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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Encryption and Anonymity are Vital to Safeguarding Digital Speech

encrypted-445155_640A Submission by the Centre for Law and Democracy to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression notes the importance of encryption and anonymity tools to online speech and sets out five key Principles which should guide future discussions on these issues. The Principles include a significant need for transparency around surveillance measures, robust procedural oversight over intelligence and surveillance authorities, controls on the export of advanced surveillance technology to repressive States and the need for surveillance activities to be limited and targeted and, in particular, to strike an appropriate balance between security needs and the rights to freedom of expression and privacy.

Click here to read the Submission

“We recognise that, in a digital world, digital surveillance is an important tool for law enforcement and intelligence authorities,” said CLD Executive Director Toby Mendel. “However, surveillance represents a restriction on freedom of expression and privacy and is therefore legitimate only where it meets strict tests of balance and proportionality.”

The Principles note that encryption and anonymity tools are necessary to protect the security of digital communications, which in turn is important to supporting the candour of speech. As with any restriction on freedom of expression, surveillance policies and practices must be assessed according to the three-part test for such restrictions found at Article 19(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The Submission was prepared in response to a call for input by the Special Rapporteur, who is drafting a Report on these issues to be presented to the Human Rights Council in June 2015.

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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Note on Human Rights Principles for Archivists

Archivist_SurveyThe Human Rights Working Group of the International Council on Archives has prepared a set of draft Basic Principles on the Role of Archivists in Support of Human Rights. The draft Principles highlight the role Archivists can play in supporting human rights, as well as the conditions needed to allow them to do this. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has prepared a Note on the draft Principles with a view to making the final product as robust as possible.

“The preparation of these Principles is a great initiaitive by the International Council of Archives which will draw attention to the important role of archives and archivists in promoting respect for human rights,” said CLD Executive Director Toby Mendel. “We hope that our comments help hone the document so that it can be as effective as possible in achvieving its goals.”

Click here to read the Note
Click here to read the Draft Principles

Many of the recommendations in the CLD Note are technical in nature, and aim to introduce formal improvements into the draft Principles. The Note suggests that the main operative paragraph in the preamble be redrafted so as to address a wider range of stakeholders and calls for all of the substantive provisions to be presented as normative statements (which include the term ‘should’).

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

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CLD and IMS Launch Briefing Notes on Freedom of Expression

foe-briefingnotes-all-layout-ar-11x7­finalThe Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and International Media Support (IMS) are launching a set of twelve Briefing Notes on key freedom of expression issues. The Notes focus on key themes – such as restrictions on freedom of expression, regulation of broadcasting, criminal content restrictions and digital rights – and aim to provide a comprehensive introduction to the subject.

Designed to be accessible to all audiences, including those with no experience or training in law, the Notes provide a summary of key standards which will also be useful to more advanced readers. Each Note also contains a section at the end on further resources, for readers who want to probe the subject more deeply. CLD and IMS have also produced a compilation report containing all twelve Notes along with an introduction and glossary.

Click here for the full Briefing Notes (in English)(in Burmese)

Click here for Note 1 on Freedom of Expression as a Human Right (in English)((in Burmese)
Click here for Note 2 on Restrictions on Freedom of Expression (in English)(in Burmese)
Click here for Note 3 on the Right to Information (in English)(in Burmese)
Click here for Note 4 on Independent Regulation of the Media (in English)(in Burmese)
Click here for Note 5 on Regulation of Journalists (in English)(in Burmese)
Click here for Note 6 on Print Media (in English)(in Burmese)
Click here for Note 7 on Broadcast Regulation (in English)(in Burmese)
Click here for Note 8 on Media Diversity (in English)(in Burmese)
Click here for Note 9 on Public Service Broadcasting (in English)(in Burmese)
Click here for Note 10 on Criminal Content Restrictions (in English)(in Burmese)
Click here for Note 11 on Civil Content Restrictions (in English)(in Burmese)
Click here for Note 12 on Digital Rights (in English)(in Burmese)

“The Notes will be useful to anyone who is interested in understanding the right to freedom of expression,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “They provide a quick reference to the main international standards governing this right.”

The Notes were developed as part of CLD and IMS’ collaboration to support Myanmar’s democratic transition, with funding from the governments of Sweden, Denmark and Norway. They have been printed in English and in Burmese, and are being distributed in hard copy to government officials, journalists, civil society activists and other stakeholders around the country. They will also be printed in their full length in a serialised version in the national daily newspaper, New Light of Myanmar, starting on 1 February 2015.

“There is a strong demand in Myanmar for easy access to information on international standards related to freedom of expression, and in this compilation developed by experts from CLD you will find it all. It is accessible free of charge to those who hold an interest in these topics,” said Esben Harboe, Programme Manager for IMS’ work in Myanmar.

For further information, please contact:

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

Esben Q. Harboe
Programme Manager
International Media Support
eh@i-m-s.dk
+45 5210 7805
twitter: @forfreemedia
www.i-m-s.dk

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Myanmar: Training for Media Lawyers in Mandalay

IMG_0531On 24 January 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 training on freedom of expression for 80 lawyers in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city. The event introduced participants to international freedom of expression standards, focusing on issues that are of particular importance to Myanmar’s democratic transition, such as regulation of the print and broadcast media and criminal content restrictions.

In addition to an international perspective, the participants discussed specific freedom of expression threats facing Myanmar, including the need for reform of the country’s criminal defamation laws and laws prohibiting insults to religion, and the urgent need to put in place an independent system of broadcast regulation.

“It was wonderful to see the enthusiasm of the participants in applying their legal training to Myanmar’s freedom of expression challenges,” said CLD Executive Director Toby Mendel. “We are confident that lawyers in this city have a tremendous contribution to make in support of the country’s ongoing democratisation process.”

This was the first event held by the MMLN and CLD outside of Yangon, Myanmar’s capital. Its organisation was made possible through strong collaborative links with prominent lawyers in that city, notably U Thein Than Oo, who played a key facilitating role. Over forty of the attendees applied to join the MMLN and many expressed an interest in participating actively in the Network.

“As the media lawyer’s network continues to develop we are glad to see its reach expanding to Mandalay,” said Esben Harboe, Programme Manager at IMS. “We hope the Network will become a truly national vehicle to support reform of Myanmar’s legal framework around freedom of expression.”

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

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

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Myanmar: Civil Society Workshop Stresses Importance of Right to Information

IMG_0522Representatives of 80 different NGOs, from all regions of Myanmar, met in Yangon on Wednesday with the support of the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and International Media Support (IMS) to discuss the importance of the right to information (RTI) to the country’s democratic transition. The workshop, which was organised by a working group of local NGOs, aimed to raise awareness among civil society about the importance of the right to information and what makes a strong RTI law.

“Civil society in Myanmar needs to have a good understanding of the key principles underlying the right to information so as to be able to engage effectively to promote a strong law,” said CLD Executive Director Toby Mendel. “The involvement of civil society in the development of such legislation is also central to its democratic credentials.”

The workshop’s 193 participants heard from international experts and local stakeholders about the benefits of the right to information and participants strongly endorsed the need to adopt such legislation in Myanmar. There was also agreement on the need to build a broad coalition to work on this issue, involving NGOs and media organisations, among others. There was, in particular, agreement that advocacy efforts will be more effective if civil society speaks with one voice.

“All stakeholders in Myanmar have an interest in the right to information being safeguarded. Citizen engagement and input into the process of formulating ways to ensure that government is open and transparent will be crucial, and this workshop was an important first step,” said Esben Harboe, Programme Manager, IMS.

The workshop was held as part of a broader discussion on Myanmar’s interest in joining the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Adoption of an RTI law is an essential step towards Myanmar’s eligibility to join the OGP.

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

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

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