Representatives of 80 different NGOs, from all regions of Myanmar, met in Yangon to discuss the importance of the right to information (RTI) to the country’s democratic transition. The workshop, which was organised by a working group of local NGOs, aimed to raise awareness among civil society about the importance of the right to information and what makes a strong RTI law.
The Centre for Law and Democracy filed an amicus curiae brief in a constitutional appeal in Indonesia lodged by the Central Information Commission asserting that there are problems in its founding legislation in terms of the protection of its independence.
An international delegation visiting Indonesia raised concerns about the current 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.
Representatives from a dozen NGOs met recently for a workshop in Yangon on the right to information (RTI) in Myanmar. The workshop, which was hosted by the Local Resource Centre and the Centre for Law and Democracy in collaboration with International Media Support (IMS), culminated in a joint Statement stressing the importance of RTI to Myanmar’s democratic transition and pledging to work collaboratively towards establishing and implementing an RTI law.
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.
This Statement from CLD discusses the state of the right to information with the passage of the world’s 100th RTI law in September 2014. It was drafted for International Right to Know Day.
18 civil society organizations, including CLD, drafted a Joint Submission to the European Investment Bank (EIB) on its draft revised EIB Group Transparency Policy, including recommendations for bringing the policy in line with international standards for international financial institutions.
CLD responded to the consultation on Canada’s second Open Government Partnership Action Plan by calling on the government to commit to clear and ambitious measures to advance transparency across the public sector. CLD’s Submission to Canada’s Open Government Consultations points to problems with both the consultation process and the substantive commitments the government is proposing to make.
CLD released an Analysis of the draft Kenyan Freedom of Information Bill, 2014, which found that, although the draft is relatively robust, it is significantly weaker than the version which was proposed in 2012. CLD urges the relevant stakeholders in Kenya to act quickly to strengthen, and then formally adopt, the Kenyan Freedom of Information Bill, 2014.
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.
CLD has prepared an analysis of the latest version of Morocco’s draft right to information law, Draft Law No. 31.13 on the Right of Access to Information, which finds that the draft scores only 65 points out of a possible 150 on the RTI Rating. It is notable that this is substantially weaker than a previous draft published in August 2013. CLD urges the Government of Morocco to reconsider the current draft and, instead, to prepare a strong law which will properly implement Article 27 of the 2011 Constitution.
CLD and Global Partners Digital published “Travel Guide to the Digital World — Surveillance & International Standards“, by CLD Legal Officer Michael Karanicolas. The Guide explores how online surveillance takes place and how it stacks up against international human rights standards, particularly in terms of privacy and freedom of expression. Drawing on international standards and better practice legislation from around the world, the Guide also presents a set of standards for regulating and conducting surveillance in a way which is consistent with human rights. It concludes with a discussion of emerging debates, and how the questions around online surveillance have altered the global discourse around human rights on the Internet.
Michael Karanicolas testified on behalf of the Centre for Law and Democracy before an independent panel reviewing Newfoundland and Labrador’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA), presenting CLD’s formal Submission to the review. CLD’s main recommendations are regarding needed reforms of the regime of exceptions, which is currently very overbroad, but the Submission recommended several other procedural and structural reforms to the law.
A group of lawyers in Myanmar with an interest in media law have come together to form the Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network. The decision was made at a workshop for media lawyers, the third such meeting facilitated by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and International Media Support (IMS), as part of their capacity building work in Myanmar. The 30 lawyers who attended the meeting were unanimous in their interest in and enthusiasm for the idea.
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 law would also put in place an onerous registration system and given the NGO Affairs Bureau the power to forcibly dissolve non-compliant NGOs.
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.
In East Timor, as in many States emerging from long periods of undemocratic rule, unprofessional reporting by journalists is a widespread problem. A Media Law adopted in May of this year by the National Assembly, which is currently awaiting Presidential signature, was justified in part as being necessary to address this problem. Comments on the Law published today by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) reveal serious problems in terms both of human rights and of the stated goals of the law.
The Centre for Law and Democracy calls on the Hungarian Government to stop its harassment of civil society and to respect the right to freedom of association. A vibrant civil society sector is vital to the maintenance of democracy, Hungarian NGOs and civil society at large should be free to receive funding from foreign donors and any public auditing measures should respect the principles of independence, non- discrimination and non-arbitrariness.
The Centre for Law and Democracy released a set of short Notes on international standards for criminal restrictions in five key areas, with the aim of helping interested stakeholders better understand the issues involved. The Notes were prepared for the workshop: Toward Media Regulatory Reform in the Middle East and North Africa: Workshop on Criminal Restrictions on Media Content.
CLD released an Analysis of the main problems with Bill 1, Newfoundland and Labrador’s proposed whistleblower protection law. The Analysis provided several concrete recommendations, including extending whistleblower protection to the private sector and removing an exception for Cabinet documents.
On 12 May 2014, the Council of the European Union adopted the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression: Online and Offline. There are certain problems from the perspective of freedom of expression in the Guidelines, particularly that they fail to recognise the right of the public to access information held by public authorities as an element of the right to freedom expression and as an operational priority for the EU. CLD, along with other organizations, are calling on the relevant EU actors to reconsider the Guidelines, or to adopt a dedicated set of guidelines on the promotion of the right to information as an element of freedom of expression.
The 17th annual Joint Declaration by the four specialised mandates tasked with promoting and protecting freedom of expression at the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission was prepared with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy and ARTICLE 19. It highlights issues relating to the universality of the right to freedom of expression.
The Middle East and North Africa remains one of the world’s most troubled media environments, despite some gains since 2011. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), International Media Support (IMS) and Maharat Foundation unveiled a Statement on Media Regulatory Reform in the Middle East and North Africa: Criminal Restrictions on Media Content. The Statement is the product of a workshop in Beirut, Lebanon, from 24-25 April, and was adopted by experts from Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen.
The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), working with Democracy Reporting International (DRI), published a Briefing Paper on International Standards on Transparency and Accountability. The Paper is one of a series which focuses on the main foundations of democracy.
UNESCO published a book prepared by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) which focuses on international standards govenring the regulation of community radio as well as the legal framework for this in some thirty countries from different regions of the world. It also includes a set of recommendations on better practice regarding the regulation of community broadcasting.
The Centre for Law and Democracy has done an analysis of the latest draft of the Access to Information Law being prepared by the Palestinian authorities which indicates that the law has been substantially weakened since our last analysis in December 2013. Using the RTI Rating (www.RTI-Rating.org), the December draft obtained a score of 92 points out of a possible 150, which has now declined to just 85 points, well into the bottom half of all countries globally with right to information laws. The Press Release is also available in Arabic.
CLD released Comments on a new cybercrime law, the draft Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2014, which is being considered by the government of Pakistan. The CLD Comments highlight the fact that the draft Act threatens to undermine the development of the Internet in Pakistan. The draft Act does contain some positive aspects, such as rigorous procedural protections regarding cybercrime investigation and limitations on intermediary liability, but its broadly defined crimes threaten to turn almost every Pakistani Internet user into a criminal.
To promote implementation of Indonesia’s Law 14/2008 on Public Information Disclosure, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Indonesian Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) undertook a major training programme to build the capacity of key stakeholders – mainly journalists and civil society groups – to use the law. CLD and AJI have now released a report on the over 200 requests that were made as part of this programme.
CLD and the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) released a Training Manual for Public Bodies on Implementing Law 14 of 2008 Regarding Openness in Public Bodies. The Manual has already been used to conduct various training sessions for public officials, for example in Jakarta and the Indonesian province of Banten. It is available in English and Bahasa Indonesian.
In October 2013, Sierra Leone became the 96th country in the world, and the 12th country in Africa, to pass an RTI law. An analysis by CLD rates the Right to Access Information Act as tied for the 5th strongest in the world. The law scored 124 out of a possible maximum of 150 points on the RTI Rating, an internationally renowned analytical tool developed by CLD and its partner organisation, Access Info Europe, which has been applied to every national RTI law globally.
CLD and ICEL developed two sets of guidelines designed to assist Indonesian public bodies overcome the major challenges associated with implementing the right to information legislation Indonesia adopted in 2008. One guideline provides an overall roadmap of what public bodies need to do to implement the law and the other provides guidance on the difficult issue of applying exceptions.
The CLD and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) prepared this Note analysing the Right to Access Information Law, No. 11 of 2013, adopted by the government of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The Law is a relatively progressive piece of legislation, garnering 98 points out of a possible 150 on the RTI Rating (www.RTI-Rating.org), which would put it in 28th place globally out of 95 countries, as of the time of publication. The Press Release is also available in Arabic.
CLD carried out an assessment of Palestine’s draft Law on the Right of Access to Information using the RTI Rating which found that the draft would obtain a rather modest score of 92 points out of a possible 150.
Specialist right to information organisations Access Info Europe and Centre for Law and Democracy led on the drafting of a set of recommendations for progressive improvements to the right to information (RTI) which should be introduced by governments participating in the Open Government Partnership.
The Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) has been a magnet for controversy since its inception, largely due to the excessive secrecy in which it is being negotiated and rumours that its intellectual property provisions would threaten Internet freedom. The Centre for Law and Democracy prepared an Analysis of the TPP, based on a draft version of the intellectual property chapter released by Wikileaks, which notes several significant problems with the treaty from a freedom of expression perspective.
The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) drafted this press release expressing concern over a Japanese secrecy law which signally fails to respect international standards and, in particular, the standards set out in the Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information (The Tshwane Principles), which CLD participated in drafting.
CLD drafted a document with a brief set of recommendations for how to improve the development process for Canada’s OGP Action Plan in advance of the second round of consultations.
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.
On Wednesday November 13, Wikileaks released an early draft of the intellectual property provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multifaceted trade deal being secretly negotiated by 12 States. CLD released these initial observations about the treaty’s provisions, in advance of a more comprehensive analysis which is being prepared.
As part of a wider project to support implementation of the Indonesian Law on Public Information Openness, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) carried out a training for public officials in the Indonesian province of Banten. The training was attended by information officers (PPIDs) from over 40 different public bodies from across the province, as well as representatives from the Banten and Jakarta Information Commissions.
CLD, along with Access Info Europe, called on the participating countries of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to make serious commitments to strengthen their right to information laws in the next round of action plans at the OGP Summit in London.
In response to a series of attacks against journalists in the Maldives, which culminated in the burning of a television station in Male, CLD issued a call for the Maldivian authorities, and particularly the police, to enhance the protection that it offers to journalists with a view to preventing future violent incidents.
In the run up to Nova Scotia’s election on October 8, CLD asked all three major political parties to sign up to three promises for transparency. CLD is pleased to report that two of Nova Scotia’s three major political parties, the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives, endorsed the pledges.
The Green Climate Fund (GCF), an international financial institution (IFI) which uses lending to promote compliance with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has prepared a draft policy on information disclosure for consideration by the Board at its fifth meeting in Paris from 8-10 October 2013. The Global Transparency Initiative (GTI) has prepared a Note analysing the draft policy, prepared by CLD.
CLD released an Analysis pointing to major problems with Nova Scotia’s transparency framework, the Freedom of Information and Protection and Privacy Act (FOIPOP). Among major recommendations are that the Review Officer should have the power to make binding orders, and an expanded mandate including investigative powers, that timeline extensions for response should be capped at 30 days, that unnecessary and overly broad exceptions should be removed or revised, and that the rules on release of information in the public interest should be strengthened.
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.
As part of the Open Government Partnership process, Canada hosted an open consultation on its progress. CLD submitted a report evaluating the scope and ambition of Canada’s commitments and the government’s success in implementing them.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) launched a Handbook on International Standards and Media Law in the Arab World. The Handbook sets out international standards regarding media freedom and assesses the extent to which the legal regimes governing the media in Arab countries conform to those standards. It is designed to support journalists and others in the Arab world in their struggle for press freedom and media law reform in the region.
The Centre for Law and Democracy is releasing an analysis today of key recent changes to Russia’s internet policy.In recent years, freedom of expression in Russia has come under severe attack. A number of pieces of legislation have been adopted limiting the ability of opposition voices to make themselves heard. The analysis demonstrates that, even against this troubling backdrop, the recent decision by Russia’s government to create an Internet blacklist is a particularly ominous development. Key problems with Russia’s blacklist are that it imposes overly broad and illegitimate bans on content and that it lacks appropriate safeguards against political abuse. The full analysis can be read here.
In a major Report released today, Reconceptualising Copyright: Adapting the Rules to Respect Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age, CLD examines the current copyright rules from the perspective of freedom of expression. The Report finds that the rules signally fail to respect basic freedom of expression standards and proposes dramatic changes to bring copyright into line with its core purpose of promoting expression. Changes to the distinction between moral and economic rights, the duration of copyright protection and the framework for dealing with derivative works are among the proposals. The full report can be read here.
The Centre for Law and Democracy is today releasing an Analysis of the European Union’s 2006 Data Retention Directive, assessing it from the perspective of the right to freedom of expression. The Directive has attracted a lot of criticism, mostly on the basis that it fails to respect privacy. CLD’s Analysis highlights the ways the Directive exerts a chilling effect on freedom of expression, and its failure to pass muster as a restriction on free speech. The full analysis can be read here.
Today, the Freedom of Information Advocates Network (FOIAnet) launched a major global analysis of the development of the right to information (RTI) movement, broken down by region. The publication follows FOIAnet’s celebration of its 10th anniversary on International Right to Know Day, 28 September 2012. The analysis is a comprehensive effort to incorporate access to information issues from across the world and the different challenges that civil rights advocates face. CLD Executive Director Toby Mendel is also the chair of FOIAnet. The full analysis can be read here.
The Centre for Law and Democracy is today releasing an Analysis of the South Korean Copyright Act. The Act attracted a lot of criticism for 2009 amendments introducing a three strikes system whereby users could have their Internet services cut off after being warned three times about copyright infringements. Recommendations including removing provisions that allow for account suspension, a far too serious response, and establishing an independent body to administer the law. The full analysis can be read here.
Disagreements over the scope and nature of copyright rules have made it one of the most high profile battlegrounds regarding issues affecting freedom of expression. Around the world, rights-holding lobbies are pushing for increasingly draconian measures to combat copyright infringements, while others are calling for copyright law to be significantly revised to align it with modern digital realities. Both sides claim international guarantees of freedom of expression support their causes. On 24 June 2013, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), the Centro de Estudios en Libertad de Expresión y Acceso a la Información (CELE) and Fundación Via Libre (FVL) held a workshop in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to discuss problems with the international framework for copyright and possible solutions.
The Centre for Law and Democracy is releasing an analysis of 2012 amendments to Jordan’s Press and Publications Law. The amendments were recently implemented in a June 2nd blocking of major Jordanian news websites to international condemnation, including from CLD. The analysis points to a number of problematic portions of the law including its broad nature, registration requirements and its effect on user-generated comments. If fully implemented, the law is of serious concern to the right of freedom of expression in Jordan. The full analysis can be read here.
The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is today releasing a Note analysing the freedom of expression provisions in the new draft Constitution for Tunisia, dated 1 June 2013. Given the Constitution’s role as the foundational document for the system of governance in post revolutionary Tunisia, the Note highlights the importance of providing strong guarantees for freedom of expression and information. Among the recommendations are a call for restrictions to be limited to those that are both necessary and provided by law. The full note may be read here. It is also available in Arabic.
The Global Climate Fund (GCF), a new international financial institution (IFI) which aims to use lending to promote compliance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is proposing to adopt an information disclosure policy. The Global Transparency Initiative (GTI) has prepared a Note on Better International Practices on Access to Information for the GCF Board, which will discuss this issue at its next meeting in Songdo, Republic of Korea, 25-28 June 2013. The Note was prepared by Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD, with comments from GTI members. It can be read in full here.
The launch of Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information (Tshwane Principles) today was the culmination of a multi-year consultation process to set out a careful balance between protecting genuine national security interests and respecting the right to information. The consultation process involved 100s of individuals and 22 key support institutions, including the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD). The goal is to implement the Tshwane Principles at the national government level. A full copy of the principles can be found here.
The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) today released an analysis of four draft press laws in Morocco. While positive aspects do exist, the law has a number of seriously concerning elements with freedom of expression implications. The analysis points to a number of provisions, including requirements for press council membership, minimum requirements to become a journalist and overly harsh defamation laws as needing of revision. The full analysis can be found here.
Concerns remain anti-expression trends being displayed by Jordan. On June 2nd, the Kingdom issued blocking orders for over 300 websites who have failed to register in part of its 2012 Press and Publications Law reform that expands press limiting regulations to the internet. The blockage orders are flagrant violations of freedom of expression and the law’s amendments as a whole represent a significant threat to freedom of expression in Jordan.
The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law (ICEL) provided training for local public officials from seven provinces and regencies across Indonesia in an effort to aid implementation of Indonesia’s Law on Public Information Disclosure. Despite the law passing in 2010, implementation has been uneven, with some representatives not yet appointing required officials. However, the enthusiastic response to the training is an encouraging sign that local governments may be moving to meet its government obligations. The program, and the development of a training manual to aid it, are part of a larger project funded by Open Society Foundations to improve access to information in Indonesia.
Immediately following Myanmar’s second Conference on Media Development, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and International Media Support (IMS), in partnership with Mizzima Media hosted two media workshops. The workshops focused media regulation and international standards for defamation, for members of parliament and lawyers respectively. The workshops are part of an ongoing CLD commitment to support reform processes in Myanmar, including technical processes workshops to various stakeholders.
In a Joint Declaration the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission, focused on the importance of diversity of opinion in the upcoming changes to media coverage in the world, in a statement prepared in part by the Centre for Law and Democracy. Without diversity of opinion it becomes more difficult to achieve true freedom of expression. The Joint Declaration highlights a number of important aspects States should take to promote and protect freedom of expression, including an open and consultative decision making process and a lack of political or commercial interference in regulatory bodies.
The new right to information (RTI) legislation being proposed by the Danish government, the Act on Openness in Administration, signally fails to address the very serious problems in the current regime. The Danish proposals have come under significant fire for their restrictive treatment of ministerial information. However, an analysis by CLD demonstrates that this problem is just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to several new exceptions, the major problems with the current system – including its limited scope, flexible time limits for responding to requests, the absence of a public interest override for exceptions and the lack of a dedicated administrative appeals body – have not been addressed.
The Centre for Law and Democracy has prepared a set of Comments on the draft Access to Information Law published by the Afghan government. There have been discussions in Afghanistan about a right to information law for some time. The Centre for Law and Democracy welcomes efforts to adopt a right to information law in Afghanistan, and urges the government to bring the draft law more fully into line with international standards before it is adopted.
Given the steady stream of corruption and mismanagement allegations that have emanated from the province in recent months, it is hardly revelatory to suggest that Quebec has a problem with transparency. This Submission was prepared for a general consultation and public hearing being held by the Province of Quebec’s Committee on Institutions that is meant to address, among other issues, the implementation of Quebec’s Act Respecting Access to Documents Held by Public Bodies and the Protection of Personal Information. The Submission identifies a litany of deficiencies, including overly broad exceptions, the limited scope of the law, routine breaches of timelines and overcharging of requesters. It also notes that several public authorities, including ministers’ offices, municipalities and members of the National Assembly, are under no firm obligation to disclose any information, instead having the discretion to release information only when they feel this would be expedient.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has launched a review its Transparency Policy, last revised in 2009. As part of the Review, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has produced a Submission assessing the current policy against the standards developed by the Global Transparency Initiative (GTI) (www.ifitransparency.org). Some international financial institutions (IFIs) – including the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank – have made significant progress on transparency in the recent years; the IMF Policy, in contrast, remains limited to a proactive disclosure list approach.
The Centre for Law and Democracy, along with the International Federation of Journalists and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, put out this statement to note the release of Mam Sonando, a prominent Cambodian broadcaster who had been arrested for exercising his right to freedom of expression.
The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and Mizzima Media jointly hosted three workshops for different stakeholders – the media, civil society, political parties and members of parliament – to discuss international standards relating to freedom of expression and principles on media regulation.
The Government of Indonesia is proposing to replace its authoritarian 1985 law on civil society organisations (CSOs) with a new Law Pertaining to Mass Organisations. While this is generally a welcome development, an analysis by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) highlights a number of serious problems with the draft Law, which is currently before the National Assembly.
Weak civil society demand for information, combined with a lack of understanding about how to make requests for information, can be a major implementation weakness in countries seeking to implement new right to information (RTI) laws. To help address this problem in Indonesia, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) have completed a training of trainers programme in Jakarta. Trainees from across Indonesia will follow up by conducting training programmes for civil society organisations in their home provinces of West Java, South Sumatra, West Nusa Tenggara and North Sulawesi. Those groups will then be expected to lodge a minimum of ten requests for information related to the areas in which they work, while the trainers will provide support to them through this process.
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, working with the African Union/United Nations Information Support Team (IST), and in partnership with UNESCO, released the Somalia: Media Law and Policy Review, analysing the legal framework for media regulation in Somalia. There has been important progress in Somalia in recent months, with the drafting of an interim constitution, and the election of a parliament and a president. The Review is designed to help the new government move forward to implement media reforms in line with the interim constitution.
Canada’s right to information system is broken and comprehensive legal reform is now an urgent priority. There has for some time been consensus on this among journalists, civil society, Information Commissioners and even Parliamentary committees. But successive governments have refused to take action to resolve the problem. On International Right to Know Day, 28 September 2012, Canada’s Information Commissioner launched a consultation to solicit broad national input into this issue. The Centre for Law and Democracy released its Response to the consultation, calling for ‘root and branch’ reforms to bring Canada’s right to information into line with international standards.
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.
The Centre for Law and Democracy released a Report that presents nine guidelines for assessing Open Government Partnership (OGP) Participating States’ action plans. The development and implementation of action plans is central to the whole OGP project: they contain the concrete commitments made by Participating States and hence the standards against which performance is measured. The guidelines are designed to be used by local stakeholders to assess the quality of country action plans.
The Centre for Law and Democracy released an analysis of the provisions in the draft Egyptian Constitution that protect freedom of expression, information and the media, as the days tick down to the constitutional referendum scheduled for 15 December. Although the draft contains reasonably solid positive protections for freedom of expression, it leaves the scope for restrictions wide open, subject only to the “Principles of Islamic Sharia”. Providing strong constitutional protection for freedom of expression is essential if democracy is to be established in Egypt.
Immediately after it was passed on 12 September 2012, the Philippines’ Cybercrime Prevention Act was met with a flurry of legal challenges from journalists and civil society organisations in the Philippines. An Analysis released by the Centre for Law and Democracy confirms and supports their concerns, finding that the law perpetrates significant violations of international standards on freedom of expression.
CLD drafted a submission on freedom of expression and the right to information as a stakeholder submission to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process on Canada.
Egypt is in the midst of a vitally important phase in its democratic transition, and a vibrant debate is ongoing over the nature of its constitutional protections for human rights. In order to provide support to this discussion, the Centre for Law and Democracy released a set of Comments on the Freedom of Expression and Information Clauses in the Draft Constitution for Egypt.
CLD and Access Info Europe have launched a new, updated version of the RTI Rating website, including ratings for newly passed laws (Brazil and Yemen) and several other updates to reflect legislative and regulatory changes, as well as an improved interface to allow easier cross-comparisons.
The Centre for Law and Democracy celebrated the 10th anniversary of International Right to Know Day by launching two comparative publications and by hosting a debate on the right to know.
The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and International Media Support (IMS) released an Analysis of the guarantees for freedom of expression in the 2008 Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. Although the 2008 Constitution represented an important step forward in terms of democracy and human rights, the Analysis highlights shortcomings in terms of both the positive guarantees for freedom of expression and the relatively wide latitude it allows for restricting that right.
On 23 August 2012, Egypt’s newly elected President, Mohamed Morsi, passed his very first decree after having wrested back legislative powers from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) earlier that month. The decree cancelled the possibility of pre-trial detention for journalists charged with insulting the president, leading to the release of Islam Afifi, editor-in-chief of Al-Dustour newspaper. This is a positive measure, which has earned the President kudos. The laws on defamation, however, are in need of far more profound reform if they are to be brought into line with international standards. A Statement on the issue released today by the Centre for Law and Democracy describes the wider needs and offers recommendations for reform.
The Government of Myanmar is preparing a press law which is supposed to significantly democratise regulation of the print media, an important part of its overall plans to become a democracy. In order to help ensure that the law promotes press freedom, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), working with the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), has published a report, Myanmar: Guidance for Journalists on Promoting an Empowering Press Law.
This Press Release discusses and analyses Yemen’s recently passed RTI law. The Press Release is also available in Arabic.
This release marks the launch of a report on the lack of substantive RTI reform within OGP Action Plans.
This release discusses the state of the right to information in Canada on the 30th anniversary of Canada’s Federal Access to Information Act.
This press release announced the 13th annual Joint Declaration by the four specialised mandates of the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission tasked with promoting and protecting freedom of expression. The Declaration, prepared with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy and ARTICLE 19, expresses “abhorrence over the unacceptable rate of incidents of violence and other crimes against freedom of expression”.
At a time when the right to information is being strengthened around the world, the government of Newfoundland’s Bill 29 would be a major step backwards for government transparency according to an assessment by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD). CLD has analysed Newfoundland’s law using its RTI Rating methodology, a tool it has used to assess the strength of all national access to information laws.
UPDATE 15 June 2012: CLD issued a second Press Release in response to criticism of the organisation by Newfoundland’s Justice Minister Felix Collins.
The Centre for Law and Democracy has conducted an analysis of Yemen’s new RTI law using our RTI Rating and found that it scored 102 out of a possible 150 points, which would put Yemen in twenty-first place globally. The law’s strongest features include its broad scope and applicability and its strong promotional regime. At the same time, the law has important weaknesses, including the lack of proper recognition of the human right right to information and the absence of a public interest override.
CLD published an analysis of the draft Somali Communications Act of 2012. The draft, which was prepared by the African Union/United Nations Information Support Team, at the request of the Minister of Information, Posts and Telecommunications, provides only a very framework set of rules for broadcasting, focusing instead largely on telecommunications. We understand that the idea is to adopt a full broadcasting law later on.
The Government of Myanmar has made a strong public commitment to undertake a programme of democratisation, including through creating an environment in which freedom of expression is respected. As first steps, the Government is planning to adopt new press and broadcasting laws.
To provide expertise on relevant international standards as well as better national practice, International Media Support (IMS) and the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) organised two one-day workshops in Myanmar, one on broadcast regulation in the new capital, Naypyidaw, on 23 April 2012, and another on print media regulation in Yangon on 25 April.
CLD and AJI held a workshop in Jakarta as part of a project which has trained local groups working in different sectors to make requests for information. The project has created a significant database of requests for information, made to different public bodies and focusing on different issues. A study of their experience was launched at the workshop, where a number of structural problems with the way public bodies in Indonesia process requests for information were identified. The workshop highlighted a number of key recommendations for improving the performance of public bodies in terms of providing information.
The Centre for Law and Democracy published a major Report examining the Internet from the perspective of human rights. It analyses the critical role that the Internet plays in the actualisation of fundamental human rights, particularly the right to freedom of expression, and concludes that there is a human right of access to the Internet. The Report also examines the implications of the right to freedom of expression in terms of regulation of the Internet.
This study, conducted using the RTI-Rating, found significant differences between the overall strengths of the provincial laws, while concluding that all four had deficiencies. The province of British Columbia topped the rankings, scoring 97 points out of a possible 150, while Alberta came in last, with 80 points. CLD plans to apply the RTI Rating to all 14 Canadian jurisdictions – the federal level, the ten provinces and the three territories, all of which have adopted right to information laws – in order to provide a comprehensive picture of the situation in the country.
CLD published a comparative report on international and comparative constitutional guarantees of the right to information. The report, Entrenching RTI: An Analysis of Constitutional Protections of the Right to Information, is part of CLD’s ongoing work to support right to information reform in Egypt. At the same time, the standards outlined in the report are relevant to any country undergoing constitutional reform in this area.
As part of its ongoing work to strengthen Indonesia’s democratic institutions, CLD published a comparative analysis of the rules relating to paid political advertising, with a specific focus on elections, Regulation of Paid Political Advertising: A Survey. The analysis was compiled at the behest of members of Indonesia’s Press Council, which is faced with the issue of how to ensure democratic media participation in elections.
The International Media Mission (IMM) to Nepal has prepared detailed comments on the constitutional proposals on freedom of expression, media freedom and the right to information, prepared by the Constituent Assembly. The comments, prepared by Toby Mendel of the Centre for Law and Democracy on behalf of the IMM, highlight the positive nature of the proposals, while also identifying shortcomings, in particular their failure to sufficiently limit the scope of permissible restrictions on these rights. By letter of 26 March 2012, the comments have been sent to a number of key stakeholders in Nepal, including the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, leaders of the main political parties, and the Chair and key members of the Constituent Assembly.
The Centre for Law and Democracy launched a detailed comparative Study on the regulation of broadcasting to protect children at a workshop organised by UNESCO and the Brazilian Ministry of Justice. The Study analyses international standards in this area and compares the practice of six democracies with the system in place in Brazil. It concludes that the Brazilian system is largely in line with international standards. Two problem areas are the regulatory role played by the Ministry of Justice, a government body, and the undue complexity of the system.
Right to information laws in Africa and the Americas are falling below the standards set by regional human rights bodies, while in Europe the standards themselves are weaker than the better right to information laws, according to a new analysis.
A recent analysis by CLD of a draft right to information law for Egypt, prepared at the request of the group of civil society actors who developed the draft law, concludes that it largely reflects international standards, scoring 129 out of a possible total of 150 on our RTI Rating. The draft is particularly strong in terms of its wide scope, progressive requesting procedures, narrow regime of exceptions and extensive promotional measures. At the same time, the CLD analysis points to a number of ways in which the draft could still be improved, including a number of areas where clarification is needed, imposing overall time limits, say of 20 years, on exceptions and further bolstering the independence of the Information Commissioner.
As part of an ongoing programme of cooperation between CLD and Indonesian partners, on March 5 CLD and the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law hosted a conference on the right to information. The conference featured the launch of two major publications, as well as presentations by the former Hungarian Information Commissioner and by representatives from the Indonesian Central Information Commission, the Indonesian National Police Headquarters, the Indonesian Supreme Court and the Indonesian Presidential Task Force.
Nepal is currently at an important stage in its democratic development, as a nation struggling with constitutional crises and slow progress in terms of promoting freedom of expression. In support of this development, the International Media Mission visiting Nepal issued a Joint Statement, addressing key law and policy issues including strengthening the constitution and limiting the scope of classification of information. The Centre for Law and Democracy will be involved in several of the follow-up actions, including efforts to introduce changes to the proposed draft constitutional provisions on freedom of expression, of information and of the media.
The Centre for Law and Democracy has published its analysis of the draft Kenyan Freedom of Information Bill. The draft Bill has a number of strengths, including its wide scope, the narrow regime of exceptions and the establishment of an independent and powerful oversight body. A number of CLD’s recommendations are fairly technical in nature, and should be relatively uncontroversial to implement. It is hoped that the current process will finally bring to fruition the long-standing campaign for right to information legislation in Kenya.
The Centre for Law and Democracy is very pleased to note that the Burmese government has just announced that it is freeing 691 prisoners in a general amnesty, including a large number of high profile dissidents. Included among the 691 are five video journalists – Sithu Zeya, U Zeya, Hla Hla Win, Ngwe Soe Lin, Win Maw – who were arrested for reporting for the Democratic Voice of Burma. CLD issued a detailed report on the legal flaws in the cases against these five, as part of the “Free Burma VJ” campaign.
A report by CLD, Openness Policies of the International Financial Institutions: Failing to Make the Grade with Exceptions, examines how exceptions for internal deliberations and third-party commercial information are interpreted overly broadly by IFIs. CLD produced the report as a member of the Global Transparency Initiative (GTI).
CLD was one of a group of organisations that issued a joint press release calling for the Cambodian government to either abandon or heavily revise its proposed NGO law.
CLD and Yayasan SET hosted an international conference in Jakarta which called on the Indonesian government to drop its long-standing initiative to adopt a secrecy law. In the one-day meeting, several speakers noted that Law No. 14 of 2008 on Public Information Disclosure already provided sufficient protection to legitimate confidentiality interests.
The Open Government Partnership, a global transparency initiative jointly sponsored by US President Obama and Brazilian President Rousseff, must significantly improve its internal access to information policy to meet the standards it is advancing according to an analysis by CLD and Access Info Europe. Two months after its launch in September 2011, when 46 countries pledged to work towards greater openness, the OGP is struggling with its own transparency rules according to the expert analysis submitted as part of a one-month public consultation.
The Centre for Law and Democracy published an analysis of a draft Sri Lankan Freedom of Information Act. The draft Act was prepared by UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya, an opposition Member of Parliament. Mr. Jayasuriya has been trying for some time, so far without success, to have this Bill introduced into Parliament. Although the draft Act is unlikely to move forward, it has generated important debate in Sri Lanka about this key human rights issue and is being discussed at a National Seminar on the right to information on 18 November 2011.
The Centre for Law and Democracy and the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe brought together a range of groups working on different issues in Bvumba, Zimbabwe, to discuss a broad-based campaign on the right to information. The groups – working on issues such as HIV-AIDs, the disabled, media freedom, faith-based groups and economic rights – agreed to work together to build a strong network of support for law reform in this area.
The Centre for Law and Democracy has published its analysis of a draft Afghan Access to Information Law. The draft Law was created from two previous drafts, one prepared by civil society and one by government. The aim is to present a consensus version in the hope that this will help ensure that it becomes a legislative priority.
The Centre for Law and Democracy released a Commentary on the Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet, providing a detailed analysis of the implications of a range of fundamental human rights for the Internet. The Charter itself was prepared by the Internet Rights and Principles Coalition, which in turn arose out of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a tri-partite gathering bringing together civil society, governments and the commercial sector to discuss regulatory issues relating to the Internet. The Commentary reviews the implications of a wide range of human rights for the Internet, including rights of systematic relevance, such as non-discrimination, freedom of expression and privacy, and more thematic rights, such as the rights to education, culture and work.
Centre for Law and Democracy conducted a legal analysis of the case against five Democratic Voice of Burma video-journalists currently imprisoned in Burma. The analysis found widespread abuses of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom from torture. The violations result from both the Burmese government’s abusive application of laws that restrict freedom of expression, and their capricious application of broader legislation to target political opponents.
The largest global monitoring of the right of access to information in practice, the Ask Your Government! 6 Question Campaign, has found widespread violations of the right to information with only 1 in 4 requests resulting in provision of full information. 480 requests for budget information were submitted in 80 countries by a global network of civil society organisations. The results were presented in Ottawa during at the 7th International Conference of Information Commissioners.
On International Right to Know Day CLD, in partnership with Access Info Europe, launched the first detailed analysis of the legal framework for the right to information (RTI) in 89 countries around the world. The RTI Rating is based on 61 Indicators drawn from a wide range of international standards on the right to information, feedback from an international Advisory Council of renowned experts on the right to information and comparative study of numerous right to information and related laws from around the world.
Comments on Model African Access to Information Law, 7 September 2011
The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa is preparing a Model Law for AU Member States on Access to Information, in partnership with the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is asking for feedback on the draft Model Law and CLD, in partnership with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), has prepared a detailed set of Comments on it.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) is currently reviewing its 2005 access to information policy. As part of the process of consultation, the Bank posted a new draft policy document, theAfrican Development Bank Group Policy on Disclosure and Access to Information, on its website in June 2011. The Global Transparency Initiative (GTI), a global network of civil society organisations advocating for greater transparency at the international financial institutions, of which CLD is a member, has submitted a set of Comments on the draft Policy.
The Kazakh Parliament (the Mazhilis) is working on developing a right to information law, after years of advocacy by civil society groups. The current draft has been published for comment and will be reviewed by the government and Parliament in 2012. The Centre for Law and Democracy has issued a set of Comments on the latest draft, with a view to trying to ensure that the final version which is adopted is more fully in line with international standards in this area.
CLD and AJI completed three training sessions for journalists and civil society organisations in Jakarta, Surabaya and Lampung. The training aimed at building civil society demand for information under the Indonesian right to information law, which came into force in 2010. It is part of a wider programme on openness that CLD is conducting with a number of partners in Indonesia. The Participants’ Manual which CLD and AJI prepared for the training will now be updated and finalised.
On 1 June 2011, CLD was proud to participate in launching the 11th annual Joint Declaration by the four specialised mandates of the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission tasked with promoting and protecting freedom of expression. The strongly worded Declaration, prepared with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy and ARTICLE 19, notes that many States actively seek to control the Internet and that good faith attempts at regulation often work to undermine freedom of expression. The Joint Declaration recognizes access to the internet as a right, and sets out detailed standards regarding freedom of expression and the Internet. CLD hopes that this statement will encourage states to take concrete measures to promote and protect universal access to the Internet.
A Journalist Protection Law, prepared by the Iraqi Syndicate of Journalists and endorsed by the government of Iraq, has been laid before the Iraqi Parliament for its consideration. A Note on the draft Law prepared by CLD highlights the important protections for journalists included in the draft Law. But the draft also defines a journalist as a member of the statutory Syndicate of Journalists, the same body which drafted the law, and grants a number of powers exclusively to the Syndicate.
One of the first priorities of the new Tunisian High Commission for the Realisation of the Objectives of the Revolution and Democratic Transition has been to prepare a new press law to replace the repressive 1975 law that has been used for over 30 years as a mechanism of control. Unfortunately, despite its name, the draft Press Law released by the Commission late last month fails to deliver on the goals of the revolution, according to a Comment analysing its provisions, published today by CLD.
UPDATE: The Tunisian government has since published a new draft, available in Arabic here
In January 2011, the Mongolian Ministry of Justice submitted to Parliament a Draft Law of Mongolia on Information Transparency and Freedom of Information. This is the latest development relating to ongoing discussions around adopting a right to information (RTI) law that have been taking place in Mongolia for many years now. The draft Law has a number of both strengths and weaknesses, which CLD has highlighted in a new Comment it published today.
CLD has prepared a Note detailing its recommendations for draft General Comment No. 34 prepared by the UN Human Rights Committee. The draft Comment elaborates on Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Once adopted, the new General Comment will replace a Comment on Article 19, adopted by the Committee in 1983. The Committee published the draft Comment in November 2010 as part of a process of public consultation.
This press release describes the workshop held by CLD and ATIN, as members of GTI, to facilitate a dialogue between civil society and Asian Development Bank (ADB) representatives on further measures needed to bring the draft ADB information disclosure policy fully into line with international standards. It also announces the publication by the GTI of the documentProposed Amendments, outlining the specific changes recommended to achieve the above.
A press release announcing Comments by CLD on the draft Spanish Law on Transparency and Citizen Access to Public Information. The draft Law was leaked to the press in August 2010 but has still not been officially released and it is not clear when the Spanish government will start formal consultations on this issue.
A press release announcing comments by the Global Transparency Initiative, drafted by CLD and the Philippine Access to Information Network, on the second draft by the ADB of its Public Communications Policy. The new policy is expected to be adopted in March or April of 2010.
This press release announces the release by CLD of its analysis of the Radio and Television Corporation of Slovenia Act. The Act was passed on 20 October 2010 and was due to be considered at a national referendum on 12 December 2010.
Joint Statement by the UNCAC Civil Society Coalition and Transparency International protesting the detention of Algerian anti-corruption activist, Dr. Djilali Hadjadj.
Joint Statement on the need for the South African government to fundamentally revise the Protection of Information Bill (the Secrecy Bill) to bring it into line with the constitution.
Joint Statement on the need for African countries to adopt national access to information laws as well as regional statements on access to information as part of the strategy to ensure maternal, infant and child health in Africa.
Joint Statement about the new opportunities, but also threats, brought about by the April overthrow of the Kyrgyz government and the installation of a new government.