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International Mandates Launch 18th Joint Declaration

joint-statement1-300x117Today, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the four specialised mandates tasked with promoting and protecting freedom of expression at the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission launched their 18th annual statement, the Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Countering Violent Extremism. The Joint Declaration will be presented publicly tomorrow at the main UNESCO World Press Freedom Day in Helsinki. As in previous years, the Centre for Law and Democracy, along with ARTICLE 19, assisted the special mandates in preparing the Joint Declaration.

Click here to read the Joint Declaration
Click here for the Joint Declaration in French
Click here for the Joint Declaration in Arabic

“The Joint Declaration this year applies a number of established standards to the specific context of initiatives which have been adopted under the umbrella of countering violent extremism”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Unfortunately, too many States react to threats of violence by adopting unduly broad restrictions on freedom of expression.”

The Joint Declaration sets out a number of important standards, including the following:
• There should be no discrimination in the text or application of restrictions on freedom of expression.
• The concepts of “violent extremism” and “extremism” should not be used to restrict freedom of expression unless they are clearly and narrowly defined.
• States should not use their power to pressure or reward online intermediaries with a view to restricting lawful content.
• Politicians and other leadership figures in society should refrain from making statements which encourage or promote racism or intolerance.
• States should not adopt blanket prohibitions on encryption and anonymity.
• Measures that weaken digital security tools, such as backdoors and key escrows, are not legitimate because they are inherently disproportionate.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431-3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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Seminar on Building Safety Mechanisms

ChdG1gsXEAAtJtCToday, the Centre for Law and Democracy and International Media Support are hosting a seminar on Promoting Journalists’ Safety: Building an Effective Safety Mechanism, as a side event at the main UNESCO World Press Freedom Day event in Helsinki. The purpose of the event is to host a debate on the Discussion Paper, Supporting Freedom of Expression: A Practical Guide to Developing Specialised Safety Mechanisms, prepared by the Centre for Law and Democracy in collaboration with UNESCO and launched on 21 April 2016.

Click here for the Discussion Paper
Click here for more info about the debate

“It is very important that the Discussion Paper is debated and used”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “We hope that participants at the event will take the Paper back to their constituents and use it for purposes of planning and supporting national safety mechanisms in different countries.”

The Discussion Paper focuses on specialised formal safety mechanisms which aim to provide protection to journalists and others who are attacked for exercising their right to freedom of expression and to combat the impunity which all too often prevails in relation to the perpetrators. Such mechanisms are in place in a few countries and are being seriously considered in a few more, but they deserve a lot more attention as a key safety tool.

“In order to improve our response to the serious safety concerns that face local journalists around the world, it is imperative that we share the best practices available on setting up national safety mechanisms for journalists – mechanisms that are locally anchored and led. This Discussion Paper aims to do just that,” says Jesper Højberg, Executive Director of International Media Support.

The Seminar is being moderated by Jesper Højberg, Director, International Media Support, and the speakers are:
• Toby Mendel, Executive Director, Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD)
• Frank La Rue, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, UNESCO
• Ms. Sophie Busson, Advocacy Advisor, Reporters without Borders (RSF)
• Tahmina Rahman, Director, Bangladesh and South Asia, Article 19

Those interested in joining in the discussion are encouraged to tweet on #MediaSafetyMech.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel, CLD, at toby@law-democracy.org or +1 902 431-3688
www.law-democracy.org, twitter: @law_democracy

Helle Wahlberg, IMS at hwa@mediasupport.org or +45286810 59
www.mediasupport.org

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Protecting Against Attacks on Freedom of Expression

Photo by Claude Truong-Ngoc

Photo by Claude Truong-Ngoc

Today, UNESCO and the Centre for Law and Democracy released a Discussion Paper, Supporting Freedom of Expression: A Practical Guide to Developing Specialised Safety Mechanisms, which provides direction and support to those who are thinking of putting in place national safety mechanisms. Such mechanisms are proving to be an indispensable means of protecting journalists and others who are attacked for exercising their right to freedom of expression, in what has been termed ‘censorship by killing’, as well as addressing the problem of impunity for such attacks.

Click here to read the Discussion Paper

“The scale of this problem, which represents an attack on society as a whole, has remained at an unacceptable level in terms both of the number of attacks and the number of countries in which they take place”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Despite their potential, only a few countries have put in place national safety mechanisms and we hope that this Guide will both prompt and support others to do so.”

“Freedom of the press is essential for the necessary information and transparency that a democratic society needs. But today we see an increase of violence and intimidation against journalists for which I propose that all countries of the world establish a mechanism of information and protection for the safety of journalists”, said Frank La Rue, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Communication and Information.

One of the challenges of putting in place a national safety mechanism is the limited number of examples of existing mechanisms from which lessons can be learned, as well as the mixed success of existing mechanisms. The Guide seeks to provide support in this area by analysing the key issues that need to be considered when setting up a mechanism, grouped into three main categories: the scope of the mechanism; involving key stakeholders; and institutional design. An Annex provides a flowchart of the decisions/assessments that need to be made when establishing a mechanism, designed to be used as a tool to assist with planning such a process.

The issue of national safety mechanisms and the Guide will be discussed at a session at World Press Freedom Day in Helsinki, titled Promoting Journalists’ Safety: Building an Effective Safety Mechanism, to be held in Finlandia Hall from 1400-1700 on 2 May.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431-3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy
#mediasafetymech

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Myanmar: Analysis of Broadcasting Law Released

imagesThe Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), with the support of International Media Support (IMS), has released an Analysis of Myanmar’s Broadcast Law, adopted in August 2015, to feed into the Myanmar Media Law Conference: Challenges to Myanmar’s Media Landscape, which will take place from 19-20 March. The Analysis notes that the Law goes a long way towards bringing the rules in Myanmar into line with international standards. It also points to a number of areas where the legal framework could be improved, either by adopting strong implementing regulations or in some cases by amending the Law.

Click here for the Analysis

“This Law has created a positive framework for the regulation of broadcasting, promoting international standards such as independence, diversity and fairness,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “At the same time, there is a need for further legal development, much of which can be done through regulations, to advance the development of the broadcasting sector in the country .”

Some of the positive features of the Law are that: it was adopted through a consultative process; it creates an independent Council to regulate broadcasting; the licensing system is based on principles of competition and fairness; it includes a range of measures to promote diversity in broadcasting, including by recognising public service, commercial and community broadcasters; and it puts in place a fair and consultative process for promoting professionalism in the sector.

At the same time, the Law fails to address the transition to digital terrestrial television and recognises broadcasting which is controlled by government rather than being independent. The Analysis also puts forward recommendations to further bolster the independence of the regulator and to improve the rules on concentration of ownership of the media, as well as to introduce some technical improvements to the Law.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431-3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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Public consultation on Special Mechanism for Media Freedom in the Arab World launched

mass emails logoAn open public consultation aimed at gathering views from key stakeholders on the establishment of a Special Mechanism for Media Freedom in the Arab World was launched today. The consultation is part of a regional initiative to improve the performance and the commitment of Arab States to media freedom. It responds to rising concerns in the region, where the temptation to revert to authoritarian practices is strong and where media face greater risks than ever before.

The initiative is based on joint efforts by human rights bodies, the journalists’ trade-union movement, media organisations, civil society groups and international organisations defending free media, high-quality journalism and fundamental freedoms. It recognises the crucial role Arab intergovernmental organisations play and calls on them to commit to media freedom through the establishment of an intergovernmental structure – a special mechanism – similar to those that have proved effective in the United Nations, the African Union (AU), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and Organisation of American States (OAS).

Led by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the initiative was launched in Casablanca in October 2014, at its regional meeting held in cooperation with the Federation of the Arab Journalists (FAJ). Two key documents help define the initiative: the Technical Proposal which examines options in terms of the mandate, structure and financing of the proposed special mechanism (1), and a draft Declaration on Media Freedom in the Arab World (2). A series of national meetings in recent months, bringing together key international experts, journalists’ leaders, media freedom defenders and representatives of national human rights commissions from across the Arab World, has allowed for the development and honing of the key documents.

The current online consultation aims to widen the scope of involvement in this initiative and calls on individuals and national, regional and international organisations to contribute to the debate and the development of the proposals.

The initiative is supported by MedMedia, an EU funded programme promoting media reform in the region, the IFJ and the government of Norway. This open consultation is being conducted with the assistance of the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), IFEX and the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD). [Its results and the final proposals will be presented at a Media Freedom Conference to be held in Casablanca on 2-4 May 2016, in cooperation with the UNESCO and the Syndicat National de la Presse Marocaine (SNPM), with the support of MedMedia, the IFJ and international and regional organisations and networks.]

To send your comments, download the templates from here, edit and send them back using the comment form on the page before 15th April 2016.

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Nepal International Media Partnership Report Launched

unnamedToday, the Report of the International Mission to Nepal for Promoting Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists was launched, outlining the findings of the Nepal International Media Partnership (NIMP), which visited Nepal from 19 to 23 April 2015. The primary goals of the Mission were to assess the media freedom situation in the country and to provide support to the then ongoing UNPFN/UNESCO project, Increasing the Safety of Journalists.

Click here to read the Mission Report

“We welcome the fact that Nepal has committed to developing a specialised safety mechanism for those targeted for exercising their right to freedom of expression”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “We look forward to supporting the development of the mechanism and to working with relevant stakeholders to bring the overall legal framework more closely into line with international standards.”

The NIMP, formerly the International Media Mission to Nepal, is an alliance of 14 international organisations including UN agencies, freedom of expression groups and media development organisations, which was originally founded in 2005 to respond to the controls on the media and freedom of expression put in place in Nepal when the king suspended democracy and began ruling directly. Over time, the missions have become more focused on providing support for the ongoing democratisation process in the country.

The Mission and Report focused on supporting the development of the planned safety mechanism, to be housed at the National Human Rights Commission, as well as a number of issues relating to the constitutional, policy and legal framework for freedom of expression and of the media.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431-3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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Myanmar Activists Launch National Right to Information Working Group

IMG_1432Last week, civil society representatives from across Myanmar, representing a range of diverse interests, met in Yangon to found the National Right to Information Working Group. The Working Group is the result of over a year of advocacy and awareness raising efforts by Pyi Gyi Khin (PGK), a Myanmar-based NGO, and the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), which have worked together over the last year to host workshops across the country to build support for the right to information.

“Myanmar’s civil society strongly supports the right to information,” said Nwezin Win, Executive Director of PGK. “Having brought stakeholders from across the country together on this issue, we look forward to uniting to take this conversation forward.”

The participants unanimously approved a Charter for the Working Group, and agreed on a national advocacy strategy for the coming year.

Click here to read the Charter of the Myanmar Right to Know Working Group

“As Myanmar’s first democratically elected government prepares to assume power, we urge them to consider the right to information as a priority issue,” said CLD’s Senior Legal Officer, Michael Karanicolas. “The election in November was an important step, but elections are just one aspect of a healthy democracy. We hope that they will demonstrate a commitment to this important right.”

In addition to the civil society workshop, last week CLD and PGK held an event for lawyers on the right to information in collaboration with the Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network, and a training for the News Media Council.

For further information, please contact:

Michael Karanicolas
Senior Legal Officer
Centre for Law and Democracy
michael@law-democracy.org
+1 902 448-5290
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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Malawi’s Right to Information Bill Would Rank 15th Globally

malawiIn November 2015, two years after the country committed to pass a right to information law, Malawi’s Ministry of Justice finally unveiled a draft Access to Information Bill. An Analysis of the Bill released today by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) shows that, if passed, the Bill would be one of the stronger laws in the world, ranking in 15th position on the RTI Rating. The Analysis also reveals that there are important areas where the Bill should be improved before it is passed. Troublingly, since the law was published Malawi’s President, Peter Mutharika, has called for it be significantly weakened, demanding that it apply only to information generated after it is adopted.

“Restricting the right to information to future documents would dramatically undermine the impact of the law,” said CLD’s Senior Legal Officer, Michael Karanicolas. “Rather than weakening the Bill, the priority for the government should now be on getting it passed into law.”

Click here for the full Analysis
Click here for the draft Access to Information Bill
Click here for the RTI Rating Score

The Bill has a number of positive features, including a relatively broad scope, strong promotional measures and a good public interest override. Some of CLD’s key recommendations include:
• Sanctions for misuse of information that has been disclosed should be removed.
• The Bill should overrule Malawi’s Official Secrets Act to the extent of any conflict.
• Exceptions for personal privacy and Cabinet records should be significantly narrowed in scope.
• Malawi should commit to dedicating additional resources for the oversight body.
• The law should make it clear that it applies to the office of the President.

For further information, please contact:

Michael Karanicolas
Senior Legal Officer
Centre for Law and Democracy
email: michael@law-democracy.org
tel: +1 902 448-5290
www.law-democracy.org
Twitter: @law_democracy

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International Partnership Mission Releases Recommendations for Indonesia

LuhutThe 2015 International Partnership Mission to Indonesia (IPMI) has released its Observations and Recommendations, including a detailed list of suggested measures to protect freedom of expression in the country. The Observations and Recommendations focus on challenges faced by local and foreign journalists, legal and regulatory threats to freedom of expression, and Indonesia’s continuing climate of impunity for attacks against journalists and media workers.

Click here to read the Recommendations

“There has been little demonstrable progress following the recommendations offered by the mission a year ago, despite significant interventions by local civil society organisations”, the mission said. “The government of President Widodo should do moreto advance media freedom and protect journalists.”

Among the IPMI’s main recommendations are:
• The order opening Papua to foreign journalists should be formalised in writing and measures should be taken to stem continuing resistance to international access.
• Defamation should be decriminalised.
• Invasive web filtering and surveillance practices should be ended.
• The government should develop a plan to promote journalists’ safety.
• The government should reopen investigations into unsolved journalistkillings and commit to bringing the perpetrators to justice.
• The National Police shouldestablish a formal procedure for investigating allegations of police violenceagainst the media.

In the course of its five-day mission in November 2015, the IPMI travelled to Makassar (South Sulawesi), Jayapura (Papua) and the capital, Jakarta. It met with journalists and civil society representatives, as well as LuhutPandjaitan, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security, and Fransiscus Mote, spokesman for the Papuan governor’s office.

For further information, please contact:

Michael Karanicolas
Senior Legal Officer
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: michael@law-democracy.org
+1 902 448 5290
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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Sri Lanka Proposes Strong Right to Information Act

Photo by Christophe Menebœuf

Photo by Christophe Menebœuf

The Sri Lankan Cabinet has approved a draft Right to Information (RTI) Act which, if passed into law, would be among the strongest in the world. Although Sri Lanka is a relative latecomer in this area – being the only country in South Asia apart from Bhutan that has yet to adopt an RTI law – an assessment of the draft Act by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) gives it a score of 120 out of a possible 150 points on the RTI Rating, which would make it the seventh strongest law in the world. At the same time, CLD’s Analysis points to a number of areas where further improvements are recommended.

Click here to read the Analysis
Click here to read the draft Law

“We very much welcome the fact that Sri Lanka finally seems to be bringing to fruition a project that started nearly 14 years ago”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Although the draft Act is robust, we hope that the relevant authorities will take advantage of this unique opportunity to introduce further improvements so as to create a really excellent RTI law.”

The draft Act has a number of positive features, including a broad scope, a narrow regime of exceptions and a good package of promotional measures. CLD’s recommendations include the following:
• Foreigners, as well as citizens, should benefit from the right of access.
• A number of measures should be adopted to enhance further the independence of the oversight body, the Right to Information Commission.
• The system for proactive publication should rely more on online publication systems.
• Third parties should not enjoy a veto over the disclosure of information provided by them.
• The overall time limit of ten years should apply to all exceptions that protect public interests.
• The Commission should enjoy enhanced powers and its decisions should be binding.
• The law should provide protection for whistleblowers.

CLD urges the Sri Lankan authorities to amend the draft Act so as to provide an even more robust basis for the right to information in the country.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431-3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

This press release was reprinted in full by The Colombo Telegraph and the the Sri Lanka Guardian.

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Myanmar Media Lawyers Commit to Engaging on Broadcast Reform

IMG_1238The Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network (MMLN) and the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) hosted a workshop on 29 November to discuss changes to the country’s broadcasting framework, and how they will impact freedom of expression in the country. The workshop, which was carried out with support from International Media Support (IMS), featured a robust discussion about the country’s new Broadcasting Law and how it measures up against international standards.

“The new Broadcasting Law is a very significant development in terms of democratising the media landscape in Myanmar,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “It is very good to see that the MMLN is getting involved in this issue, given the centrality of broadcast regulation to a healthy media environment.”

One issue that participants focused on was the National Broadcasting Council, which is tasked with regulating broadcasting. The Broadcasting Law requires the Council to be established by the end of February, after consultations with the public and civil society. MMLN members made a commitment to be actively engaged in the consultation process, once it is announced.

“It is important for the MMLN to make its voice heard as part of the consultation process for selecting National Broadcasting Council members,” said Than Zaw, Secretary of the Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network. “We will be following the situation closely and will do what we can to ensure that competent and independent members are appointed.”

In addition to MMLN and CLD speakers, the workshop featured a presentation from U Hein Lat, General Manager for Programming at SkyNet, one of Myanmar’s biggest broadcasters. The event was the latest in a series of workshops that the MMLN and CLD have held for lawyers in 2015.

For further information, please contact:

Michael Karanicolas
Senior Legal Officer
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: michael@law-democracy.org
+1 902 448 5290
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

Than Zaw Aung
Secretary
Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network
+95 9 795586316
thanzawau@gmail.com

Esben Q. Harboe
Programme Manager
International Media Support
eh@mediasupport.org
+45 5210 7805
www.mediasupport.org
@forfreemedia

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Myanmar’s National Right to Information Coalition Expands to Shan State

imagesOn 24 November 2015, over 70 representatives from the Eastern Shan State Civil Society Network met in Tachileik to discuss the right to information (RTI) in Myanmar. The workshop was hosted by Pyi Gyi Khin, a Myanmar-based NGO working on this issue, along with the Centre for Law and Democracy, with the support of International Media Support, USAID and FHI 360. It featured in in-depth discussion of the benefits of RTI and the elements of a strong RTI law.

“It is great to see support for RTI growing across Myanmar,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “We hope to see formal progress on this issue, in the form of a draft RTI law, in addition to growing public awareness of its importance.”

The workshop was the third in a series, following successful events in Yangon and Mandalay. A fourth workshop is scheduled to take place on 29 November in Lashio, with workshops in Pathein and Taunggyi planned for December. The idea is that, at the end of the series of workshops, representative from each workshop will meet to form a National RTI Working Group.

“We see strong right to information legislation as fundmental to Myanmar’s democratic transition and we are committed to working to make this right a reality,” said Nwezin Win, Executive Director of Pyi Gyi Khin.

The workshop participants unanimously endorsed the Joint Statement on the Right to Information in Myanmar, which was drafted at the first workshop in Yangon in Novemeber 2014, and subsequently endorsed by the participants of the Mandalay workshop.

Click here to read the Joint Statement

“We are happy to support civil society in their efforts to support right to information legislation in Myanmar,” said Esben Harboe, Programme Manager for IMS’ work in Myanmar. “We see this right as crucial to guaranteeing democratic accountability.”

For further information, please contact:

Michael Karanicolas
Senior Legal Officer
Centre for Law and Democracy
michael@law-democracy.org
+1 902 448-5290
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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UNEP: Draft Information Policy Better But More Needed

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17Almost exactly 18 months ago, when CLD commented on the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) first ever Access-to-Information Policy, the title of our press release was “Practise what you preach”. This reflected the hypocrisy of UNEP advising others to adopt strong rules on the right to information (RTI) while putting in place a very substandard access policy for itself. UNEP has, as intended, duly moved forward to develop a longer-term policy. An analysis by CLD of their 12 November 2015 draft Policy shows that improvements have been introduced, but that far more is needed to bring it into line with international standards or better practice by inter-governmental organisations.

Click here to read the Note

“We welcome the fact that UNEP is moving forward to replace its weak Access-to-Information Policy”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Although the new draft is stronger, we expect far more of the lead UN environmental body in terms of openness.”

The draft Policy has some positive features, including a broad presumption in favour of disclosure “in the absence of a compelling reason for confidentiality”. However, there are a number of problems with the draft, including the following:
• An unnecessarily complex and potentially limited definition of information covered.
• The absence of any commitment to provide assistance to requesters who need it.
• A very broad regime of exceptions including a veto for third parties regarding information they deem to be confidential, a catchall for information which “must be deemed confidential” and a highly discretionary public interest override.
• An oversight body – the Access-to-Information Panel – which merely advises the Executive Director (i.e. rather than actually making independent decisions) and which is comprised of two staff members and just one external expert, all appointed by the Executive Director.

CLD urges UNEP to revise the draft Policy so as to bring it more fully into line with international standards.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431-3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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International Delegation calls on Indonesian President to Address Media Freedom Concerns

LuhutAn international delegation of media and freedom of expression organisations met with the Indonesian government to discuss the state of media in the country. It highlighted concerns regarding journalist safety and an environment that poses significant threats to freedom of expression.

At a meeting on Thursday, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan re-committed, on behalf of the Widodo administration, to free press access to Papua and promised to review outstanding cases of killings of local journalists raised by the mission. The Minister was open to further communication with the media and civil society, and welcomed further recommendations.

The International Partnership Mission to Indonesia travelled to the country to meet with journalists, government and civil society representatives to review the media environment one year on since its first visit in December 2014. Significantly, it also conducted a fact-finding visit to Papua.

Publicly declared open to foreign journalists by President Joko Widodo in May 2015, Papua and West Papua have been restricted for international media for half a century. Access remains problematic, with obstacles being raised by local military and police. The mission met with Papuan journalists and media activists who described an atmosphere of surveillance and intimidation, as well as claims of security agents posing as journalists.

The mission also heard about challenges to freedom of expression more broadly across the country. Continued violence against the media and the failure to bring perpetrators to justice fuels further attacks, and leads to self-censorship. The digital space is an emerging front line for the media, meanwhile the Electronic Information and Transactions Law and the broader Criminal Code are being abused to silence critical voices.

“In a region where the press is under sustained attack, Indonesia has a leadership role to play in defending media freedoms,” the mission said. “There has been little demonstrable progress following the recommendations offered by the mission a year ago, and despite significant interventions by local civil society organisations. The government of President Widodo should do more to advance media freedom and protect journalists.”

Click here to read the 2014 IPMI Recommendations

On its first visit, the mission was briefed on the 2009 Anak Agung Prabangsa murder case in Bali, which as a result of cooperation between media, police and local government resulted in the prosecution not only of the killers but also of the mastermind.

“The Prabangsa case proves that Indonesia can tackle impunity,” the mission said. “We welcome the dialogue that has begun with the Widodo administration.”

For further information, please contact:

Michael Karanicolas
Senior Legal Officer
Centre for Law and Democracy
michael@law-democracy.org
+1 902 448-5290
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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Vietnam: Draft Right to Information Law a Good Start

Flag_of_Vietnam.svgVietnam now appears to be moving forward with its draft law on access to information held by public authorities (the Law on Access to Information), which is expected to be adopted by the National Assembly in 2016. Discussions about such a law have been ongoing for some time, so it is heartening that the country now appears to be moving forward on this key issue. At the same time, an Analysis released today by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) of an August version suggests that the draft Law still has a long way to go to come up to international standards, garnering only 59 points out of a possible 150 on the RTI Rating, putting it in 93rd position globally out of 102 countries.

Click here to read the Analysis
Click here to read the Analysis in Vietnamese
Click here to read the draft Law

“It is very encouraging that Vietnam is moving forward to adopt a right to information law”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Hopefully, however, some major changes will be made to the draft before it is actually adopted or the law may be too weak to bring about real change in terms of government openness.”

The draft law has some positive features, including its coverage of all three branches of government and relatively strong promotional measures. However, there are a number of areas where it stands to be improved, including the following:
• Public authorities should be defined to include the police, security bodies and State-owned enterprises, as well as private bodies which undertake public functions.
• More detailed rules on lodging and processing requests should be added.
• The rules on exceptions should be brought together into a much tighter and more coherent regime which only protects narrowly defined interests against specific harm.
• An independent administrative body, such as an information commission, should be established to hear appeals against refusals to provide information.
• Protection should be provided to those who release information in good faith, either pursuant to a request or to expose wrongdoing.

CLD urges the Vietnamese authorities to review the draft law with a view to bringing it more fully into line with international standards.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431-3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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Italy: Draft Right to Information Law Falls Short

220px-Colosseum_in_Rome-April_2007-1-_copie_2B

Italy is one of the few countries in Europe which still does not have a dedicated law on access to information held by public authorities (right to information law). Member of Parliament Anna Ascani has now prepared a dedicated RTI law with a view to addressing this anomaly, but the draft has a long way to go to meet international standards in this area, according to an Analysis prepared by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD).

Click here to read the Draft Law
Click here to read the Analysis

“We very much welcome moves in Italy to adopt a dedicated RTI law”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “But a far more ambitious approach is needed to provide Italians with an effective tool for accessing public information.”

The draft law has some positive features, including a relatively broad scope in terms of the public authorities and information covered, and some interesting innovations in the area of appeals. At the same time, it suffers from a number of weaknesses, including the following:
Only individual citizens are granted a right to make requests for information.
The procedural rules for making and processing requests are far too brief and limited in nature, with key issues such as assistance and time limits simply left out.
The relationship of the RTI law to secrecy provisions in other laws is unclear, too many exceptions are overbroad and/or lack a harm test, and the public interest override is limited to just one exception.
Officials who disclose information in good faith pursuant to the law are not provided with protection against sanctions.
Most of the promotional measures found in better practice laws are missing.

CLD urges the Italian authorities to revisit the draft law and to introduce wide-ranging changes to bring it in more fully into line with international standards regarding the right to information.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431-3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

This Press Release is also available in Italian

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Liberals and NDP Pledge Access to Information Reform

whatudontknowOne month ago, a coalition of 22 NGOs from across Canada signed a Joint Letter calling on the leaders of Canada’s political parties to make concrete commitments to reform Canada’s outdated access to information system. Today, we are pleased to have received promises from the NDP and Liberal parties to substantively improve the system if elected. The Conservative party has not promised to improve the system as part of their platform, a position which is unfortunately consistent with their overall record on this vital democratic indicator. Canada’s Access to Information Act has not been substantially improved since it was passed over 30 years ago, and a global study ranks Canada 59th in the world as a result of this stagnation.

“After decades of neglect, we are pleased to see that Canadians are finally being offered candidates who believe in a strong right to information,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy. “Whoever forms Canada’s next government, we hope they will work to bring the Access to Information Act up to code.”

The Joint Letter called for parties to commit to a comprehensive review of the Access to Information Act, and to specifically express support for four important reforms: expanding the power of Canada’s Information Commissioner to grant her order-making power, expand the scope of the Act to cover all public bodies, limit exceptions to the law and make them subject to a public interest override and create a duty to document decisions. The NDP platform includes commitments that engage all four of these promises, while the Liberals have promised to fulfil two, and have also promised to institute regular reviews of the Access to Information Act. Both the NDP and Liberals have also committed to eliminating all access fees, beyond the initial $5 requesting fee.

The deficit of trust between Canada’s voters and its elected officials has never been higher. However, it is good to see that the right to information has become an issue in this campaign, and that Liberal and NDP candidates for Prime Minister have pledged to take action to repair the critical flaws in the system.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431-3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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Green Climate Fund: Exceptions Dominante Draft Information Policy

The_Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17In August, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) published a draft Information Disclosure Policy for purposes of public consultation. Once finalised, the Policy will replace the GCF’s Interim Information Disclosure Practice, adopted in October 2013. Moves to adopt a longer-term policy in this area are welcome. However, a Submission supported by CLD and endorsed by a number of other NGOs highlights the vastly overbroad regime of exceptions in the draft Policy, which seriously undermines its potential to ensure access to information.

Click here to read the Submission
Click here to read the draft Policy

“The GCF’s new draft Policy has some positive features, including the fact that it is designed around a proper presumption in favour of disclosure”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “However, the exceptions dominate the draft, covering a broad range of internal documents and granting third parties a veto over the disclosure of information.”

The draft Policy includes more detailed rules on lodging and processing requests for information and creates an appeals body to process complaints. However, serious weaknesses remain, including the following:
• It fails to establish minimum rules regarding the proactive publication of information.
• The time limits for processing requests are too long and the rules on fees are unclear.
• The rules for disclosing information in the public interest apply only in ‘exceptional’ cases and there is a negative public interest override.
• There are several unnecessary or unduly broad exceptions, as well as exceptions which are not based on the idea of protecting interests against harm.
• The oversight body – the Information Appeals Panel – is dominated by officials rather than being independent, and is not required to provide reasons for its decisions.

CLD urges the GCF to revise the draft Policy so as to address the concerns raised in our Submission and to bring it in more fully into line with international standards.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431-3688
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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CLD Event in Halifax September 28

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Join us for a Discussion on 28 September, International Right to Know Day, To Talk About How to Promote Transparent Government

The right to access information held by public bodies, known as the right to information, is internationally recognised as a human right and protected under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The right provides a range of benefits, including promoting democratic participation, combating corruption and helping to foster effective, accountable and responsive government. Although Canada was among the early adopters of right to information legislation, our laws are now seriously outdated. An assessment of national laws by the Centre for Law and Democracy puts the federal Access to Information Act at 59th position in the world. Most provinces and territories fare little better; Nova Scotia ranks 50th.

Against this gloomy backdrop, a ray of light has emerged. Newfoundland and Labrador has undertaken the most ambitious reform programme in recent memory and a new law adopted earlier this year has turned the province into a global leader. This event, held on International Right to Know Day, will discuss the right to information in a Canadian context, and consider how to strengthen and promote transparent government across the country.

Moderator:
Catherine Tully, Information and Privacy Commissioner, Nova Scotia

Panellists:
Steve Kent, Deputy Premier, Newfoundland and Labrador
Toby Mendel, Executive Director, Centre for Law and Democracy
Maria Lasheras, Chief Information Access and Privacy Officer, Nova Scotia
Sean Murray, Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, Newfoundland and Labrador

Halifax City Hall: 28 September 2015, 6 pm-8 pm

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Fix Canada’s Broken Access to Information System

whatudontknowThe undersigned organizations have issued a Joint Letter to the major political parties in Canada calling on them to make concrete commitments to reform Canada’s access to information system.

A strong access to information system is vital to maintaining a healthy democracy. The public has the right to obtain the information it needs to participate meaningfully in the democratic process, while also holding Canada’s public officials and Members of Parliaments accountable. The current system is failing Canadians.

“When the Access to Information Act was adopted over 30 years ago, Canada was a world leader on this important democratic right,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy. “But decades of stagnation have left us in a miserable 59th position globally, far behind countries like India, Mexico, South Africa and Slovenia.”

“Canadians are being left in the dark,” said Tom Henheffer, Executive Director of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression. “We have a right to know in this country and it’s being undermined. Urgent access to information reform is needed to hold politicians and public institutions accountable, to keep the public informed and to ensure Canadian democracy continues to function.”

“It is long past time these changes were made,” said Vincent Gogolek, Executive Director of Freedom of Information and Privacy Association. “The black holes in the Access to Information Act have to be closed.”

Our country deserves an open and accountable government. Political parties must make a clear electoral promise to undertake a comprehensive process of consultation leading to reform of the Access to Information Act. They must also express specific support for the rapid adoption of the following four reforms following the election:
1. Strengthen the Office of the Information Commissioner with a larger mandate and order-making power.
2. Eliminate loopholes and blanket exclusions and minimize exceptions to the Access to Information Act.
3. Expand the scope of the Act to include all public authorities and other bodies which perform a public function or receive significant public funding.
4. Require public officials to document and preserve all records of their decision-making.

How can Canadians help reform Canada’s access to information system?

• Send an email to your representatives: using the following simple one-click platform, you can easily make your right to information a priority to federal party leaders and your local MPs and senators based on your postal code.
• Share your views on social media: tweet at Secretary of the Treasury Board @TonyclementCPC, Liberal Open Government Critic @Scott_Simms and NDP Treasury Board Critic @MRavignat using #ATIreform and #cdnfoi to let them know that you want to see immediate reforms to Canada’s access to information system.

Signatories:

British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA)
Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ)
Canadian Media Guild/CWA Canada
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF)
Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD)
Centre for Social Justice
Evidence for Democracy
Fédération professionnelle des journalistes du Québec (FPJQ)
Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA)
Greenpeace Canada
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada
PEN Canada
Politics of Evidence Working Group
Newspapers Canada
Open Media
Our Right to Know
Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia
Voices-Voix
Association des Journalistes Indépendants du Québec
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)

Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) works around the world to promote, protect and develop those human rights which serve as the foundation for or underpin democracy, including the rights to freedom of expression, to vote and participate in governance, to access information and to freedom of assembly and association.

Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) monitors, defends and reports on free expression and access to information in Canada and abroad. Rooted in the field of journalism, CJFE promotes a free media as essential to a fair and open society. CJFE boldly champions the free expression rights of all people, and encourages and supports individuals and groups in the protection of their own and others’ free expression rights.

The Canadian Association of Journalists is a professional organization with more than 600 members across Canada. The CAJ’s primary roles are public-interest advocacy work and professional development for its members.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is Canada’s leading non-partisan citizens’ advocacy group fighting for lower taxes, less waste and accountable government. Founded in 1990, the CTF has more than 84,000 supporters and seven offices across Canada. The CTF is funded by free-will, non tax-receiptable contributions.

Newspapers Canada is the voice of Canada’s newspapers, representing over 800 daily, weekly and community newspapers. One of the association’s missions is to advance the cause of freedom of expression in Canada generally and to advocate the right to freedom of expression of individuals, including freedom of the press and other media of communication and the right of people to have a press free from governmental control or restrain

Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) is a non-partisan, non-profit society established in 1991 to promote and defend freedom of information and privacy rights in Canada.

For further information and media enquiries, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director, Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD)
toby@law-democracy.org
902-431-3688

Tom Henheffer
Executive Director, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
thenheffer@cjfe.org
647-992-4630

Nick Taylor-Vaisey
President, Canadian Association of Journalists
nick@caj.ca

Vincent Gogolek
Executive Director, BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association
604-739-9788
www.fipa.bc.ca

Aaron Wudrick
CTF Federal Director
awudrick@taxpayer.com
613.295.8409

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