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Tanzania: Whistleblower Protection Law Welcome but Needs Improvement

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Whistleblowers play a critical role in exposing corruption and other wrongdoing. Because they often do so at great personal risk, it is important for States to grant them legal protection against reprisals for coming forward. Today, the Centre for Law and Democracy is releasing an Analysis of Tanzania’s Whistleblower and Witness Protection Act, which was passed last year, but which the government is currently considering reforming. Although the Act has a number of positive features, such as extending protection across the private and public sectors, it also has a broad list of exclusions where its protections do not apply, including for disclosures relating to national security or where the information is defamatory.

You can read the full Analysis here

We welcome Tanzania’s initiative, but these exceptions would deny protection to many whistleblowers,” said CLD’s Senior Legal Officer, Michael Karanicolas. “The exception for information that is defamatory is particularly troubling as it effectively means disclosures would only be protected if the whistleblower could defend their veracity in court.”

In addition to removing the list of exclusions, CLD’s recommendations include:
• Extending the scope of protection to prohibit civil or criminal liability, in addition to adverse employment consequences.
• Expanding the definition of what constitutes a public interest disclosure.
• Removing the requirement that whistleblowers must act in good faith.
• Making it an offence for anyone to disclose the identity of a whistleblower.
• Removing criminal prohibitions against false disclosures.

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: News Media Council is the Place for Media Complaints

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In Myanmar, the establishment of the News Media Council (NMC) as an independent co-regulatory complaints system was a major landmark on the road to democracy. However, a recent complaint by Eleven Media Group Chief Reporter, Mann Thu Shein, against Mizzima Editor-in-Chief and Managing Director, Soe Myint, and Mizzima Editor-in-Charge of Myanmar Edition, Myo Thant, seeks to avoid the NMC entirely and rely instead on a criminal defamation charge under section 34(d) of the Electronic Transactions Law (ETL).

“The article in question, which is about an important matter of public debate, does not contain defamatory content as that is understood under international law,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Any complaint against the article should have been lodged with the NMC, which has jurisdiction over press complaints and is clearly the more appropriate venue for this case.”

In Indonesia, defamation cases involving the media must first go through the Press Council, an approach Myanmar might wish to consider. In addition to the fact that it was not filed with the NMC, this case highlights a number of problems with the framework for freedom of expression in Myanmar, including the following:
• That the country still has and actively uses criminal defamation laws, despite the fact that these represent a breach of the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under international law, among other things because they provide for harsh sanctions, including imprisonment, for defamation.
• That the country has special defamation provisions, with harsh sanctions, in the ETL.
• The failure of the administration of justice authorities to weed out cases like this, which should never go to court.

CLD calls on private actors to use restraint in taking cases involving statements on matters of public concern to court and to use the NMC complaints procedure instead, on police and prosecutors to refuse to lodge criminal cases which would unduly limit freedom of expression, and on the government to repeal all criminal defamation provisions and to replace them with appropriate civil defamation laws.

For further information, please contact:

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

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Canada: Serious Access to Information Reform Needed Now

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For years, calls from across Canada to improve the Access to Information Act fell on deaf ears. The government is finally moving forward with reforms but the opportunity to address the numerous shortcomings of the Act may be threatened by proposals to undertake a modest set of reforms now – as reflected in Canada’s draft Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership – with a full review coming only in 2018. In its Recommendations for improving the Access to Information Act, released today in response to a call for feedback from Canada’s Treasury Board Secretariat, the Centre for Law and Democracy is calling on the government to reconsider the idea of a two-stage reform process and, at a minimum, undertake a wide range of reforms in phase one.

You can read the full Recommendations here

The government has already taken some important steps to improve the access to information regime, but much more is needed,” said CLD’s Senior Legal Officer, Michael Karanicolas. “Canadians cannot continue to wait for the bold reforms that are needed to bring our right to information systems into the 21st century.”

CLD’s Recommendations for short-term reforms include:
• Granting order-making power to the Information Commissioner.
• Eliminating the fees simply for making requests.
• Extending the right to information to all persons.
• Replacing the categorical exclusions to and overbroad exceptions in the Act with a properly crafted regime of exceptions.
• Extending the Act to apply to all federal constitutional and statutory bodies, and any other body that performs a public function or receives public funding.
• Requiring public bodies to respond to requests as soon as possible, and to obtain permission from the Information Commissioner for deadlines beyond 60 days.

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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Stand Up for Digital Rights! Unveiling Recommendations for Responsible Tech

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Today, the Centre for Law and Democracy, in collaboration with the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI, Egypt), the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS, India), the Centro de Estudios en Libertad de Expresión y Acceso a la Información (CELE, Argentina), OpenNet Korea and researchers from the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto, are unveiling a major new report on human rights and the responsibilities of private sector online intermediaries, along with recommendations for tech companies regarding policies and practices that safeguard rights.

The Report includes a discussion on Background Issues about the role of private online actors as key mediators of human rights and their resulting responsibility to protect and promote rights. It then explores six specific impact areas:
• Expanding Access, and how intermediaries should work to mitigate various digital divides.
• Net Neutrality, which intermediaries should respect and uphold.
• Moderation and Removal of Content, which should be done in a fair and transparent manner.
• Addressing Privacy Concerns Online, including through strong security practices such as encryption and data minimisation.
• Transparency and Informed Consent, including through proactive reporting on requests and actions affecting content and privacy, and through having clear, accurate and accessible terms of service.
• Responding to State Attacks on Freedom of Expression, including how best to push back against human rights abuse and when to divest entirely from a market.

The main launch is taking place today at the University of Ottawa, with satellite events taking place today in Buenos Aires and Bangalore, and with additional launch events planned for later this month and in July.

You can read the full Report, and Executive Summary and the recommendations at a new website dedicated to this issue: www.responsible-tech.org

Or, click here to read the Full Report; Executive Summary; 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

Agustina Del Campo
Director
Centro de Estudios en Libertad de Expresión
y Acceso a la Información (CELE)
Universidad de Palermo
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Email: cele@palermo.edu
Tel: +54 11 5199-4500 ext. 1213/ 
www.palermo.edu/cele

K.S. Park 
Professor, Korea University Law School
Board Member, Open Net 
Email: kyungsinpark@korea.ac.kr
Tel: +82 8809 4057
www.opennetkorea.org
Twitter: @unbeatenpath

Ramy Rostom
Program Coordinator & Head of Translation Department
ANHRI – The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
Email: ramyrostom@anhri.net
Tel: (+2) 23964058
www.anhri.net
Twitter: @anhri

Tamir Israel
Staff Lawyer
Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic
University of Ottawa
Email: tisrael@cippic.ca
www.cippic.ca
Twitter: @tamir_i

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Myanmar: CLD/IMS Work with Local Partners to Host Events on Broadcasting and the Right to Information

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Over the last few days, the Centre for Law and Democracy, with support from International Media Support (IMS) and FOJO Media Institute, has hosted workshops with two of their partners – the Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network (MMLN) and Pyi Gyi Khin (PGK) – to discuss current freedom of expression law reform issues in Myanmar, focusing on the regulation of broadcasting, public service broadcasting and the right to information (RTI).

Civil society has become increasingly engaged around key freedom of expression issues in Myanmar,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “It is a privilege for us to be able to work with organisations like MMLN and PGK to promote democratic reform.”

The new Myanmar government has been reviewing the Broadcasting Law, which focuses on private broadcasters, and discussing the content of the By-Law which is needed to implement the Law. CLD participated in a dialogue on these issues hosted by the Ministry of Information in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, last week. A workshop with MMLN focused on Regulation of Broadcasting – Private and Public. At the workshop, MMLN agreed to become more engaged in the Broadcast Law reform and implementation process.

A second workshop with PGK focused on the development of RTI legislation. The discussion started out by analysing the draft RTI law released by the Ministry of Information in February 2016 and the response of civil society to that draft. The second part of the workshop provided an opportunity to discuss key standards civil society would like to see in any RTI law.

An increasingly large range of civil society groups are engaging on the right to information,” said Nwezin Win, Executive Director of PGK. “Discussions like this support that engagement and allow us to forge common positions on key campaign issues.”

For further information, please contact:

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

Nwezin Win
Executive Director
Pyi Gyi Khin
nwezinwin@pgkmyanmar.org
+95 95031246
www.facebook.com/PyiGyiKhinMyanmar

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

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BC Should Reconsider Disclosure of Active Information Requests

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On 9 May, British Columbia’s Finance Minister, Mike de Jong, announced several changes to the province’s right to information (or access to information) system. Among these was a directive to publish the details of right to information requests – including the substance of the request and the identity of the requester – as soon as the requests were lodged. This policy needs to be reconsidered as it actually undermines access.

Although we support maximum openness, this policy is problematical,” said CLD’s Senior Legal Officer, Michael Karanicolas. “At the very least, proper consultations should be held with affected stakeholders before it is implemented.”

The policy raises two significant concerns. First, in practical terms, publishing a request as soon as it has been received can undermine use of the system. Certain important public interest categories of requesters, such as investigative journalists and watchdog NGOs, rely on the confidentiality of their requests, at least up to a certain point. Advertising the nature of their investigations would expose their stories, giving up what essentially amounts to business secrets – a recognised exception to the right to information – to competitors, disincentivising use of the system and ultimately undermining public access to information. Giving early warning of a line of enquiry may also give those targeted by the enquiry time to hide key information. These reasons underly policies in some jurisdictions, such as Israel, to impose a waiting period before completed information requests are published online.

A second concern is that publication of requesters’ names absent their consent may be a violation of their privacy. In the United Kingdom, for example, government standards dictate that the identity of requesters should only be disclosed “in exceptional circumstances”, while best practice (not followed in Canada) is to allow anonymous or pseudonymous requests. Publicity may also deter requests due to a fear of reprisals where the request involves sensitivities, such as where a person suspects they have been mistreated by officials.

The right to information is not absolute and can be limited where a compelling public or private interest such as privacy or commercial confidentiality outweighs its benefits. In this case, competing openness interests are also engaged since early disclosure in this manner is likely to it undermine use of the right to information in the first place.

CLD recommends that instead of this approach, public authorities publish disclosure logs showing requests and responses after a decision has been made on disclosure of the information. Requesters should normally be given a choice as to whether their identities are disclosed and whether they are afforded a period of a few days or a week of exclusive access to the material, although this might be overridden in exceptional circumstances.

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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CLD Submits Ideas for Open Government in Canada

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The Canadian government is currently preparing its third Action Plan on Open Government for the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which will run from 2016-2018. As part of this, the government has invited the public to submit ideas for the Plan, in line with OGP rules, which require governments to consult with the public when developing commitments on improving open government. Today, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) released six recommendations for improving openness.

Click here to read CLD’s Submission

“CLD has been critical of the first two Action Plans for failing to address areas where reform is badly needed and for not paying sufficient attention to stakeholder inputs,” said CLD’s Senior Legal Officer, Michael Karanicolas. “Nonetheless, we are hopeful that this Action Plan will incorporate strong and ambitious commitments.”

The document notes shortcomings in Canada’s OGP participation up to this point, and urges the government to improve consultations both for developing its commitments and for implementation and monitoring of those commitments, once adopted. CLD’s leading suggestion remains reform of the Access to Information Act, something virtually every major stakeholder has called for since the OGP was launched. The present government has committed to improving the Act, but is proposing a delay until 2018, something CLD strongly objects to, given the urgency of reform needs.

CLD also recommends that the government:
• Do away with crown copyright and publish all materials produced by the
government.
• Create a central registry of the beneficial owners of companies.
• Publish all government contracts over $5,000.
• Publish the reasons underlying any competitive award above $10,000.

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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The Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Undermine Freedom of Expression

TPP ProtestMore than just a trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is an attempt to establish standards not only for trade but for many related issue to govern 40% of the world’s GDP. The Centre for Law and Democracy has prepared a set of Comments highlighting significant concerns about how the TPP will impact on freedom of expression in response to an invitation for submissions by Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade.

CLD’s Comments Are Available Here

“While every treaty involves compromises, the TPP is seeking to extract a very high price from signatories in terms of freedom of expression,” said CLD’s Senior Legal Officer, Michael Karanicolas. “We urge Canada’s policy-makers to think very carefully about whether the harm to core Constitutional rights are worth it.”

CLD’s key concerns with the TPP include the following:
• It requires signatories to extend copyright terms, which will provide very few benefits to artists but represents a giveaway to large, profitable rights holders.
• Entrenches the problematical US-style “notice-and-takedown” scheme for copyright violations among signatories.
• Prohibits data localisation schemes, removing an important tool for combating State-led mass surveillance programmes.
• Undercuts multi-stakeholder models of Internet governance by imposing pre-set decisions regarding matters which should be decided by independent regulators.

Against these significant harms, the TPP’s positive statements on freedom of expression are weak and generally non-binding.

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 Launch 18th Joint Declaration

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

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

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

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

For further information, please contact:

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

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Seminar on Building Safety Mechanisms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further information, please contact:

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

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

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Protecting Against Attacks on Freedom of Expression

Photo by Claude Truong-Ngoc

Photo by Claude Truong-Ngoc

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

Click here to read the Discussion Paper

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

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

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

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

For further information, please contact:

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

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Myanmar: Analysis of Broadcasting Law Released

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

Click here for the Analysis

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

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

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

For further information, please contact:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nepal International Media Partnership Report Launched

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

Click here to read the Mission Report

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

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

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

For further information, please contact:

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

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Myanmar Activists Launch National Right to Information Working Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further information, please contact:

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

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

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

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

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

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

For further information, please contact:

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

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International Partnership Mission Releases Recommendations for Indonesia

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

Click here to read the Recommendations

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

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

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

For further information, please contact:

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

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Sri Lanka Proposes Strong Right to Information Act

Photo by Christophe Menebœuf

Photo by Christophe Menebœuf

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

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

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

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

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

For further information, please contact:

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

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

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Myanmar Media Lawyers Commit to Engaging on Broadcast Reform

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

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

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

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

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

For further information, please contact:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the Joint Statement

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

For further information, please contact:

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

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