Centre for Law and Democracy Logo
 

Trinidad and Tobago: Problems with Cybercrime Bill

Trinidad & Tobago map A draft Cybercrime Bill prepared by the government of Trinidad and Tobago would criminalise a wide range of legitimate digital activity, according to an analysis of the Bill released today by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD). Although the Bill has formally lapsed, it is likely that a similar draft will be introduced in the near future.

The draft Cybercrime Bill is very significantly overbroad in terms of the types of online expressive activity it would render illegal”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Far more attention needs to be given to the numerous provisions that restrict free speech.

Some of the key problems with the Bill are as follows:
• Many of the offences it creates are drafted in very broad terms so as to capture innocuous online activities. Some of these shift the onus onto users to provide legal justification for activities which are only potentially harmful, instead of defining what is prohibited narrowly so as to capture only harmful activity.
• A number of provisions are unnecessary since they duplicate existing legal provisions, creating confusion and in some cases heavier penalties for the commission of offences online.
• The definition of cyberbullying is significantly overbroad.
• The Bill would criminalise the otherwise innocent receipt of computer data by third parties, including journalists.

CLD urges the government of Trinidad and Tobago to revisit the Bill with a view to preparing a draft that is more in line with international human rights standards, in particular relating to freedom of expression.

The CLD analysis and the draft Bill are available here and here.

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on Trinidad and Tobago: Problems with Cybercrime Bill

Mandalay CSOs Join National RTI Coalition

Flag_of_Myanmar.svgOn 23 July 2015, a group of 40 civil society representatives from across Upper Myanmar came together in Mandalay to discuss the importance of the right to information (RTI) to the country’s democratic transition. The participants agreed to form an Upper Myanmar RTI Working Group and to select members to join the central RTI Working Group, which is coordinating advocacy on this issue nationwide. The participants also unanimously endorsed the joint statement which was adopted at a November 2014 workshop on this issue.

Click here to read the Joint Statement, in English and Burmese

“We are thrilled to see that Myanmar’s civil society has embraced this issue so enthusiastically”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “While Myanmar’s democratic transition still has a long way to go, this level of energy certainly bodes well for the country’s future.”

“Passing a right to information law would be a key milestone for Myanmar.” said Esben Harboe, Programme Manager for IMS’ work in Myanmar. “We are happy to support civil society in pushing towards this goal.”

The workshop, which featured in-depth discussion on the benefits of RTI and the elements of a strong RTI law was the latest in a series of workshops on RTI which have been hosted by the Centre for Law and Democracy, with the support of International Media Support. Future workshops in Myanmar’s Shan region are planned for later this year.

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

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on Mandalay CSOs Join National RTI Coalition

Myanmar Lawyers’ Workshop Focuses on Freedom of Expression

MMLN resizeOn 25 July 2015, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network (MMLN), with the support of International Media Support (IMS), carried out a workshop for lawyers on defamation law and restrictions on freedom of expression in the name of national security. The workshop, which involved 25 lawyers from Yangon, is the latest in a series of events arranged by the MMLN, a network of lawyers dedicated to promoting freedom of expression which was founded in 2014.

The topics were chosen due to their relevance to Myanmar’s ongoing democratic transition. Over the past week, two editors from the Myanmar Herald were convicted of criminal defamation for an interview they published which criticised President Thein Sein. Their lawyer, U Zaw Linn, was among the speakers.

Criminal defamation laws have no place in a democratic country and they certainly should not be used to stifle criticism against the Head of State,” said CLD Executive Director Toby Mendel.

The workshop also discussed the Bi Mon Tae Nay case, in which five journalists, editors and publishers were charged with making statements which “alarmed the public” after their journal erroneously reported that Aung San Suu Kyi had formed an interim government, a subject which, according to international standards, does not touch on national security.

It is important for Myanmar’s legal community to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of our country’s laws, particularly where they impact on important human rights,” said Than Zaw, Secretary of the Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network.

For further information, please contact:

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

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on Myanmar Lawyers’ Workshop Focuses on Freedom of Expression

Analysis of Nepal’s Constitutional Proposals on Freedom of Expression, Media Freedom and the Right to Information

Statement by the Nepal International Media Partnership
23 July 2015
prepared by the Centre for Law and Democracy

The government of Nepal has recently released a new version of the draft Constitution, which is now being considered by Parliament. This Joint Statement by the Nepal International Media Partnership (NIMP) provides an analysis of the draft Constitution from the perspective of international guarantees of freedom of expression. It is intended to support the government and Parliament of Nepal, as well as other local stakeholders, with a view to ensuring that the final version of the Constitution is as fully in line with international standards as possible.

The international community has been supporting the promotion of freedom of expression in Nepal for more than ten years, including through eight International Missions to Nepal, the most recent of which took place from 19 to 23 April 2015. The NIMP is founded on a shared long-term objective of promoting freedom of expression in cooperation with local stakeholders, including public sector actors and civil society.

This Joint Statement focuses on three of the constitutional proposals on human rights, namely those relating to freedom of expression, media freedom and the right to information. It should be read in conjunction with the March 2012 International Fact Finding and Advocacy Media Mission to Nepal: 23-27 February 2012: Analysis of Constitutional Proposals on Freedom of Expression, Media Freedom and the Right to Information, which it largely echoes, given that the constitutional proposals in these areas have hardly changed since that time.

The comments in this Joint Statement are based on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) a legally binding international treaty which Nepal ratified in May 1991. The ICCPR is the main international human rights treaty guaranteeing the rights to freedom of expression, in particular in its Article 19. It is abundantly clear from authoritative interpretation of Article 19 that it embraces freedom of expression broadly, including media freedom and the right to access information held by public authorities (the right to information).

It is also clear that the right to freedom of expression is not absolute; Article 19(3) of the ICCPR lays down a strict three-part test for assessing the legitimacy of any restrictions on freedom of expression. This test only recognises as legitimate restrictions which a) are provided by law; b) protect one of the interests listed in Article 19(3), namely the rights or reputations of others, national security, public order (ordre public), public health or public morals; and c) are necessary to protect that interest.

I. Guarantee of Freedom of Expression

Article 22 of the draft Constitution guarantees freedom of expression stating, simply: “Every citizen shall have the following freedoms: (a) Freedom of opinion and expression”. While this is useful, it lacks some of the positive attributes of international guarantees inasmuch as it only applies to citizens whereas international law and better comparative constitutional practice provides protection to everyone.

More important is the fact that Article 22 would allow for far greater restrictions on freedom of expression than is permitted under international law. The most important area of difference between international law and the draft Constitution in this regard is the grounds for restricting freedom of expression. Instead of simply protecting national security, the draft Constitution protects “nationality, sovereignty, independence and integrity”. It is not clear what exactly is meant by “nationality” but it is hard to see how a mere expression could harm nationality, or what sort of expression might legitimately be restricted to protect this ‘interest’. The term “integrity” is also problematical and international law protects as legitimate advocacy in favour of separation as long as it does not incite to violence as part of this. International law also does not permit restrictions on freedom of expression which protect “the harmonious relations subsisting among the federal units”, which would cover important political speech.

Article 20(2) of the ICCPR requires States to ban advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence (‘hate speech’). Article 22 of the draft Constitution goes far beyond this by prohibiting any statement which would “jeopardize the harmonious relations … among peoples of various castes, tribes, religions or communities”. This fails to respect international standards in this area and could easily be abused for political reasons. It would, for example, prohibit legitimate public debate about the complex and often difficult issue of racism.

Three of the grounds for restrictions on freedom of expression in Article 22 – namely “any act of defamation, contempt of court or incitement to an offence” – do not protect legitimate interests but, instead, types of laws. The interest protected by defamation laws, for example, is the reputation of others. This is problematical because it suggests that these laws are themselves legitimate. Instead of referring to types of laws, the Constitution should refer to relevant interests, such as reputation, the independence and authority of the judiciary and public order.

There are also important differences between the standard of harm required to justify restrictions under international law and those found in Article 22. International law requires restrictions to be necessary, which is interpreted as imposing a high standard including that restrictions are clearly and narrowly defined, that they serve a pressing social need, that they are the least intrusive measure which will be effective in protecting the legitimate interest, that they are not overbroad and that they are proportionate. In stark contrast, Article 22 uses the much more permissive terms of ‘may undermine’ or ‘may jeopardize’.

II. Guarantee of Media Freedom

Article 24 of the draft Constitution is welcome inasmuch as it explicitly rules out censorship of all types of media, as well as the closure, cancellation of registration or interruption of media outlets, although it does envisage the regulation of the media. However, it also suffers from imposing unduly broad restrictions on freedom. The criticisms above regarding Article 22 essentially apply in the same way to Article 24, which includes a very similar provision on restrictions.

III. The Right to Information

The guarantees for the right to information in Article 32 of the draft Constitution are unduly narrow. First, under international law this right, like the general right to freedom of expression, is enjoyed by everyone, not just citizens. Second, under international law the right applies to all information, not just information deemed to be of interest to the citizen or the general public. One might reasonably assume that if someone is seeking information, that information is of concern to him or her. More importantly, this limitation might be interpreted in an unduly restrictive manner by the authorities, for example to refuse access to information which they do not deem to be of concern to a citizen or the public.

The approach to restrictions on the right to information in Article 32 is very problematical inasmuch as the right does not extend to “any matter of which secrecy is to be maintained by law”. This effectively recognises limitation on the right, as long as it is found in a law, and effectively fails to place any limits or conditions on laws which restrict the right to information.

Recommendations:
To bring the provisions on freedom of expression, freedom of the media and the right to information in the draft Constitution into line with international law, we suggest the following:
➢ The rights to freedom of expression and information should apply to everyone, not just citizens.
➢ The terms “nationality”, “integrity” and “harmonious relations subsiding among federal units” should be removed as grounds justifying restrictions on freedom of expression.
➢ The references to “harmonious relations subsisting among … peoples of various castes, tribes, religions or communities” should be replaced by the idea of incitement to violence, discrimination or hatred against these groups.
➢ The references to types of laws – namely defamation, contempt of court and incitement to an offence – should be replaced with references to types of interests, such as ‘reputation’, the ‘independence and authority of the judiciary’ and ‘public order’.
➢ The weak standards in Articles 22 and 24, such as “may undermine” or “may jeopardize”, should be replaced by stronger tests, such as “would be likely to undermine”.
➢ The right to information should cover all information, not just information deemed to be of concern to a citizen or the public.
➢ A test for restrictions on the right to information should be introduced into article 32, which should be modelled along the same lines as the test for restrictions on the general guarantee of freedom of expression.

Possible Constitutional Provisions

Based on these recommendations and other comments in this Analysis, the following is a possible form for the constitutional proposals on the rights to freedom of expression, media freedom, and the right to information:

22. Right to Freedom
(2) Everyone shall have the following freedoms:
a. Freedom of opinion and expression, which include the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media;

Provided that,
1. Nothing in sub-clause (a) shall be deemed to prevent the making of laws which impose reasonable restrictions on expressive activities which are likely to undermine the sovereignty or independence of Nepal, which incite to hatred, discrimination or violence against people based on their caste, tribe, religion or community, or which are likely to harm the rights or reputations of others, the independence or authority of the judiciary, public order or public morality.

24. Right to Mass Communication
(1) No publication, broadcasting or printing of any news item, editorial, feature, article or other written or audio-visual material through any means whatsoever including via electronic means, broadcasting or printing shall be subject to prior censorship.
(2) No radio, television, on-line or other form of digital or electronic equipment, press or other means of communicating, publishing, broadcasting or printing any material shall be closed nor shall registration thereof be canceled due to the content it has disseminated.
(3) No means of communication including via the press, electronic means, broadcasting or telephone shall be interrupted except in accordance with law.
Provided that nothing this Article shall be deemed to prevent the making of laws to regulate radio, television, online or any other type of digital or electronic equipment, press or any other means of communication which otherwise meet the conditions of Article 22.

32. Right to Information:
Everyone shall have the right to demand and receive any information from a public body.
Provided that this shall not be deemed to prevent the making of laws which impose reasonable restrictions on the disclosure of information where this is likely to undermine the sovereignty or independence of Nepal, to incite to hatred, discrimination or violence against people based on their caste, tribe, religion or community, or to harm others’ rights or reputations, the independence or authority of the judiciary, public order or public morality.

For more information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
+1 902 431-3688
toby@law-democracy.org

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Analysis of Nepal’s Constitutional Proposals on Freedom of Expression, Media Freedom and the Right to Information

Pakistan Aims for Top Position in the RTI Rating

125px-Flag_of_Pakistan.svg A draft Right to Information Act prepared by the government of Pakistan has scored an astonishing 146 points on the RTI Rating, which would put it 11 points ahead of the next best right to information law in the world, namely that of Serbia (which has 135 points). The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) today issued a Note analysing the draft Act, pointing to a few areas where the draft could be tweaked to improve it even further.

Click here for the Note
Click here for the draft Act

“This is a remarkable draft RTI law”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “It would be wonderful if the government of Pakistan were to pass such a strong law and we would then be very happy to work with them and other stakeholders to support implementation.”

Given the superlative score, there are clearly few weaknesses in the draft Act and most of the CLD comments relate to fairly technical matters. One area where improvements could be made, however, is to bolster the independence of the three-person Information Commission. Specifically, CLD recommends that:
• Commissioners be appointed by the President.
• There be prohibitions on individuals with strong political connections and civil servants from being appointed as Commissioners.
• There be stronger both requirements of expertise for and prohibitions on individuals with political connections from being appointed as a Commissioner.
• The budget of the Commission be approved by Parliament.

CLD urges the government and Parliament of Pakistan to move forward to adopt this excellent law, if possible after introducing a small number of amendments to make it even better.

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on Pakistan Aims for Top Position in the RTI Rating

Tanzania: Analysis of Media Service Bill

"Elephant and Kilimanjaro" by Charles Asik from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Elephant and Kilimanjaro” by Charles Asik from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) today issued an analysis of the draft Media Services Act prepared by the government of Tanzania. If passed, the draft Act would represent a serious step backwards for freedom of expression in Tanzania. It is extremely broad in scope – covering not only traditional media but also online services and even social media, as well as individual journalists – and it subjects all of these actors to licensing regimes overseen by bodies which are controlled by government. The draft Act also provides for draconian restrictions on media content.

Click here for the Analysis
Click here for a copy of the draft Act

“Far more thought needs to be given to the question of what would be an appropriate regulatory system for the media in Tanzania”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “A first imperative is to ensure that regulatory bodies are protected against possible political interference but the draft Act also suffers from very significant regulatory overbreadth.”

Some of the other key problems with the draft Act include:
• It subjects online content providers, social media, newspapers and individual journalists to a licensing regime.
• It gives the regulator virtually unfettered discretion to address complaints against the media, without providing any indication of how this might work.
• It provides for only limited defences to allegations of defamation; even truth is not a defence on its own.
• It establishes an extremely broad set of criminal content restrictions, including vague definitions of the crimes of sedition and publishing false news, which have been struck down as unconstitutional in other countries.

CLD urges the government of Tanzania to put in place a broad process of consultation with all interested stakeholders to determine an appropriate way forward in terms of media regulation.

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

Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Tanzania: Analysis of Media Service Bill

Indonesia Partnership Mission Welcomes Decision to End Restrictions on Journalists Covering Papua and West Papua

Indonesia West Papua The International Partnership Mission to Indonesia (IPMI) welcomes the recent announcement by Indonesian President Joko Widodo that restrictions on foreign journalists seeking to cover the country’s easternmost provinces of Papua and West Papua will be lifted. The IPMI strongly encourages the President to back his statements with concrete changes in policy to ensure that journalists are free to operate in all parts of Indonesia, and to take further steps to protect the safety of both foreign and Indonesian journalists, in line with the mission’s 2014 recommendations.

The IPMI’s full recommendations can be accessed here

On May 10, President Widodo announced his intention to end long-standing restrictions on foreign reporting in Papua and West Papua. Although freedom of the press is guaranteed by Indonesia’s Press Law and its Constitution, foreign journalists have been required to obtain a journalist visa in order to work in the country. Journalists who wish to report from sensitive regions such as Papua and West Papua must seek permission from a range of government officials, including the military and police, which can be difficult to obtain. Authorities have also expelled foreign journalists covering these regions on the basis that they would disturb Indonesia’s national interest.

The IPMI visited Indonesia in December 2014 to discuss freedom of expression with media stakeholders in Indonesia, including the government, journalists, and civil society groups. The mission concluded with 19 recommendations, including that the authorities end the long-standing restrictions on covering sensitive regions. While the President’s announcement that restrictions on accessing Papua and West Papua are being lifted is a step in the right direction, more needs to be done by the Indonesia Government in order to fully guarantee freedom of expression, in line with its international human rights obligations.

The IPMI remains concerned about the safety of journalists, who face widespread violence and intimidation, and urges the government to make greater efforts to hold perpetrators of violence against journalists and media workers to account. The IPMI also reiterates the need for the government to provide better protection for digital rights in its legal framework and to do more to promote editorial independence and media diversity.

Signed:
Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) Indonesia
Article 19
Centre for Law and Democracy
Committee to Protect Journalists
International Federation of Journalists
International Media Support
Open Society Foundations
South East Asia Press Alliance
Tifa Foundation Jakarta

For further information please contact:

Lars H. Bestle
Head of Department for Asia
International Media Support (IMS)
lb@mediasupport.org
+45 3841 7031

Kulachada Chaipipat
Campaign Manager
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
kcchacha@gmail.com
+66 2 2435579
www.seapa.org

Sumit Galhotra
Asia Research Associate
Committee to Protect Journalists
sgalhotra@cpj.org
+1.212.465.1004 (ext. 115)
@CPJAsia

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

Edward Pittman
Program Coordinator
Open Society Foundations
edward.pittman@opensocietyfoundations.org
www.opensocietyfoundations.org

Judy Taing
Senior Programme Officer, Asia
Article 19
judy@article19.org
+1 (646) 725 1444
www.article19.org

Jane Worthington
Deputy Director
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Asia Pacific
ifj@ifj-asia.org
+61 2 9333 0946
http://www.ifj.org/regions/asia-pacific/
@ifjasiapacific

Suwarjono,
Ketua AJI Indonesia
Jl. Kembang Raya No. 6,
Kwitang, Senen, Jakarta Pusat 10420
HP 0818758624

R Kristiawan,
Tifa Foundation Jakarta
HP 087876370405

BAHASA INDONESIA
International Partnership Mission to Indonesia (IPMI) Menyambut Baik Keputusan Presiden Jokowi Mencabut Larangan Jurnalis Meliput di Papua

The International Partnership Mission to Indonesia (IPMI) menyambut baik keputusan Presiden Jokowi untuk mengakhiri larangan jurnalis asing yang akan meliput dua provinsi paling timur Indonesia, Papua dan Papua Barat. IPMI mendorong Presiden Jokowi untuk membuktikan pernyataannya dengan perubahan konkrit untuk memastikan bahwa jurnalis benar-benar bebas dalam menjalankan kegiatan jurnalistik di seluruh wilayah Indonesia, dan untuk menjamin keamanan baik bagi jurnalis asing maupun jurnalis Indonesia, sesuai dengan rekomendasi IPMI 2014.

Pada tanggal 10 Mei 2015, Presiden Jokowi memutuskan untuk mengakhiri larangan bagi jurnalis asing untuk meliput berita di Papua dan Papua Barat. Larangan itu sudah lama diberlakukan. Meskipun kebebasan pers dijamin oleh UU Pers No. 40/1999 dan UUD 1945, jurnalis asing diwajibkan untuk memperoleh visa jurnalis untuk meliput di Indonesia. Jurnalis yang akan meliput wilayah sensitif seperti Papua dan Papua Barat harus mendapatkan ijin dari kantor-kantor pemerintah seperti militer dan polisi yang susah diperoleh. Pemerintah melarang jurnalis meliput Papua juga karena alasan mengganggu kepentingan nasional Indonesia.

IPMI mengunjungi Indonesia pada Desember 2014 untuk mendiskusikan kebebasan berekspresi bersama stake holder media di Indonesia yang meliputi pemerintah, jurnalis, dan kelompok masyarakat sipil. IPMI kemudian menyusun 19 rekomendasi, termasuk di antaranya mengakhiri larangan peliputan di daerah sensitif. IPMI melihat bahwa keputusan Presiden Jokowi tersebut merupakan langkah maju. Yang lebih lanjut perlu dilakukan Pemerintah Indonesia adalah menjamin kebebasan berekspresi yang sesuai dengan standar HAM internasional.

IPMI masih prihatin dengan keamanan jurnalis yang masih menghadapi banyak ancaman kekerasan dan intimidasi. IPMI menyerukan perlunya pemerintah lebih berupaya untuk memroses pelaku kekerasan terhadap jurnalis dan pekerja media lainnya. IPMI juga menekankan kembali perlunya pemerintah memberikan perlindungan lebih pada hak-hak digital ke dalam kerangka hukum dan untuk lebih memromosikan independensi dan keragaman media.

Posted in News | Comments Off on Indonesia Partnership Mission Welcomes Decision to End Restrictions on Journalists Covering Papua and West Papua

Newfoundland and Labrador Enacts Canada’s Best Access Law

Photo by Aconcagua

Photo by Aconcagua

Across the country, Canada’s access to information systems have been stagnating for years with laws that are decades old and hopelessly out of touch with international standards. On June 1, Newfoundland and Labrador broke away from the pack, enacting Canada’s first modern access to information law. The reforms came after a robust consultation and review process, overseen by a high-level Review Committee. The Committee presented its report in March 2015, including draft legislation, and the government moved quickly to implement its recommendations in full.

“This is a momentous day for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) Executive Director, Toby Mendel. “The federal government and other provinces now have no excuse for not giving proper effect to this important right and we call on them to follow Newfoundland and Labrador’s lead.”

Canada’s Access to Information Act (ATIA) ranks 59th in the world according to the RTI Rating, an internationally-renowned tool for assessing the strength of access legislation developed by CLD and Access Info Europe. The ATI Act only meets around half of the standards in the RTI Rating and Canada’s provinces fare little better. Alberta and New Brunswick’s laws are just as weak as the ATI Act, and Saskatchewan and Quebec score only marginally higher. Newfoundland and Labrador’s new Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act stands head and shoulders above these laws, and would rank 15th in the world as compared to national legislation.

Click here for CLD’s statement on the Committee recommendations and our Analysis of the new law
Click here for CLD’s Analysis of access legislation across Canada

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on Newfoundland and Labrador Enacts Canada’s Best Access Law

Tanzania: Analysis of Right to Information Bill

"Elephant and Kilimanjaro" by Charles Asik from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Elephant and Kilimanjaro” by Charles Asik from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has prepared an analysis of Tanzania’s draft Access to Information Act, which was released by the government recently. The draft Act follows up on the Tanzanian government’s commitment at the October 2013 London Summit of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to adopt a right to information law. It scored 91 points on a quick assessment using the RTI Rating, which would put it in 42nd position globally out of the 102 countries which currently feature on the RTI Rating website.

“We welcome the fact that Tanzania is moving forward with this important piece of legislation”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “While the draft Act has some strengths, we believe that more needs to be done to ensure that it reflects international standards in this area.”

Click here for the Analysis
Click here for a copy of the draft Law

The draft Act has a number of positive features, including its relatively broad scope, fairly narrow regime of exceptions and the fact that it allocates an oversight role to the independent Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance. At the same time, it has a number of weaknesses and fails to come up to the level of many of the newer generation of right to information laws. Among other problems, it suffers from a lack of detail in relation to requesting and appeals procedures and it includes only a small number of promotional measures.

CLD urges the government of Tanzania to review the draft Act with a view to amending it 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
+1 902 997 1296
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

Posted in News | Comments Off on Tanzania: Analysis of Right to Information Bill

Sri Lanka: Statement by International Mission

15.05.SL.PMThe Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) participated in the International Media Assessment Mission to Sri Lanka from 8 to 14 May. The aim of the Mission was to assess the media freedom situation in Sri Lanka and to make recommendations regarding media reform needs going forward. The Mission welcomed the positive changes in the environment for media freedom since the new government came into power on 8 January 2015. But it also noted that there is a need for structural and institutional changes to anchor those changes and to create a more robust framework for media freedom.

Click here to read the Mission Statement

“We had a very good discussion with the Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, and he supported almost all of the suggestions we put forward and also welcomed our support in taking them forward”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “The challenge now will be to deliver on those promises.”

A Joint Statement was issued at the end of the Mission setting out findings and recommendations, including the following key recommendations for the government:
• To adopt comprehensive legislation on broadcasting which would, among other things, establish an independent regulator and recognise public service, commercial and community broadcasters.
• Transform the State broadcasters into public service broadcasters.
• Adopt and then implement a strong right to information law.
• Create an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate past killings of and attack on journalists.
• Abolish the Press Council Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, and adopt legislation to codify the rules on contempt of court.
• Undertake a broad consultation to determine the best way forward in terms of enhancing academic and training opportunities for media workers.

CLD urges the government to keep to its promises to move forward with this important media freedom reform agenda and we offer our support to help it do so.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 412 0872
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

Posted in News | Comments Off on Sri Lanka: Statement by International Mission

Significant Differences in Caribbean RTI Rating Scores

Image by Kmusser

Image by Kmusser

There are significant discrepancies in protection for the right to information (RTI) in two countries in the Caribbean region. Assessments of two of these laws released today by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) were based on the RTI Rating, an internationally renowned tool for assessing the strength of RTI legislation developed by CLD and Access Info Europe. The RTI Rating found that the Cayman Islands’ Freedom of Information Law scored comparatively well, with 112 points out of a possible score of 150, which would be tied for 13th position globally compared to national laws. By contrast, the Bahamian Freedom of Information Bill scored just 88 points, resulting in a tie for 48th place.

“We welcome the fact that the Cayman Islands has such a strong RTI law,” said CLD Executive Director, Toby Mendel. “This further supports the calls by local campaigners in the Bahamas for improvements to their Bill before it is passed into law, although this should not be used as an excuse to further delay adoption of this Bill.”

Despite the differences in score, the two laws share some critical deficiencies, including exceptions which are illegitimate in nature, overbroad or lack proper harm tests. Both laws also fail to apply a public interest override to all exceptions and exclude many public bodies from their ambit altogether.

Across the Caribbean, scores range broadly from Antigua, which just edges out the Cayman Islands with a score of 113, to the Dominican Republic, which places a dismal 93rd among the 102 laws currently rated.

The Rating score for the Bahamas is available here.
The Rating score for the Cayman Islands is available here

Full results for the International RTI Rating are available at: www. RTI-Rating.org.

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on Significant Differences in Caribbean RTI Rating Scores

International Mandates Joint Declaration on Response to Conflict

cldToday, the 16th 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 launched in Riga, Latvia, at the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day event. The Declaration, prepared with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy and ARTICLE 19, focuses on States’ responses to conflict situations giving rise to systematic attacks on freedom of expression, including through terrorist attacks and widespread organised crime.

Click here for the Joint Declaration in English
Click here for the Joint Declaration in French
Click here for the Joint Declaration in Arabic

“We are witnessing a range of illegitimate responses to situations of systematic attacks on freedom of expression in countries around the world”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “These range from adopting overbroad criminal restrictions, for example on encouraging or promoting terrorism, to mass surveillance to imposing states of emergency.”

The Joint Declaration sets out a number of important standards for States, including the following:
• Criminal restrictions should not prohibit vague or unduly broad forms of expression such as glorifying or justifying terrorism.
• Administrative measures which directly limit freedom of expression should be applied only by an independent administrative body.
• State filtering of the Internet and communications ‘kill switches’ (such as shutting down the Internet) can never be justified.
• There should be broad protection for whistleblowers and of the right of journalists and others to protect their confidential sources of information.
• Mass surveillance and obligations on communications providers to retain data on a mass basis for security purposes are never legitimate; these activities should only be undertaken on a targeted basis.
• Individuals have a right to take advantage of available encryption and anonymity tools.
• There should be full transparency regarding systems of surveillance and independent oversight of bodies which undertake surveillance.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 412 0872
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

Posted in News | Comments Off on International Mandates Joint Declaration on Response to Conflict

Nepal: Statement by International Mission

unnamedThe Centre for Law and Democracy participated in the Nepal International Media Partnership (NIMP) mission to Nepal from 19 to 23 April, the eighth such mission which has been held since the first one ten years ago in 2005. The aim of this Mission was to assess the media freedom situation in Nepal and to provide support for reform initiatives. The Mission focused on two key areas, the creation of a specialised safety mechanism to address attacks on those exercising their right to freedom of expression and the ongoing need for legal and policy reform. A Joint Statement was issued at the end of the Mission setting out key findings and recommendations.

Click here for the Joint Statement

“It is very exciting that Nepal is moving forward to develop a safety mechanism to address attacks and we are committed to working with local stakeholders to help ensure that it is as effective as possible”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “We have also promised the authorities feedback on key legal and policy reform initiatives.”

The new mechanism will be overseen by the National Human Rights Commission and will be developed in close consultation with key stakeholders. CLD has already provided preliminary input on the proposals as a member of the Mission, and has promised to continue to work with the Commission and others as the mechanism develops.

In terms of legal and policy reform, the last mission, in February 2012, provided a detailed analysis of the draft constitutional proposals relating to freedom of expression, media freedom and the right to information. The proposals have not changed since that time so we will now follow this up with a short document setting out specific constitutional proposals in these areas. We will also provide detailed suggestions as to what should be included in a new Media Policy being developed by the Minister of Information and Communications.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 997 1296
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

Posted in News | Comments Off on Nepal: Statement by International Mission

Sri Lanka: Analysis of Constitutional Right to Information Guarantee

Photo by Christophe Menebœuf

Photo by Christophe Menebœuf

In the few months since it was elected, the new government of Sri Lanka has put in place a process to prepare a right to information (RTI) law and proposed a set of constitutional amendments which would provide fundamental rights protection for access to information. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) very much welcomes these moves, which will address a long-standing need in the country. At the same time, an analysis by CLD, released today, suggests that the proposed constitutional guarantee needs to be strengthened.

Click here to read the Note

“Although it is a late-comer to RTI, the fact that the Sri Lankan government is moving forward simultaneously with both a constitutional guarantee and legislation is very encouraging”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “It would be a great shame if this clear demonstration of democratic political will were undermined by rules that failed to conform to international standards.”

Key problems with the proposed constitutional guarantees for RTI, identified in CLD’s analysis, including the following:
• It contains an excessively long and broad list of grounds which may justify secrecy, including contempt of court, Parliamentary privilege and “preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence”.
• Amendments proposed by the Attorney General seek to limit the scope of the guarantee to whatever happens to be set out in law.
• The scope of the right is limited to an unduly narrow range of public authorities.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 997 1296
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

Posted in News | Comments Off on Sri Lanka: Analysis of Constitutional Right to Information Guarantee

Bold Steps to Improve the Right to Information in Newfoundland and Labrador

Photo by Aconcagua

Photo by Aconcagua

In 2012, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador faced widespread criticism for legislation which significantly weakened provincial right to information (RTI) legislation. In a major about face, the government has committed to adopting a new RTI law which would dramatically improve the right to information system. The draft Bill under consideration was produced by a Review Committee tasked with considering improvements to the provincial Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA). CLD provided detailed written and oral comments to the Committee and many of the proposed reforms are in line with CLD’s recommendations.

Click here for CLD’s Full Statement on the Proposed ATIPPA Amendments

“The government said they wanted a strong RTI law by international standards and these reforms, if adopted, would deliver that and put Newfoundland and Labrador head and shoulders above other Canadian jurisdictions,” said CLD Executive Director, Toby Mendel. “We urge the government to adopt the proposals and show the rest of the country that serious reform in this area is not only possible but a democratic imperative.”

Newfoundland and Labrador’s current RTI framework ranks 38th compared to national laws globally, when measured using the RTI Rating, a comparative assessment of RTI legislation from around the world. The reforms would bring the province’s ranking up to 15th. British Columbia, the strongest province today, ranks 32nd, while Canada’s federal law places a dismal 58th. Among the most important proposals are the elimination of requesting fees, a sharp reduction in fees for access, tighter timelines for responding to requests and a significantly expanded mandate and powers for the oversight body, the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.

Click here for the RTI Rating Score of ATIPPA Currently
Click here for the RTI Rating Score of the Proposed ATIPPA Amendments

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on Bold Steps to Improve the Right to Information in Newfoundland and Labrador

Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network Holds First General Assembly

unnamedOn 1 April 2015, the Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network (MMLN) held its very first General Assembly, with the support of the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and International Media Support (IMS). The members formally adopted the MMLN Constitution and then, pursuant to that Constitution, held an election for 15 members of the Executive Committee. Senior Lawyer U Aung Soe was elected as the first Chair of the MMLN.

“This is a very important step forward in the life of the MMLN,” said CLD Executive Director Toby Mendel. “It can now move forward with institutional development and a more robust programme of activities.”

A meeting of media lawyers in Yangon in July 2014 came to a formal decision to found the MMLN, and work has been ongoing since then to prepare for this first General Assembly, including by preparing a draft Consitution for the organisation. There is a tremendous need in Myanmar for the MMLN given important ongoing media law reform efforts – including a draft broadcasting law currently before parliament – and a growing number of legal cases against the media.

“We are very pleased to be supporting this extremely important initiative,” said Esben Harboe, Programme Manager at IMS. “We look forward to the MMLN playing an ever more signfiicant role in media law developments 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

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network Holds First General Assembly

CLD Supports Information Commissioner’s Recommendations

Centre_Block_-_Parliament_HillYesterday, Canada’s Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault, released a report – Striking the Right Balance for Transparency: Recommendations to Modernize the Access to Information Act – which includes 85 recommendations for revamping Canada’s right to information system. The recommendations include tightening the regime of exceptions in Canada’s Access to Information Act, putting in place stronger oversight mechanisms, lowering the fees for access and processing requests in accordance with tighter timelines. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) wholeheartedly supports these recommendations and calls on the government of Canada to conduct a holistic review of the Act, with a view to bringing it into line with international standards.

The Report is available here

“These recommendations, if adopted, would represent a bold step forward for Canada’s right to information system,” said CLD Executive Director, Toby Mendel. “And yet they are eminently achievable, as reflected in laws in countries around the world, such as those of India and Serbia, which already meet those standards.”

Legault is not the first Information Commissioner to call for major improvements to Canada’s Access to Information Act. Her predecessors, going back at least to John Reid in 2002, have issued reports with many of the same recommendations. Civil society, including CLD, has also been outspoken in calling for root-and-branch reform of the law. The RTI Rating (www.RTI-Rating.org) rates Canada’s law 57th in the world, a ranking which drops every year as other countries pass new and better laws, or reform their laws to leapfrog ahead of Canada.

Despite these calls, successive Canadian governments have refused to engage in substantive reform of the Access to Information Act, which has not been significantly improved since it was first passed over thirty years ago. We sincerely hope that, at long last, the government of Canada will heed the calls for change and prioritise reform of our access to information system. Transparency and the right to information are key pillars to democratic and accountable government. Canadians deserve a system that works and that we as a nation can be proud of.

Click here for a Joint statement from Civil Society on the Recommendations

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on CLD Supports Information Commissioner’s Recommendations

Statement on Regulation of Journalists in the Arab World

Image by ليبي

Image by ليبي

Arab and international human rights and media experts world have adopted a Statement setting out a number of clear standards regarding the regulation of journalism. These include that it is not for governments to decide who is and who is not a journalist and that journalists have the right to choose freely which unions, associations and/or syndicates they wish to belong to and that they should not be required – by either the law or their employers – to belong to any particular syndicate. The Statement was developed and adopted at a regional meeting of human rights and media experts held in Tunis from 6-7 March 2015 which was organised by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) working with partners the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), International Media Support (IMS) and Vigilance.

Click here for the Statement in English
Click here for the Statement in French
Click here for the Statement in Arabic

“The rules governing journalists in many countries in the Arab World have been designed with the aim of exerting government control over the profession, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “In many cases, this is achieved in part by channelling resources through mandatory membership syndicates in exchange for some degree of loyalty.”

The Statement recognises that journalism is different from other professions, inasmuch as the very substance of what journalists do – seeking and imparting information and ideas – is a fundamental human right. This means that the profession should be open to all. Some of the other important standards set out in the Statement are:
• Journalists’ syndicates and unions should not act as gatekeepers for the profession.
• Public funding and resources are legitimate only where provided through a system which is protected against interference and which is fair and transparent.
• Journalists have a right to protect their confidential sources of information.
• Systems for issuing press cards should not be used to control access to the profession, should be overseen by independent bodies and should be administered fairly.

CLD also drafted a Background Paper on these issues, available in English and in Arabic.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 997 1296
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

Posted in News | Comments Off on Statement on Regulation of Journalists in the Arab World

EIB’s new transparency policy allows for more secrecy

European_Investment_Bank_(emblem)Yesterday the European Investment Bank (EIB) formally adopted a revised transparency policy including controversial exceptions to the disclosure of internal documents. This watered down transparency policy comes right before the bank will start implementing the € 315 billion Juncker plan and risks undermining the impact of EU recovery efforts.

The new transparency policy has been met with strong criticism from civil society organisations [1] because it would allow the EIB to establish a new presumption of confidentiality to keep secret internal investigations into irregularities such as corruption and maladministration.

The exceptions also alarmed some of the Directors of the Bank (the Directors are representatives from the Member States who meet monthly to approve projects and the policies which guide the bank) who could not come to an agreement on the adoption of the final policy during their last meeting on 3 February 2015.

According to sources within the bank, it is the first time that there was no agreement on the adoption of a final policy proposed to the Board of Directors, illustrating how controversial this new policy is. During the public consultation process regarding the policy, the European Ombudsman’s representative also recommended against including the exceptions on internal documents.

Despite the controversy surrounding the new policy, the EIB decided not to take into account the concerns raised and only made a minor cosmetic change to the policy before adopting it yesterday.

Xavier Sol, Counter Balance Director, said: “Transparency is widely recognized as a precondition for good governance. The EIB’s new transparency policy comes right before the bank is expected to get Europe’s economy back on track by implementing the Juncker investment plan. The bank’s move towards secrecy might seriously undermine these efforts.”

Anna Roggenbuck from Bankwatch said: “The new policy casts serious doubts over the bank’s commitments to improve transparency and may further undermine its already bad reputation given its terrible rankings on the yearly published Aid Transparency Index [2]. A number of cases in the past have shown the bank is very reluctant to proactively disclose proactively information of public interest and only acts under external pressure such as from the European Ombudsman [3]. European citizens deserve a much more transparent and accountable public investment bank.”

Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy, added: “It is most unfortunate that the Bank is moving backwards on this core democracy issue while other international financial institutions have been putting in place much stronger transparency policies. This is particularly ironic given the historic commitment of the European Union and its Member States to openness.”

Notes for editors:

[1] Read here about the critiques to the new transparency policy: http://www.counter-balance.org/eib-set-to-weaken-transparency-standards/
[2] Year after year the EIB scores very low when it comes to transparency. Last year it ranked second to last of all financial institutions on the Aid Transparency Index
[3] Read here about a recent case showing the bank reluctance to disclose crucial information: http://www.counter-balance.org/long-awaited-investigation-into-glencore-for-alleged-tax-dodging-shows-eu-banks-lack-of-transparency-and-vulnerability-to-abuse/

For more information contact:

Xavier sol, xavier.sol@counter-balance.org , +32 2 893 08 61
Anna Rogenbuck, annar@bankwatch.org
Toby Mendel, toby@law-democracy.org, _1 902 431-3688

Posted in News | Comments Off on EIB’s new transparency policy allows for more secrecy

Pakistan: Draft Cybercrime Law Undermines Freedom of Expression

State_emblem_of_Pakistan.svgIn early 2014, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication introduced a draft cybercrime ordinance, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act. At the time, human rights advocates, including the Centre for Law and Democracy, criticised the draft as a threat to Pakistan’s burgeoning online community and cautioned that its broad language threatened to turn millions of ordinary Internet users into criminals. A slightly revised version (the draft) has now been tabled and we note with concern that few of the main problems have been fixed.

Click here for Comments on the 2014 version of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act
Click here to read the draft Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2015

“It is troubling to see that Pakistan is considering adopting this law without having addressed many major concerns,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “With its Internet community still developing, it is vitally important for Pakistan to craft legislation in this area which adequately respects human rights.”

There have been some positive changes, but these do not go nearly far enough. The rule that made it a criminal offence to create or supply any device that could be used for cybercrime now only applies to devices which are used primarily for committing offences. However, many types of legitimate software would still be covered since modifying user data to create an inauthentic result remains a criminal offence. This could criminalise programmes designed to facilitate online privacy, such as Tor, which functions by altering a user’s identifying information. The draft also makes it an offence to use a website or information system in ways which have not been authorised, effectively turning anyone who violates a website or programme’s terms of service, which are often very unclear, into a criminal. The draft also creates a new offence of harming the reputation of a woman online, essentially a criminal defamation provision.

These problems are compounded by the draft’s data retention requirement, mandating that electronic communication service providers store user data for 90 days. Parallel schemes have been found to be unconstitutional in several jurisdictions, most notably by the European Court of Justice, which held that European Union’s Data Retention Directive was incompatible with the privacy and data protection provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in April 2014.

The new draft is currently before a four-member committee of parliamentarians, who have been charged with reviewing and finalising its language. We urge the parliamentary committee to ensure that the provisions of this law are brought into line with international human rights standards before it is passed.

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on Pakistan: Draft Cybercrime Law Undermines Freedom of Expression