the Malaysian Prime Minister to commit to adopting a right to information law.
Centre for Law and Democracy, along with Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada and the International Federation of Journalists – Asia Pacific, have drafted an open letter to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to protest the detention of Mam Sonando, an independent broadcaster and prominent critic of Cambodia’s government. CLD believes that Mr. Sonando was arrested for exercising his right to freedom of expression. We call on the Cambodia authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him and to drop all of the charges against him.
Centre for Law and Democracy sent this open letter to the President of the Philippines urging him to stop delaying the passage of the Freedom of Information Act, which has now been under consideration for over two years. The letter was signed by 73 human rights organisations, as well as 15 individuals.
This was issued by the Centre for Law and Democracy after a speech by Newfoundland’s Minister of Justice that criticised a CLD analysis of Newfoundland’s Bill 29, legislation which significantly weakens Newfoundland’s access to information framework. The Minister’s comments dismissed the analysis and attacked the Centre for Law and Democracy as an organisation, as well as deriding several of the nations cited by CLD as having better access frameworks than Newfoundland. CLD Legal Officer Michael Karanicolas also issued a separate open letter to the Minister, available here.
This letter points out that, although in May 2009 the Council of Europe Ministers committed to reviewing their national anti-terrorism legislation and/or practice to ensure that any impact on the right to freedom of expression and information is consistent with Council of Europe standards, no country has yet done so. It asks that Press Freedom and Anti-Terrorism Laws and the follow-up of the Reykjavik Declaration should continue to be an agenda item for the CDMSI and should be put on the agenda of the 2013 Belgrade Ministerial Conference.
Cambodia’s government has issued another draft of the their proposed NGO law. But while some improvements have been made, the problems at the heart of the law remain. CLD and LRWC have drafted an open letter to senior officials in Cambodia’s government offering substantive critiques of the latest version of the NGO law. We hope its recipients in the Cambodian government will take heed of these problems before the proposal is passed into law.
Having previously commented on the need for the Cambodian government to reconsider passage of their draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations, the Centre for Law and Democracy welcomed news that the Ministry of the Interior is inviting representatives of civil society to present comments on its newest (fourth) draft of the Law. CLD, together with Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), took advantage of this consultation to draft a second open letter to the Cambodian government containing a set of recommendations which we hope will be incorporated into the final version of the Law.
The Centre for Law and Democracy and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada have co-authored an open letter to the Cambodian government urging them to reconsider passage of their draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations. The letter points out that the law in its current form violates international standards and serves to undermine the fundamental right of freedom of association. By imposing unduly broad and onerous requirements on all NGOs, the law has serious potential for abuse and is a particularly troubling development within the context of recent reports of administrative and judicial harassment of government critics in Cambodia.
The Centre for Law and Democracy, along with 35 other human rights, media rights, and right to information organisations, signed the following letter calling on the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to ensure that member states fulfill the pledge made at the Reykjavik Ministerial Conference to review how their anti-terror law are impacting freedom of information and freedom of expression in order to ensure that these fundamental rights are not unduly infringed.
A joint letter with Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada highlighting some concerns with the draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations, and calling for the authorities to consider making some changes to the draft so as to bring it into line with international standards.
An open letter from a number of organisations noting that the Legislative Assembly motion to suspend a journalist and calling for his prosecution, along with that of his newspaper, was a breach of the right to freedom of expression and calling on the Speaker to repeal the motion.
A joint letter from organisations participating in the Six Question Campaign highlighting the importance of budget openness to achievement of the MDGs and calling on the MDG Summit to adopt principles on budget transparency.
A letter from the Global Transparency Initiative welcoming indications that it was about to engage in a review of its 2005 Disclosure Policy.
Letter to Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President, Hon. Juan Ponce Enrile, President of the Senate, and Hon. Prospero Nograles, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Republic of the Philippines, 23 May 2010
An open letter urging the addressees to do all within their power to ensure the passage of the Philippine Freedom of Information Act before the Congress was dissolved.
An open letter to all Bermuda MPs highlighting problems with the Media Council Bill and asking them not to adopt this legislation.
A letter from the Global Transparency Initiative welcoming the review by the IDB of its Information Disclosure Policy, highlighting problems with the existing policy and pointing the way towards reform.
A letter was about the barring of Mr. Yahia Shukkeir, a well-known journalist and media freedom advocate, from entering the Jordan Media Institute, based on the fact that Mr. Shukkeir had, without prior authorisation, published articles in the media.
Letter to President Rajapakse about allegations that State intelligence units had been compiling information about human rights activists and rating them as security risks, based on their human rights work.