The Centre for Law and Democracy uses the media to raise the profile of its work, to support its awareness-raising activities and to foster discussion about those human rights which underpin democracy. This section contains our press briefs, as well as letters and statements intended for widespread public dissemination.
23 October 2023. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) launched its Note on the Right to Information (RTI) Act of the Maldives. Originally prepared to support a planned official review of the RTI Act, which may now be on hold, CLD has disseminated the Note in the hope of stimulating further discussion about possible reforms. The Note is available here.
28 September 2023. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) would like to wish everyone a happy International Right to Know Day (IRTKD), 2023. This year, to celebrate IRTKD, CLD is participating in UNESCO’s main event, being held in Oxford, United Kingdom, under the title The Importance of the Online Space for Access to Information; specifically, Toby is moderating Panel 2 on Internet Connectivity as an Enabler of the Ability to Exercise Rights Online, with a Particular Focus on ATI. CLD has also, as it does every year, updated the RTI Rating to include countries which have adopted laws since the last IRTKD.
11 September 2023. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has developed a detailed Manual for Journalists on Collecting and Preserving Information About International Crimes, along with a short pamphlet, Preserving Information for International Criminal Convictions: A Pocket Guide for Journalists. The week before last, we issued a statement about the training we provided in collaboration with our local partner, the Regional Press Development Institute (RPDI), and based on the Manual. We are now launching the Manual itself, along with the Guide, in English and Ukrainian. This programme aims to help journalists, especially those reporting from the frontlines, recognise when international crimes have been committed and how to take some simple steps to capture pertinent information so that it can be used for both reporting and judicial proceedings. The Manual is available here in English and Ukrainian and the Guide is available here in English and Ukrainian. For those interested, we can also share the slides we used for the training upon request.
30 August 2023. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Regional Press Development Institute (RPDI) provided a training programme for Ukrainian experts and journalists last week based on our Manual for Journalists on Collecting and Preserving Information About International Crimes. The core idea behind the programme is that journalists reporting from the frontlines are often the first to come across information about the commission of international crimes, including war crimes. The focus of the training was on how to recognise international crimes in the first place and then to capture information about them such in a manner that it might be accepted as evidence by courts. The training programme was based on a manual which will be released in English and Ukrainian shortly.
23 August 2023. CLD released its Analysis of the Organisation Registration Law, or NGO Law, in English and Burmese. The NGO Law was adopted in late 2022 by Myanmar’s military junta, which has claimed lawmaking authority since the February 2021 coup. It imposes substantial restrictions on both domestic and international NGOs, making ordinary NGO operations administratively complex and dependent on the whims of the military, and undermining NGOs’ ability to respond to the widespread humanitarian needs in Myanmar.
14 August 2023. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Hope Organization launched a baseline Study on Access to Information in Myanmar: Changes in How Health CSOs Access Information. The Study, which relied on a survey of 60 CSOs operating in Myanmar, assessed the state of access to health information since the 1 February 2021 coup. Some of the key findings were that 91% of respondents indicated that they feel less safe accessing information than before the coup, 85% found it more difficult to access information and 75% had changed the way they accessed information. The Study is available in English and Burmese.
24 July 2023. On 6 March 2023, the military council ruling Myanmar issued amendments to the Printing and Publishing Enterprises Law (PPEL). These amendments weakened the already inadequate safeguards contained in the PPEL to protect the printing, publishing and news industries from abuses of power. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has published a brief note analysing the implications of the amendments for freedom of expression as part of its wider work focusing on Myanmar. The Note is available in English and Burmese.
28 June 2023. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) released a Note on Professional Regulation of the Media as part of its wider work focusing on Myanmar. The aim is to support local actors to work together with the aim of putting in place a self-regulatory system to help improve professionalism among independent media focusing on Myanmar. The Note is available in English and Burmese.
17 May 2023. The lead oversight body for access to information in Mexico, the National Institute for Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data Protection (INAI), is currently unable to function because the Mexican President and Senate have refused to appoint new commissioners, so that the body currently lacks the quorum required to operate. Over 70 organisations and individuals from around the world, including CLD, have written a letter to the members of the relevant Senate Committee to urge them to move forward immediately to appoint new INAI commissioners. The letter is available in English and Spanish here.
2 May 2023. The specialised mandates tasked with promoting and protecting freedom of expression at the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission launched their annual Joint Declaration, this year on Media Freedom and Democracy. The Joint Declaration, which was drafted with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), describes the important role of free, independent and pluralistic media in supporting democracy, human rights and other important social values, and then sets out the obligations and responsibilities of States, online platforms and the media themselves to ensure that the media can fulfil these important roles.
5 April 2023. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), in collaboration with the Centre for Free Expression (CFE), the Canadian Institute for Information and Privacy Studies (CIIPS) and Democracy Watch, has made a Submission to Session 44 of the Universal Periodic Review on the Right to Information in Canada, a process which is overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The entire Submission focuses on problems with the federal right to information (access to information) system in Canada, which has been broken for many years now.
20 March 2023. CLD and the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA) submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Islamabad High Court on behalf of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ). The case involves a constitutional challenge to Pakistan’s criminal defamation provisions, which provide for sanctions of up to two years’ imprisonment. The main argument is that criminal defamation laws are not justified as necessary restrictions on freedom of expression because civil defamation laws, which exert less of a chilling effect on speech, provide adequate protection for reputations. The full brief is available here.
16 March 2023. Today CLD published a note submitted last week to UNESCO on their Guidelines for Regulating Digital Platforms Draft 2.0 as part of the review process of those Guidelines. The Note includes a number of general comments on the Guidelines along with more specific suggestions on amending individual paragraphs. The Note is available here.
27 February 2023. Today, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is launching a report on Integrating Ethnic Content into Public Service Broadcasting, as part of its wider work focusing on Myanmar. The report outlines the key international standards governing public service broadcasting (PSB), and then focuses on how these broadcasters can and should reflect the ethnic diversity of the societies they serve. A final section looks at other ways of promoting ethnic content within the overall broadcasting environment. The report is available in English here and in Burmese here.
Launch of Guides on Making Access to Information Requests and Appealing Denials at the World Bank and IFC
16 February 2023. The Centre for Law and Democracy and Bank Information Center launched two user-friendly Guides on making requests for information at the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation. The Guides describe how to file a request for information from these two institutions and how to appeal in case the request is denied.
8 February 2023. CLD released three case studies featuring the work of the following media lawyers’ networks: Tornavoz, Brazil; Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network; and Media Law Resource Center, United States. These case studies were released as part of CLD’s Promoting the Establishment of Networks of Media Lawyers Globally project, funded by the Global Media Defence Fund which is managed by UNESCO.
26 January 2023. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is today releasing a brief Note on a 2021 Amendment to Myanmar’s Counter-Terrorism Law. This Amendment, introduced by the military regime after the February 2021 coup, increased the penalties for a number of vaguely defined expressive acts linked to terrorism from one to three years’ to three to seven years’ imprisonment, thereby exacerbating the already problematical nature of these offences. The Note is available in English here and in Burmese here.
20 December 2022. As part of CLD’s project on promoting the establishment of media lawyers’ networks, CLD released a set of training materials on three complex freedom of expression topics. Model Training Materials: Hate Speech, Defamation and National Security are designed as a resource for professional networks of media lawyers and other organisations working to build the capacity of lawyers to defend media freedom.
5 December 2022. CLD released Inter-American Development Bank: Analysis of the Proposal for the New Access to Information Policy. The Analysis welcomes a number of improvements in the new Proposal, particularly in terms of tightening up the regime of exceptions by making most exceptions harm tested and subject to the public interest override. At the same time, the Analysis points to a number of areas where the Proposal could still be further improved.
17 November 2022. CLD, in collaboration with a number of other civil society organisations that make up the Sustainable Development Goal 16 Data Initiative, launched a report on progress towards achieving SDG 16, SDG 16 Data Initiative Report 2022: Are we on track to meeting the 2030 agenda? Released in the lead up to the half-way point of the SDGs, the report concludes: “[T]he non-official data relied upon show stagnation, backsliding or only very limited progress which cannot possibly be said to represent a halfway point towards substantial progress, which is where the world should be at this point.”
3 November 2022. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD released an Outline of the key elements that should be contained in any democratic legal framework which governs freedom of expression. The goal of the Outline is to provide guidance to civil society and other interested stakeholders in Myanmar on how to create a framework which is consistent with international standards. The Outline is available in English here and in Burmese here.
1 November 2022. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) released its Analysis of Azerbaijan’s Media Law, which was adopted in early 2022. The Analysis is available here.
5 October 2022. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) released a new document, Model Training Materials: Overview of Freedom of Expression under International Law. These training materials are designed as a resource for networks of media lawyers and other organisations which are working to build the capacity of lawyers to use international human rights standards, especially at the domestic level.
28 September 2022. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) celebrated Right to Know Day with speaking engagements in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and Halifax, Canada. In addition, CLD updated the Right to Information (RTI) Rating website by adding a new page on constitutional RTI guarantees and adding additional ratings to the International and Subnational page.
19 September 2022. On 25 March 2022, the military regime ruling Myanmar enacted the Myanmar Police Force Law, which replaced several laws previously governing Myanmar’s police forces. Several provisions of this Law impact freedom of assembly and expression and are analysed in a Note released today by the Centre for Law and Democracy.
UNESCO and Centre for Law and Democracy Launch Free Online Course on Access to Information Laws and Policies
10 August 2022. UNESCO and the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) launched the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC): Access to Information Laws and Policies and their Implementation, looking at how to access information held by public authorities. The MOOC can be accessed here.
25 July 2022. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) joined nine other organisations in calling on the government of Maldives to repeal or amend the deeply problematic provision in the Evidence Act (Act No. 11/2022) that compels journalists to reveal sources on court orders and to ensure the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and the press in line with international human rights law. The statement is available here.
13 July 2022. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has prepared a Submission in response to a call for inputs on challenges to freedom of expression in times of armed conflict and other disturbances by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression.
7 July 2022. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) released A Guide on Using International Freedom of Expression Norms in Domestic Courts. This short but focused Guide aims to serve as a resource for lawyers seeking to use international legal standards relating to freedom of expression to enhance their domestic litigation.
5 July 2022. The Centre for Law and Democracy and News Media Europe launched the Guide for Journalists on How to Document International Crimes, with concrete recommendations for journalists and editors on how to capture information about international crimes so that it may be admitted as evidence in court. The Guide is available in English here, Burmese here and Russian here. Ukrainian translation to follow.
30 May 2022. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) published a briefing note, in English and Burmese, on the right to a public trial in response to media reports on closed judicial proceedings in Myanmar’s prisons.
3 May 2022. Today, the specialised mandates tasked with promoting and protecting freedom of expression at the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission launched their annual Joint Declaration under the title Freedom of Expression and Gender Justice. The Joint Declaration, which was drafted with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), sets out actions and measures which States and a range of non-State actors should take so as to promote greater gender justice in the area of freedom of expression. The declaration is available in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic.
2 May 2022. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) prepared a Note on Myanmar’s New Draft Cyber Security Law. Myanmar first proposed a draft Cyber Security Law in February 2021, but strong criticism from a number of companies and organisations, including CLD, led to the temporary withdrawal of those proposals. The new version of the law retains all of the repressive elements of the original version and adds further restrictions.
31 March 2022. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) made a Submission to the British Columbia (BC) all-party Special Committee to Review the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), the local right to information law. This followed an appearance before the Committee by CLD Executive Director, Toby Mendel, on 16 March 2022.
28 March 2022. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) launched a new resource page which contains our key publications related to Myanmar. These documents apply international human rights law standards, with a focus on freedom of expression and of the media, to developments in Myanmar. The page includes resources on legal issues arising since the 2021 military coup, as well as older resources which are still relevant or useful. Most publications are available in both English and Burmese.
15 March 2022. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) collaborated with the Puerto Rican network Red de Transparencia and its member organisation Espacios Abiertos (EA) to host a series of events as part of Sunshine Week in Puerto Rico. These included meetings with a wide range of different stakeholders – from all three branches of government, civil society, media, academia and the business sector – to stress the importance of access to information and to advocate in favour of reform of the Puerto Rican legislative framework on the right to information.
A Spanish version of the press release is available here.
24 February 2022. CLD submitted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief to the Constitutional Court of Colombia outlining freedom of expression concerns raised by an exception to Colombia’s net neutrality protections. The exception enables “zero-rating” schemes, whereby Internet access providers effectively give free access to certain services, content or applications (i.e. access which is not counted as using up the data on a user’s plan). While zero-rating schemes may seem like a free perk to customers, they channel traffic towards dominant services such as Facebook or Whatsapp and, in most cases, prevent or delay users from transitioning to access to the full Internet. The brief is available in English and Spanish.
14 February 2022. CLD is concerned that proposed changes to El Salvador’s Law on Access to Public Information will limit transparency and access to information in El Salvador. This is a disappointing development given that the current law is very strong and El Salvador has historically been a regional leader. A Spanish version of this press release is also available here.
7 February 2022. The Training Manual for Judges on International Standards on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, a comprehensive toolkit for supporting judges to take into account international human rights standards on freedom of expression in their decisions, is being launched today. The toolkit was prepared by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) in collaboration with International Media Support (IMS), UNESCO and the Judicial Institute of Jordan, and piloted at a training of judges in Amman, Jordan in September/October 2021. The Toolkit is available in English here and in Arabic here.
7 December 2021. Toby Mendel, the Executive Director of Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), spoke today at an online discussion panel from 11:00 – 12:30 EST at the launch of the 2021 Global Report of the Sustainable Development Goal 16 Data Initiative (SDG16 DI). The SDG16 DI is a consortium dedicated to promoting non-official data on the implementation and tracking of progress toward the targets that comprise the UN-adopted Sustainable Development Goal 16 on achieving peaceful, inclusive and just societies by 2030. The 2021 SDG16 DI Global Report is a resource on civil society methodologies designed to measure progress on SDG 16 targets and indicators. Toby Mendel is the author of two of the chapters in the Global Report, one on disinformation and one assessing progress towards achieving SDG Target 16.10.
6 December 2021. Toby Mendel, the Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), was today presented with the Mongolian Friendship Medal by Mongolia’s Ambassador to Canada at a formal ceremony in Ottawa, Canada. The Friendship Medal, one of the highest honours that can be conferred on a foreigner by the Government of Mongolia, is being awarded in recognition of Toby Mendel’s contribution to democracy, and freedom of the press and expression in Mongolia.
5 December 2021. The new Myanmar Press Council (MPC), appointed by the military after former members resigned following the February coup, does not have the independence needed to act as a legitimate media regulatory body The MPC, as provided for in the 2014 News Media Law, should be an independent body which is responsible for resolving disputes regarding the media. However, its independence can no longer be relied upon. CLD drafted a short Note on international standards governing media regulatory bodies and the situation of the Myanmar Press Council, available in English and Burmese.
British Columbia: Note on Needed Revisions to Proposed Amendments to the Access to Information Legislation
1 November 2021. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) released a Note providing in-depth assessments of the main proposed amendments to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) proposed by the government of British Columbia, Canada, through Bill 22. The proposals represent a serious backsliding on transparency in British Columbia.
27 October 2021. An assessment by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) using its internationally renowned RTI Rating found that the amendments currently being considered by the Canadian province of British Columbia, in the form of Bill 22, would significantly undermine the right of individuals to access information held by public authorities. Specifically, the amendments would drop the province’s score from 98 points out of a possible total of 150 to 92 points.
20 October 2021. The specialised mandates tasked with promoting and protecting freedom of expression at the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission launched their annual statement, the Joint Declaration on Politicians and Public Officials and Freedom of Expression. The Joint Declaration, which was drafted with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), sets out standards which States and a range of non-State actors should respect regarding communications by politicians and senior public officials. It is available in Arabic, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
28 September 2021, International Right to Know Day, is a day when people around the world celebrate the right to access information held by public authorities, or the right to information. UNESCO recognised the day as the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) in 2016 and it was recognised as a general UN day in October 2019. On this day, CLD undertook or participate in four main activities: hosted a panel Reform of the Federal Access to Information Act: Perspectives on the Procedure and Substance at Right To Know Week 2021, a Canadian event celebrating the right to information (RTI), participated in various UNESCO events about RTI, released a report about RTI implementation in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic and updated the RTI Rating page with new Ratings as well as the addition of Ratings of Subnational Entities alongside the International Institutions page.
Supporting the Establishment of Networks of Media Lawyers in Kazakhstan, UNESCO Almaty and CLD Host a Workshop
15 September 2021. UNESCO Almaty, in partnership with the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), hosted a virtual Workshop on Creating a Media Lawyers’ Network in Kazakhstan to bring legal professionals together to deepen their understanding of and to advocate for media freedom and freedom of expression. Supported by the Global Media Defence Fund and the Eurasian Digital Foundation, the Workshop discussed the importance and benefits of forming national networks of lawyers dedicated to media defence work and promoting freedom of expression.
This press release is also available in Russian.
30 July 2021. CLD, with the support of the Global Media Defence Fund run by UNESCO, is developing a project designed to support the formation of national networks of lawyers dedicated to media defence work and promoting freedom of expression. CLD is hosting an open webinar about the benefits and activities of media lawyers’ networks and what steps can be taken to establish such networks on 10 August 2021. We also have a variety of resources on the topic available here.
12 May 2021. Mauritius proposed new amendments to its Information and Communication Technologies Act to address the “abuse and misuse” of social media. These amendments would route all social media traffic to and from Mauritius through a proxy server to be run by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority, breaking any encryption provided by social media companies and allowing for official surveillance of all communications between users and social media companies. CLD released two documents: a submission on the proposed changes and a Note that applies international human rights standards to the existing Act.
10 May 2021: Myanmar’s military took control of the country in a coup on 1 February 2021. Just two weeks later, on 14 February, they introduced important changes to the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code which have become the primary legal provisions being used to charge journalists, student leaders, civil servants and others who are opposing the military regime. CLD released an Analysis, in English and Burmese, which provides a comprehensive assessment of the amendments as against international human rights standards. It is accompanied by a shorter document, also in English and Burmese, which is designed to provide a quick overview of the scope and impact of the amendments.
7 May 2021: CLD joined more than 90 other organisations and individuals in endorsing a letter in solidarity with Ivan Pavlov, a Russian human rights activist and lawyer who has been criminally charged with disclosing data of a preliminary investigation which has been declared secret. The likely reason for these charges is Pavlov’s role, along with other members of Team 29, which he heads, in defending opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) and campaign offices against criminal accusations of advocating extremism.
30 April 2021: CLD conducted an Analysis of Namibia’s Access to Information Bill. This Bill, which was tabled in parliament in 2021, would give individuals a right to access information held by government. Overall, the Analysis shows that the Bill is largely in line with international standards but could still be further improved. When assessed against CLD’s RTI Rating (www.RTI-Rating.org) the Bill earns a score of 114 out of a total 150 points. This would place it in 20th position from among the 128 laws currently assessed on the Rating. A few tweaks to the Bill could increase Namibia’s score, placing it among the top ten countries globally, alongside Liberia, the only African country currently in that group.
25 April 2021: CLD has published an Analysis of the national security law for Hong Kong. The law has become notorious for its broad restrictions on commonplace expressive activity and the extensive control it gives mainland China over criminal prosecutions in Hong Kong, as well as its frequent use, including against leading media and pro-democracy personalities, such as Jimmy Lai. The CLD Analysis, which was produced with support from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), outlines the precise legal means used in the law to achieve those repressive aims.
10 March 2021: CLD provided a Submission on disinformation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression. The Submission is in response to a call by the Special Rapporteur for inputs into her June 2021 report to the Human Rights Council, which will focus on disinformation and freedom of expression. CLD’s Submission reviews the main responses by both States and intermediaries to disinformation, analyses them from the perspective of freedom of expression and makes recommendations for future action.
1 March 2021: CLD provided an amicus brief to the Constitutional Court of Colombia, setting out international standards to support the claim that a civil defamation provision from a 1944 law is unconstitutional. The provision, Article 55 of Law 29 of 1944, provides for broad civil indemnification for anyone who has been harmed by content distributed by the media unless the responsible media outlet proves that it acted without “culpability”. The CLD brief argues that this fails to respect international guarantees of freedom of expression, which require sufficient defences to be available for a claim of defamation.
1 February 2021: CLD provided a written Submission on Normative Frameworks for the Right to Information to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). The OHCHR is preparing a report on this issue to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council at its forty-seventh session in June 2021. The Council asked the OHCHR to prepare the report in its July 2020 resolution on freedom of expression, the first such resolution it has adopted in more than a decade.
11 December 2020: This Human Rights Analysis of Biometric Digital ID Systems examines the human rights concerns raised by biometric digital ID systems. In response to proposals for such a system in Myanmar, it identifies potential human rights risks and makes recommendations for avoiding those harms. In addition to reviewing developments on this issue in Myanmar, it provides comparative examples of countries where courts have limited biometric digital ID systems.
27 November 2020: CLD provided a written Submission to the five-year review of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, 2015. This is the first review since the law was substantially overhauled in 2015, after which it earned 111 out of a possible 150 on the Right to Information Rating (www.rti-rating.org) and became by far the strongest right to information law in Canada. Despite these strengths, CLD has identified a number of areas where improvements are needed to bring the law into line with global best practice.
24 November 2020: This Note highlights a number of legal developments in Myanmar which have an impact on freedom of expression and which were proposed or adopted in 2020. These are part of CLD’s ongoing work in the country on media freedom issues, in collaboration with International Media Support (IMS) and FOJO Media Institute.
6 November 2020: As the COVID-19 pandemic’s second-wave continues to sweep across much of Canada, the federal government has maintained a very cavalier approach to meeting its legal obligations under Canada’s Access to Information Act. This Press Release, with the Canadian Association of Journalists, calls for access to information to be a priority for Canada during the pandemic and highlights the continued need for reform of Canada’s Access to Information Act.
28 September 2020: On International Right to Know Day, the Centre for Law and Democracy joins with other civil society organisations from around the world in calling on governments to avoid using the COVID-19 crisis as a pretext for limiting the right to information. Instead, we are urging governments at least to restore and preferably to improve legal and practical measures for ensuring the right to information. The Joint Statement is available here.
28 September 2020: 28 September, International Right to Know Day, is a day when people around the world celebrate the importance of the right to access information held by public authorities (the right to information). This year, International Right to Know Day also represents the 10th anniversary of the launch of the RTI Rating, which assesses the strength of right to information laws globally. In honour of this anniversary, CLD has published a Trends Snapshot highlighting the trends in RTI legislation globally, as shown by the RTI Rating data.
27 September 2020: UNESCO is hosting a series of events to celebrate the United Nations’ International Day for Universal Access to Information or International Right to Know Day, 28 September. Toby Mendel, CLD Executive Director, will moderate the High-Level Panel, taking place from 1400-1530 Paris time that day, as well as a panel on 29 September on access to information during times of crisis.
19 August 2020: CLD, in a Joint Statement with eight other organisations, condemns the enactment and enforcement of the new security law in Hong Kong, especially its use against journalists and activists. The Joint Statement calls on the governments of China and Hong Kong to respect democracy and human rights in Hong Kong.
4 August 2020: The fourth Report in CLD’s series on the situation for civil society globally covers the Middle East and North Africa region.
28 July 2020: This Report, third in a series on the legal environment for civic space globally, covers nine countries in the Latin American region.
21 July 2020: This Report documents the legal environment for civil society in nine countries in the Europe and Central Asia region. The report is second in a global series.
14 July 2020: Civil society can only flourish if a country has put in place an enabling legal environment that supports organisations’ right to organise, communicate, research, advocate and fundraise freely. In recent years, global observers have expressed increasing alarm at the growing number of legal burdens and restrictions that governments are imposing on civil society. This Report is the first in a series focused on the global environment for civil society. It covers 15 countries in the Asia Pacific region.
27 May 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic has created both significant burdens for governments, as they are called upon to protect citizens’ health and minimise the economic impact of the pandemic, and significant operational challenges, as many staff are working from home. Many States have responded by imposing limits on the right to information while others have refrained from doing so. CLD has released a report, Maintaining Human Rights during Health Emergencies: Brief on Standards Regarding the Right to Information, setting out and analysing the international standards that should guide State behaviour in this area.
6 May 2020: An assessment of two laws adopted in 2019 in Puerto Rico to establish a legal right to access information reveals the laws are very weak, according to an Analysis published by the Centre for Law and Democracy. According to the RTI Rating (www.RTI-Rating.org), the two laws – the Transparency and Expeditious Procedures for Access Public Information Law and the Open Data Law – score just 73 out of a possible maximum of 150 points, putting them in 88th position relative to the 128 national laws assessed on the Rating, in the bottom one–third.
30 April 2020: The specialised mandates tasked with promoting and protecting freedom of expression at the UN, OAS and OSCE launched their annual statement, the Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Elections in the Digital Age. The Joint Declaration, which was drafted with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy, sets out standards for both State and non-State actors regarding communications during elections.
17 April 2020: Rachna Seenauth was arrested on 15 April 2020 for posting a humorous message on Facebook about the Mauritian Prime Minister and the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The arrest was based on the grounds that the post was “false” and hence a breach of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act. CLD is deeply concerned about the arrest of Ms. Seenauth, previously an assistant to the former Mauritian President. Neither “fake news” laws nor the COVID-19 crisis should be used as an excuse to target speech that is critical of political leaders or the positions they are taking in response to the crisis.
This press release is also available in French.
2 April 2020: CLD added a new page to the RTI Rating (containing information about national right to information laws) which tracks the changes that have been made to right to information (RTI) laws in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (https://www.rti-rating.org/covid-19-tracker/). The aim is to provide a central repository of comparative information on this issue.
17 March 2020: The Islamabad High Court in Pakistan asked for help from experts in determining a number of questions relating to the law of contempt of court and media reporting on ongoing court cases. The Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), with support from CLD, filed an amicus curiae brief with the court setting out relevant international standards. The brief shows that international standards and comparative practices across a range of countries are protective of free speech even in the context of ongoing court proceedings.
Case Against Germany: No Right to Information Law in Bavaria Breaches Right to Freedom of Expression
19 February 2020: CLD filed a human rights complaint (communication) against Germany with the United Nations Human Rights Committee. The communication alleges that Germany has failed to meet its obligations to respect freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights because the German state of Bavaria does not have a right to information (RTI) law. CLD’s client, Mr. Walter Keim, was refused access to public interest documents related to his human rights activism.
6 December 2019: A workshop in Yangon highlighted the importance of community radio for Myanmar and challenges resulting from delays in implementing the 2015 Broadcasting Law. Hosted by CLD, Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists and Myanmar Press Freedom Center, with support from IMS and FOJO Media Institute, the workshop provided an opportunity for journalists to discuss and learn about legal standards for community broadcasting. Myanmar’s 2015 Broadcasting Law contains strong provisions supporting community radio, as described in a 2016 Note by CLD and IMS, but implementing By-laws are yet to be adopted.
13 November 2019: On 12 November 2019, CLD launched the Right to Information Implementation Assessment: Comprehensive Methodology through a “Pitch” (project presentation) at the Paris Peace Forum. Our new website hosting the Methodology – www.RTI-Evaluation.org – also went live at the same time. The Methodology was developed and piloted in Pakistan, and CLD is now planning to apply it in other countries. We call it the Comprehensive Methodology because it seeks to assess how well different actors are doing in meeting all of the obligations under an RTI law.
6 November 2019: CLD welcomes the fact that Zimbabwe is moving forward to adopt a new right to information law, to replace the discredited 2002 Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA). However, an analysis by CLD of the Freedom of Information Bill, which was provided to local activists and Members of Parliament in September 2019, shows that the new draft Bill needs significant work to bring it into line with international standards. An analysis of the Bill, including an assessment according to the RTI Rating, shows that it only garners 72 points out of a possible 150, just two points more than the current AIPPA, at 70.
27 September 2019: 28 September, International Right to Know Day, is a day when people around the world celebrate the right to access information held by public authorities. A map of some of the key activities shows the truly global scope of engagement on this day around the world. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is participating in three main activities on this day. We have, again, updated the RTI Rating, which now assesses 128 national right to information laws globally. And we participated in a panel discussion in Halifax on updating the Nova Scotian right to information law and a major conference to celebrate the day in Islamabad.
28 August 2019: The government of Myanmar has put forward a new National Records and Archives Law to modernise the system of maintaining records and archives in the country. While the overall thrust of the draft Law is positive, it fails to respect standards regarding public access to information in several key respects. Given that Myanmar has still not adopted a right to information law, it is unfortunate that other laws, including this one, are being put forward which risk undermining the longer term objective of opening up government.
13 August 2019: UNESCO has launched an overview report on its 2019 SDG Indicator 16.10.2 data collection exercise, Highlights from the 2019 UNESCO Monitoring and Reporting of SDG Indicator 16.10.2 – Access to Information: Powering Sustainable Development with Access to Information. The data collection exercise – covering 43 Voluntary National Review (VNR) countries – and initial reporting were done by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD).
1 August 2019: The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) adopted the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa in 2002. After 17 years, the Commission has now decided to update the Declaration and, to this end, the African Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information released a new draft for comments in May 2019. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Freedom of Expression Hub (FOE-HUB) have submitted a detailed Note on the draft Declaration to the Special Rapporteur with a view to ensuring that the final version is fully in line with and that it represents a strong effort to progressively develop established international standards.
30 July 2019: The Gambia is one of a declining number of African countries that still does not have a law giving individuals a right to access information held by public authorities, or a right to information (RTI) law. However, there is some movement on this issue with the preparation of an Access to Information Bill for The Gambia, including with the participation of the Gambia Press Union. The Centre for Law and Democracy has prepared an Analysis of the Bill, which scores 116 out of a possible total of 150 points on the RTI Rating, which would put it in a very respectable 16th place out of the 124 countries around the world whose laws are currently assessed on the Rating.
15 July 2019: Civil society organisations in ten countries have produced parallel reports on the implementation of laws giving individuals a right to access to information held by public authorities (right to information or RTI laws) using the methodology for this prepared by the Freedom of Information Advocates Network (FOIAnet). A synthesis or spotlight report, Road to 2030: Access to Information in the Driver’s Seat, has been launched at the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) at the United Nations in New York. This report provides an overview of the general findings from the ten country reports.
10 July 2019: In London, at the Global Conference for Media Freedom, the four special mandates tasked with promoting and protecting freedom of expression at the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission launched their Twentieth Anniversary Joint Declaration: Challenges to Freedom of Expression in the Next Decade. Drafted with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), the Declaration highlights the challenges that freedom of expression is expected to face over the next decade.
16 April 2019: A review of the legal framework for the right to information in Vietnam, based on the adoption in January 2018 of new regulations, has increased Vietnam’s score from 69 to 76 points out of a possible total of 150 points on the RTI Rating, which puts it in 78th place out of the 123 countries around the world whose laws are currently assessed on the Rating.
29 March 2019: The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) (Canada), Transparency Maroc (TM), Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) and Maharat Foundation (Lebanon) launched the Charter for Improving Civil Society Engagement with the League of Arab States ahead of the 31 March 2019 Arab League Summit being held in Tunis. The Charter sets out minimum standards for what the League of Arab States (LAS) needs to do to improve its engagement practices with civil society and other stakeholders.
28 March 2019: The Centre for Law and Democracy has collaborated with Columbia Global Freedom of Expression and nine other universities and civil society organisations from around the world to launch a new teaching portal Freedom of Expression Without Frontiers. The goal of the portal is to promote the adoption of a global approach to the teaching of free speech.
28 March 2019: An Analysis of the Bermudian Public Access to Information (PATI) Act by the Centre for Law and Democracy shows that it scores 97 out of a possible total of 150 points on the RTI Rating, which would put it in 45th place out of the 123 countries around the world whose laws are currently assessed on the Rating. The Analysis, which was requested by the local Office of the Information Commissioner, makes a number of recommendations to improve the Act, which was adopted in 2010 but did not come into force until 2015.
20 February 2019: The Methodology for Assessing Right to Information Implementation in Pakistan was launched at a workshop in Islamabad. The methodology is a sophisticated tool for assessing the quality of implementation of right to information (RTI) laws. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has been working over a period of about one and one-half years, in close collaboration with the Information Commissions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces in Pakistan as well as other local stakeholders, to develop this methodology.
28 January 2019: The Myanmar Press Council (MPC), established by the 2014 News Media Law, has been discussing amendments to its founding legislation. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), as part of its collaboration with International Media Support (IMS) and FOJO Media Institute, held two roundtable meetings with members and senior staff of the MPC to discuss the changes that are needed to bring this Law into line with international standards, in particular relating to freedom of expression.
14 January 2019: The Government of Pakistan released a document “Proposed Mandate and Scope of the PMRA” late in 2018. This document is a brief white paper regarding the establishment of a new Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PMRA) to regulate all types of media in Pakistan. A Note released by the Centre for Law and Democracy and the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development, based in Pakistan, analyses this policy document, highlighting some of the challenges going forward.
7 November 2018: Mauritius adopted the Judicial and Legal Provisions Act in May 2018. The Act focuses on the judicial process but it also includes a few provisions which restrict freedom of expression. An analysis released by the Centre for Law and Democracy highlights problems with these provisions, particularly those governing contempt of court, blasphemy and hate speech.
29 October 2018: The Centre for Law and Democracy (Canada), Transparency Maroc, Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms, Maharat Foundation (Lebanon) and Social Economic Forum for Women Organization (Jordan) jointly hosted a consultative meeting in Amman from 25-26 October 2018. The focus of the meeting was on how to improve the opportunities for civil society organisations to engage with the League of Arab States (LAS). A key outcome of the meeting was a Charter which sets out a civil society vision for the steps needed to improve the system of engagement with the LAS.
28 September 2018: In an exciting development, Afghanistan replaced Mexico at the very top of the RTI Rating, with an impressive score of 139 points out of a possible 150, or 93%. Mexico is now in second place, with 136 points, followed by Serbia with 135 and Sri Lanka with 131. An updated version of the RTI Rating website was launched on 28 September 2018, International Right to Know Day, with ratings for 123 countries, up from the 111 that were hosted on the old site.
27 September 2018: On 26 September 2018, in anticipation of International Right to Know Day, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner Nova Scotia, and The Right to Know Coalition of Nova Scotia sponsored a trivia night on the theme of “It’s Your Right to Know!” at the Board Room Game Cafe in downtown Halifax.
27 August 2018: IDB Invest conducted a consultation on the draft Access to Information Policy it circulated in April 2018. In its Analysis of the draft Policy the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) welcomed advances over the 2005 Policy which is currently in force but also notes that significant improvements are needed if IDB Invest is to respect international standards relating to the right to information. As with many international financial institution (IFI) information policies, the regime of exceptions is the most problematical area, but weaknesses are also found in other areas, notably in relation to the procedures for making and processing requests and the system of appeals.
27 July 2018: On 23 July 2018, the government of Canada published its Draft Commitments: Canada’s 2018-20 National Action Plan on Open Government, one of its obligations as a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which Canada currently co-chairs. In response to a call for feedback, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) sent a formal Statement to the government outlining how the Draft Commitments should be improved to meet public demands in terms of access to information.
11 July 2018: The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), with the technical support of the German Development Cooperation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, worked closely with the Information Commissions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces in Pakistan to develop a sophisticated, comprehensive methodology for assessing the quality of implementation of right to information (RTI) laws. This was encouraged in part by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicator 16.10.2, which looks at whether States have adopted and implemented right to information legislation. The Methodology looks at four key areas: Central Measures, focusing on information commissions, Institutional Measures, focusing on structural measures taken by individual public authorities (like appointing an information officer), Proactive Disclosure and Reactive Disclosure (the processing of requests). The goal is to finalise the methodology soon and then pilot its application in one or two jurisdictions in Pakistan before revising it to take into account those results. The Methodology has been developed
Eight international organisations, including the Centre for Law and Democracy, that promote respect for the right to information released a Joint Statement calling on the Ghanaian authorities to review the Right to Information Bill, 2018 while it was still before Parliament. The Statement outlined five key areas where the Bill failed to meet international standards: Exceptions, Scope and Requesting Procedures, Appeals, The Duty to Publish (Proactive Disclosure) and Sanctions, Offences and Promotional Measures. For each issue, the Joint Statement highlighted the key amendments that are needed to bring the Bill into line with better practice.
12 June 2018: The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) released an Analysis of Ghana’s 2018 Right to Information Bill. The Analysis welcomed the fact that Ghana was finally moving forward to adopt this key piece of democratic legislation. At the same time, it highlighted a number of weaknesses in the Bill, which would only be in 49thplace globally according to the RTI Rating.
3 May 2018: In the week of May 2nd 2018, he government of Bangladesh approved a Digital Security Bill which has now been sent to parliament for its review and ultimately adoption. An Analysis by CLD shows that the Bill fails in several important ways to respect international guarantees of freedom of expression. This is despite the fact that a lot of criticism has already been directed at provisions in Bangladeshi laws which restrict freedom of expression online, under which 21 journalists were charged over just four months in 2017.
2 May 2018: On May 2nd, in Accra, Ghana, the four specialized mandates tasked with promoting and protecting freedom of expression at the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission launched their 20th annual statement, the Joint Declaration on Media Independence and Diversity in the Digital Age. The Joint Declaration, which was drafted with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), addresses modern threats to media independence and diversity, focusing separately on legal, political, technological and economic threats.
20 April 2018: A new Analysis by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) of the latest proposed Right to Information (RTI) Law reveals a relatively robust draft but with some shortcomings. The RTI Law, which will allow citizens to obtain information from public bodies, is key in any democracy, enhancing government accountability and improving trust between government and the people.
5 April 2018: The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) (Canada), Transparency Maroc (TM), Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) and Maharat Foundation (Lebanon) launched their project on Building Opportunities for Civil Society Engagement with the League of Arab States with a workshop in Rabat on 22-23 March 2018. The project seeks to explore ways to enhance transparency and opportunities for participation in the work of the League.
26 March 2018: The government of Canada is currently preparing its fourth Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) contributed a Submission to Ideas Discussion for Canada’s Action Plan on Open Government 2018–20. CLD has provided comments on all of Canada’s previous OGP action plans. This time, unlike in the past, CLD focused on only one issue, namely the overriding need to reform Canada’s Access to Information Act.
19 March 2018: The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) published a Draft Policy on Public Information in January 2018. According to Comments by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and Bank Information Center (BIC), the draft Policy is a good start but far more is needed if it is to serve as a stable, effective mechanism for promoting transparency and access to information at the Bank.
12 March 2018: Information Commissioners from Sri Lanka and India undertook a mission to Mexico’s National Institute for Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data Protection (INAI), the oversight body in that country, last week to exchange best practices and experiences regarding oversight of the right to information. During the technical visit, on 7-8 March 2018, they met with different local actors both within INAI and externally, while on 9 March 2018 they participated in a public workshop. The visit was organised by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) with the support of The Social Architects in Sri Lanka, and a former Information Commissioner of Canada also participated.
28 February 2018: The Centre for Law and Democracy issued a letter to British Columbia’s Minister of Citizens’ Service, Jinny Sims, copied to the Premier of British Columbia, John Horgan, commending their announcement that consultations will be planned to discuss amending the British Colombia Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) from 26 February to 9 April 2018. CLD urged that the consultation be followed promptly with concrete law reform proposals, and that the practice of posting online publicly the texts of access to information requests even before they have been responded to be stopped in order to avoid having a chilling effect on certain types of uses of FIPPA, in particular for investigative journalism. The letter can be accessed here.
8 February 2018: Canada’s proposals to reform its Access to Information Act, Bill C-58, which have now been passed by the House of Commons and are before the Senate, can only be described as massively disappointing. The Government has completely reneged on its promises to extend coverage of the Act to the Prime Minister, Ministers, Parliament and courts, and delivered only partially on other promises, such as to abolish all fees and give the Information Commissioner order making powers.
January 29 2018: Leading civil society groups, media lawyers from around the country and international experts met on 27 January 2018 to discuss proposals to reform laws which restrict freedom of expression online. Over the last few years more than 100 cases, mostly for defamation, have been brought under these laws, involving journalists, political actors and human rights defenders. The aim of the workshop was to agree on media reform proposals that will limit abusive cases and support Myanmar’s transition to democracy.
19 December 2017: The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) concluded a joint training programme for senior information officers from more than 30 different public bodies with the Nepal National Information Commission (NIC). The three-day programme focused on a range of issues including practical steps information officers can take to improve citizens’ access to information, the wider benefits of the right to information, regional developments, classification of information and future directions for information officers and the NIC.
12 December 2017: The Digital Security Guide for Journalists was launched today in Yangon. The Guide is a simple, accessible tool to help journalists protect their communications and digital devices against hacking, surveillance and other forms of digital harassment. It was prepared by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) in collaboration with International Media Support (IMS), FOJO Media Institute and the Myanmar Press Council (MPC).
10 December 2017: The Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network (MMLN) and the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) organised a workshop with civil society groups and lawyers from across the country on 9 December to discuss reform of laws which restrict freedom of expression online, including the Electronic Transactions Law, Official Secrets Act, Telecommunications Law, News Media Law and certain provisions of the Penal Code. Numerous cases have been brought under these laws, most of which were brought for political purposes.
23 November 2017: The Centre for Law and Democracy kicked off a new right to information (RTI) project in Pakistan today with a public presentation on the benefits of RTI. The project aims to provide support to information commissions and local government actors in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces of Pakistan with a view to improving implementation of RTI there.
13 November 2017: The Centre for Law and Democracy prepared an analysis of the Pakistan Right of Access to Information Bill. The Bill is identical to the version passed by the Senate in May 2017. The Bill earned 105 points on the RTI Rating. This is far better than the right to information law currently in force, the 2002 Freedom of Information Ordinance, but far weaker than the groundbreaking laws adopted by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces in 2013.
28 September 2017: CLD celebrated International Right to Know Day, 28 September, by undertaking a few different activities. CLD hosted an Ask Me Anything on Reddit on the theme of the Day, with support from colleagues in Argentina (CELE), South Africa (ODAC), Spain (AIE), Tunisia (GoAct) and Uganda (Catherine Anite), launched the report Canada: Civil Society Parallel Assessment of Compliance with Sustainable Development Goal Indicator 16.10.2, and spearheaded a joint letter signed by some 35 organisations and 25 individuals to Scott Brison, President of Treasury Board, about the unacceptably weak proposals of the government, in the form of Bill C-58, to reform Canada’s right to information law.
10 July 2017: The Centre for Law and Democracy and similarly concerned organizations recently issued a letter to the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, urging Canada to accept a leadership role in the Open Government Partnership, an important forum for advancing transparency and accountability in government.
23 June 2017: CLD released a Note on Canada’s latest proposal for reforming the Access to Information Act which shows that the proposed reforms would only earn Canada an additional two points on the RTI Rating, CLD’s respected methodology for assessing the strength of access to information laws.
15 June 2017: A regional workshop on the right to information held in Beirut from 8-9 June 2017, bringing together participants from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen, and hosted by Social Media Exchange, the Centre for Law and Democracy and International Media Support, agreed to create a regional network of right to information activists. This commitment was contained in a Workshop Statement adopted by participants.
1 June 2017: The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is deeply troubled by the government of Trinidad and Tobago’s decision to reintroduce its Cybercrime Bill with only minor amendments to the previous draft. When it was first introduced in May 2015, the Cybercrime Bill was heavily criticised by media and human rights organisations, including CLD, for vague and overbroad content offences which would have prohibited a range of innocuous, normal or even beneficial online activity. Despite some minor revisions, the current version of the Cybercrime Bill still suffers from these problems.
24 May 2017: Four years ago, the Centre for Law and Democracy wrote to the three major political parties in Nova Scotia, calling on them to promise that, if elected, they would enact much needed improvements to Nova Scotia’s outdated Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. CLD released this statement for the 2017 election, about the failure to live up to these commitments.
18 May 2017: Information officers from government ministries and public bodies in Jordan met today at the National Library in a networking event to foster debate around creating a “community of practice” for these officers. Under the patronage of HE Dr. Mohammed Al Momani, Minister of State for Media Affairs and government spokesperson, the networking event was a follow-up to the successful trainings on the implementation of the Access to Information (ATI) Law organised by UNESCO Amman Office, Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and Department of the National Library as part of the EU funded and UNESCO implemented “Support to Media in Jordan” Project.
Letter to Göran Marby the CEO and President of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
6 April 2017: CLD signed this letter to Göran Marby urging transparency reform at ICANN. As the body responsible for critical functions of the global Internet, ICANN’s legitimacy is predicated on accountability, both to its stakeholders and to the public at large.
3 April 2017: CLD drafted this letter to the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau regarding the Access to Information Act.
3 April 2017: CLD drafted this letter to the Minister of Human Capacities in Hungary to express concern at proposed legislative changes to CEU’s status.
16 March 2017: After many years of debate and numerous versions, the government of Mongolia has finally placed a draft Broadcasting Law before parliament. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) welcomes this much needed initiative which provides an opportunity to set clear rules for the licensing of broadcasters, to create an independent regulatory body, to promote diversity in the airwaves and to establish a fair complaints system. While the draft Law achieves some of these goals, an Analysis released today by CLD shows that major revisions are still needed.
10 March 2017: There is a huge gulf between civil and common law countries on openness around court decisions, according to research conducted recently by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD). Working with its partner, the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), based in the country of Georgia, CLD has noted that while civil law jurisdictions often refuse to provide the names of parties to cases, on the grounds that this is a breach of their privacy, in common law countries the practice is normally the reverse.
3 March 2017: On March 3rd 2017 in Vienna, the four specialised mandates tasked with promoting and protecting freedom of expression at the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission launched their 19th annual statement, the Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and “Fake News”, Disinformation and Propaganda. The Joint Declaration, which was drafted with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), addresses the difficult issue of how best to respond to the growing threat of disinformation, whether coming from governments, officials, the legacy media or social media.
Letter to the Right Honourable Speaker of Parliament of Uganda Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga and the Honourable Mary Turyahikayo
23 February 2017: CLD drafted this letter to the right Honourable Speaker of Parliament of Uganda Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga and the Honourable Mary Turyahikayo regarding the proposed amendments to the Communications Act, in the form of Bill No. 2.
14 February 2017: On 14 February 2017, UNESCO and the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) held a full-day workshop in the capital of Myanmar, Nay Pyi Taw, for officials from the Government, military and both upper and lower houses of Parliament (Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyotha Hluttaw), as well as the Parliamentary support body, the Commission for the Assessment of Legal Affairs and Special Issues. The focus of the workshop was on international standards relating to the right to information and broadcasting.
February 10 2017: On 3 February 2017, just on the deadline for this, the government of Sri Lanka published a set of Regulations and Rules under the Right to Information Act in the Official Gazette. The combined effect of the Regulations (adopted by the Minister of Parliament Reforms and Mass Media) and the Rules (adopted by the oversight body, the Right to Information Commission) was to add a full ten points to Sri Lanka’s already strong score of 121 points out of a possible total of 150 on the RTI Rating. With its new score of 131 points, Sri Lanka boasts the third strongest legal framework for RTI in the world and the strongest in South Asia.
24 January 2017: Last week the first of several trainings on the implementation of the Access to Information (ATI) Law was held at the National Library in Amman. The first 3-day training session is one of five sessions being organized jointly by UNESCO Amman Office, Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and Department of the National Library as part of the EU funded and UNESCO implemented “Support to Media in Jordan” Project.
23 January 2017: A workshop hosted by the Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network (MMLN) and the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) on 21 January provided the setting for lawyers from across the country to agree that the Electronic Transactions Law and Telecommunications Law requires immediate reform. The discussion focused on the need to repeal the criminal defamation standards in the two laws (in sections 34(d) and 66(d), respectively), both of which have been used to imprison government critics.
January 2015 2017: Malawi’s recently passed information bill could help communities affected by the extractive industries get information about related environmental, health, and safety risks, Human Rights Watch, Malawi’s Natural Resources Justice Network, and the Centre for Law and Democracy said today.
16 December 2016: Canada’s legal framework for charities is both outdated and unduly restrictive, a fact which became apparent when the regulator, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), launched a spate of charity audits a few years ago. The current Canadian government has signalled an intention to revise the rules in this area and, as part of that, the CRA is holding a consultation on the rules. CLD provided a detailed Submission to that process, calling for extensive reforms.
9 December 2016: Over 20 organizations and individuals united to call on the Government of Canada to commit to create a public registry of the beneficial ownership of companies and trust and to make that registry available in open data format.
5 December 2016: The Centre for Law and Democracy and the Bank Information Center jointly prepared Comments on the Public Information Interim Policy of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in preparation for the first annual review of the Policy, due in January 2017. The analysis shows that the AIIB is lagging behind other international financial institutions when it comes to information disclosure.
14 November 2016: CLD, with support from International Media Support and FOJO Media Institute, hosted a series of workshops with its partners, the Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network (MMLN), Pyi Gyi Khin (PGK), the Civil Society RTI Technical Working Group and the Myanmar Press Council (MPC). The workshops focused on the right to information and content restrictions in various Myanmar laws. The latter was particularly timely as senior representatives of the Eleven Media Group were taken into custody on allegations of having breached the defamation provisions in the 2013 Telecommunications Law while a CLD sponsored workshop on this was taking place.
7 November 2016: The Centre for Law and Democracy has prepared a Note on the draft co-creation guidelines prepared by the Open Government Partnership. The draft guidelines aim to strengthen the OGP’s current consultation requirements. The Note recognises the importance of this objective and the contribution the draft guidelines make to achieving it, while also putting forward a number of recommendations to further strengthen the guidelines.
17 October 2016: The Centre for Law and Democracy prepared a Submission on the applicability of the right to information to intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) in response to a call for input from the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. The Submission argues that IGOs are bound to respect human rights, including RTI. Currently, relatively few IGOs outside of the international financial institutions have adopted policies on RTI, but they are coming under increasing pressure to do so.
13 October 2016: The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has prepared a Note on the draft Right of Access to Information Act, 2016, which was prepared by the Standing Committee of Federal Cabinet for Disposal of Legislative Business of Pakistan. According to an assessment based on the RTI Rating, the draft receives 97 points out of a possible total of 150 points, putting it in 35th place globally out of the 111 laws assessed on the RTI Rating, below any other country in South Asia.
3 October 2016: The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) released an analysis of the Sindh province of Pakistan’s draft Transparency and Right to Information Act, 2016 (draft Act), prepared by the government of Sindh. CLD’s Note on the draft Act reveals that it is a reasonable draft, scoring 96 out of a possible 150 points on the RTI Rating, but that much could be done to bring it more fully into line with international standards. The RTI Act currently in force in Sindh is a carbon copy of the 2002 Federal Ordinance, which languishes in the bottom 20 percent of the RTI Rating.
28 September 2016: This press release, on International Right to Know Day, announced updated to the RTI Rating, including to recognise Mexico as the new global champion.
28 September 2016: Vietnam adopted a Law on Access to Information, which gives citizens the right to request and receive information from public bodies. This follows a long period of discussion and debate about adopting such a law. According to the RTI Rating, a globally recognised methodology for assessing the strength of such laws, the Law earns 68 points out of a possible total of 150, putting it in 86th place globally from among 112 countries, well into the bottom one-third.
6 September 2016:On 3rd September, the Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network (MMLN), the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), FOJO Media Institute and International Media Support hosted an event for lawyers to discuss ongoing challenges to digital freedom in Myanmar.
5 September 2016:The Centre for Law and Democracy has prepared a set of Comments on the Council of Europe’s draft Guidelines on Civil Participation in Political Decision-Making. The Guidelines aim to set minimum standards for Council of Europe Member States in terms of ensuring participation in relation to processes of public decision-making. CLD very much welcomes this initiative – which can help improve consultation processes – but also has a number of suggestions for tightening up and improving the draft Guidelines.
5 August 2016: CLD drafted this letter to Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marsudi to urge them to go ahead with their plans to host the 2017 International Conference of the Information Commissioners in Bali, Indonesia.
1 August 2016:Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is preparing to pass a Cybercrime Bill which criminalises a wide range of activities including defamation, obtaining information without lawful excuse and cyberbullying. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) recognises the need to address harmful behaviour online, including in some cases through the criminal law, but it is not legitimate to criminalise defamation and the scope of several of the other crimes as defined in the Bill is simply too broad.
14 July 2016: The Centre for Law and Democracy released 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.
6 July 2016: 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).
4 July 2016: 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, 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.
15 June 2016: 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, unveiled 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.
7 June 2016: CLD signed a letter to World Bank President Dr Jim Yong Kim expressing concern about the institution’s downgrading its capacity ont he right to information.
Myanmar: CLD/IMS Work with Local Partners to Host Events on Broadcasting and the Right to Information
30 May 2016: The Centre for Law and Democracy, with support from International Media Support (IMS) and FOJO Media Institute, 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).
26 May 2016: 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.
20 May 2016: 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. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) released six recommendations for improving openness.
3 May 2016: 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 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.
4 May 2016: The Centre for Law and Democracy and International Media Support hosted 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.
21 April 2016: 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.
19 March 2016: The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), with the support of International Media Support (IMS), 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.
7 March 2016: The Report of the International Mission to Nepal for Promoting Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists outlines 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.
3 March 2016: 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.
8 February 2016: In 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 by the 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.
21 December 2015: The 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.
21 December 2015: The 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.
15 December 2015: According to a CLD analysis, the Sri Lankan Draft Right to Information Act is among the strongest in the world, scoring 120 out of a possible 150 points on the RTI Rating. However the authorities should introduce further improvements to provide an even more robust basis for the right to information in the country.
2 December 2015: This workshop, carried out by The Center for Law and Democracy together with the Myanmar Media Lawyer’s Network featured discussions about the new Broadcasting Law, focusing also on the engagement of MMLN in the selection of the National Broadcasting Council members.
27 November 2015: Pyi Gyi Khin, a Myanmar-based NGO, along with CLD and with the support of International Media Support, USAID and FHI 360, hosted 70 representatives from the Eastern Shan State Civil Society Network for a workshop on the right to information (RTI) in Myanmar. CLD hopes to see formal progress on this issue, in the form of a draft RTI law, in addition to growing public awareness of its importance.
24 November 2015: CLD released an analysis on the UNEP Access-to-Information Policy welcoming the improvements over the June 2014 Policy. However, there are significant areas where the draft Policy fails to accord with international standards or better international practice in relation to the RTI.
20 November 2015: A broad range of civil society groups and privacy experts call on Trudeau to launch full public consultation before introducing C-51 reforms.
13 November 2015: A delegation of media and freedom of expression organisations, after the meeting with the Indonesian government, recommended that the authorities to do more to advance media freedom and protect journalists.
13 November 2015: CLD joined other free expression organisations to call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mohammed Ismael Rasool, a Kurdish fixer for VICE News. Rasool has remained imprisoned in Turkey on charges of “aiding a terrorist organization” for over two months despite the release of two British colleagues with whom he was initially detained.
9 November 2015: According to the analysis by the CLD, the Vietnamese draft Right to Information Law is a good start, however it still has a long way to go to come up to international standards. The Vietnamese authorities need to review the draft before adopting the law to bring about real change in terms of government openness.
29 October 2015: CLD carried out an analysis of the Italian draft Right to Information Law, resulting in recommendations that the Italian authorities introduce wide-ranging changes to bring it in more fully into line with international standards. This press release is also available in Italian.
30 September 2015: CLD highlights the vastly overbroad regime of exceptions in the draft Policy published by the GCF, which seriously undermines its potential to ensure access to information.
14 September 2015: A coalition of Canadian NGOs has drafted a joint letter calling on its political parties to endorse concrete pledges for reform of the right to information law.
14 September 2015: A coalition of Canadian NGOs has drafted a joint letter calling on its political parties to endorse concrete pledges for reform of the right to information law.
9 September 2015: The International Partnership Mission for Indonesia (IPMI) and the Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI) urge for President of Indonesia Joko Widodo to move to identify and prosecute the murderers of Udin, a journalist who reported into alleged corruption and election rigging.
The Letter is also available in Bahasa
31 August 2015: CLD assisted Integrity Watch Afghanistan in preparing this brief on the right to information.
31 August 2015: The Centre for Law and Democracy has prepared a submission outlining the further changes it believes are needed to bring Quebec’s right to information law more fully into line with international standards in this area. The press release is also available in French.
13 August 2015: A draft Cybercrime Bill prepared by the government of Trinidad and Tobago would criminalise a wide range of legitimate digital activity, according to an analysis of the Bill released today by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD).
International press freedom organizations call on Burundi authorities to investigate attacks on journalists and human rights defenders
5 August 2015: This joint statement, made in the aftermath of the attempted murder of prominent Burundian human rights defender Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, calls on the government to investigate attacks against journalists and human rights activists immediately and to ensure that those responsible are found and brought to justice in a fair trial, and more broadly to take steps to guarantee freedom of expression in line with its human rights obligations.
The Statement is also available in French
4 August 2015: On 23 July 2015, a group of 40 civil society representatives from across Upper Myanmar came together in Mandalay to discuss the importance of the right to information (RTI) to the country’s democratic transition. The participants agreed to form an Upper Myanmar RTI Working Group and to select members to join the central RTI Working Group, which is coordinating advocacy on this issue nationwide. The participants also unanimously endorsed the joint statement which was adopted at a November 2014 workshop on this issue.
30 July 2015: On 25 July 2015, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network (MMLN), with the support of International Media Support (IMS), carried out a workshop for lawyers on defamation law and restrictions on freedom of expression in the name of national security.
22 July 2015: CLD released an Analysis of the draft Pakistani Right to Information Act, finding that the draft is “remarkable” and giving it a “superlative” score of 146 points on the RTI Rating, 11 points ahead of the next best right to information law in the world (Serbia).
22 June 2015: CLD joined with a number of international press freedom organisations in signing an open letter calling for Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza to allow media organisations in the country to reopen and operate freely, particularly in light of upcoming elections.
Read the Communique in French here
Read the Letter as sent by CLD in French here
18 June 2015: CLD released an Analysis of the draft Tanzanian Media Services Act, 2015, which found that it does not conform to international standards of respect for freedom of expression. The new regulations are unduly intrusive on the media, overseen by entities controlled by the government, and in some cases not realistic on a practical level.
13 June 2015: The members of the Nepal International Media Partnership (NIMP) extend their deepest condolences to the people of Nepal for the tragedy they have suffered.
Indonesia Partnership Mission Welcomes Decision to End Restrictions on Journalists Covering Papua and West Papua
8 June 2015: 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.
2 June 2015: Newfoundland and Labrador has enacted Canada’s first modern access to information law, setting a standard for the federal government and other provinces to match.
28 May 2015: The Centre for Law and Democracy has sent a letter to The Bahamas Minister of Education, Science and Technology The Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald M.P. encouraging him to strengthen the Freedom of Information Bill 2015 to meet international standards.
Read the Freedom of Information Bill 2015 here
See the Freedom of Information Bill 2015’s RTI score here
Read the Freedom of Information Bill 2011 here
See the Freedom of Information Bill 2011’s RTI score here
19 May 2015: 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 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.
11 May 2015: CLD was among over one hundred non-governmental organizations and trade unions to sign a letter to the Vice President of the European Commission, welcoming steps taken to increase lobby transparency at the European level but advocating for further strengthening of the lobby register in order to present a comprehensive picture of lobbying activities.
7 May 2015: 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.
World Press Freedom Day: MedMedia Launches Report on Media Regulation in the Southern Mediterranean region
5 May 2015: The EU-funded MedMedia programme, in cooperation with the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), launched a major report on 3 May 2015 titled Assessment of Media Regulation in the Southern Mediterranean Region. The publication was presented at the UNESCO’s World Press Freedom day Conference held in Riga, Latvia, on 2-4 May.
4 May 2015: Today, 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.
23 April 2015: The Centre for Law and Democracy participated in the Nepal International Media Partnership (NIMP) mission to Nepal from 19 to 23 April. 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.
20 April 2015: The 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. An analysis by CLD, released today, suggests that the proposed constitutional guarantee needs to be strengthened.
16 April 2015: 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.
13 April 2015: CLD joined with a number of Canadian and international organisations in signing a joint statement calling for Bill C-51, which would significantly expand Canada’s surveillance apparatus, to be scrapped.
7 April 2015: On 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.
1 April 2015: Canada’s Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault, released a report 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. CLD put out this press release in support of those recommendations.
31 March 2015: Canada’s Information Commissioner, Suzanne Legault, released a report which includes recommendations for revamping Canada’s right to information system. CLD joined with a number of other Canadian NGO’s to put out this statement in support of RTI reform in Canada.
12 March 2015: 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. 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.
11 March 2015: This press release addresses the European Investment Bank’s revised transparency policy, which includes controversial exceptions to the disclosure of internal documents. The new transparency policy has also been met with strong criticism from civil society organisations 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.
12 March 2015: In 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 CLD published this release to note with concern that few of the main problems have been fixed.
11 February 2015: Centre for Law and Democracy drafted a Submission 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.
5 February 2015: The 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
2 February 2015: The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and International Media Support (IMS) launched 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.
26 January 2015:On 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.
26 January 2015: A coalition civil society organisations sent this letter to the European Investment Bank (EIB) regarding plans to substantially weaken their transparency policy, including recommendations on how to bring the draft in line with international standards.
23 January 2015: Representatives of 80 different NGOs, from all regions of Myanmar, met in Yangon to discuss the importance of the right to information (RTI) to the country’s democratic transition. The workshop, which was organised by a working group of local NGOs, aimed to raise awareness among civil society about the importance of the right to information and what makes a strong RTI law.
19 January 2015: The Centre for Law and Democracy filed an amicus curiae brief in a constitutional appeal in Indonesia lodged by the Central Information Commission asserting that there are problems in its founding legislation in terms of the protection of its independence.
18 December 2014: An international delegation visiting Indonesia raised concerns about the current state of media freedom in the country, calling on the Widodo administration to take a new approach towards freedom of expression. The mission concluded with a joint statement, including observations and recommendations for reform.
18 December 2014: An international delegation visiting Indonesia raised concerns about the state of media freedom in the country, calling on the Widodo administration to take a new approach towards freedom of expression. The mission concluded with a Joint Statement, including observations and recommendations for reform.
22 November 2014: Representatives from a dozen NGOs met recently for a workshop in Yangon on the right to information (RTI) in Myanmar. The workshop, which was hosted by the Local Resource Centre and the Centre for Law and Democracy in collaboration with International Media Support (IMS), culminated in a joint Statement stressing the importance of RTI to Myanmar’s democratic transition and pledging to work collaboratively towards establishing and implementing an RTI law.
Statement of the meeting of the civil society delegates of the 3rd UN Inter-Agency meeting on the Safety of Journalists and the issue of Impunity
4 November 2014: CLD signed this statement, along with 21 other NGOs, supporting the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity and calling for strong measures to implement it.
2 November 2014: The Centre for Law and Democracy has sent a letter to His Excellency President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives calling on his government to do more to fulfil its obligation to protect journalists and the media. The immediate focus of the letter is the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan, missing since 8 August in an apparent abduction related to his work as a journalist.
1 October 2014: The Centre for Law and Democracy has sent a letter to His Excellency President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives calling on his government to do more to fulfil its obligation to protect journalists and the media. The immediate focus of the letter is the disappearance of journalist Ahmed Rilwan, missing since 8 August in an apparent abduction related to his work as a journalist.
29 September 2014: This Statement from CLD discusses the state of the right to information with the passage of the world’s 100th RTI law in September 2014. It was drafted for International Right to Know Day.
28 September 2014: Centre for Law and Democracy joined 130 other organisations in an open letter to UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, calling on him to recognise freedom of expression and information in his Post-2015 report. Ban Ki-moon and his team are drafting a report on Post-2015 which will kick off formal negotiations for the Sustainable Development Goals next year.
24 September 2014: 18 civil society organizations, including CLD, drafted a Joint Submission to the European Investment Bank (EIB) on its draft revised EIB Group Transparency Policy, including recommendations for bringing the policy in line with international standards for international financial institutions.
19 September 2014: CLD responded to the consultation on Canada’s second Open Government Partnership Action Plan by calling on the government to commit to clear and ambitious measures to advance transparency across the public sector. CLD’s Submission to Canada’s Open Government Consultations points to problems with both the consultation process and the substantive commitments the government is proposing to make.
17 September 2014: CLD released an Analysis of the draft Kenyan Freedom of Information Bill, 2014, which found that, although the draft is relatively robust, it is significantly weaker than the version which was proposed in 2012. CLD urges the relevant stakeholders in Kenya to act quickly to strengthen, and then formally adopt, the Kenyan Freedom of Information Bill, 2014.
10 September 2014: CLD issued a letter to MPs in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) urging speedy passage of the proposed Law on Access to Information (Loi sur l’accès à l’information). CLD’s letter also notes that Africa remains one of the world’s weaker performing regions in terms of right to information legislation, but that is beginning to change. Over the past five years, the number of African right to information laws has more than quadrupled. CLD hopes that the DRC will continue this positive trend towards greater openness and transparency across the continent.
8 September 2014: CLD has prepared an analysis of the latest version of Morocco’s draft right to information law, Draft Law No. 31.13 on the Right of Access to Information, which finds that the draft scores only 65 points out of a possible 150 on the RTI Rating. It is notable that this is substantially weaker than a previous draft published in August 2013. CLD urges the Government of Morocco to reconsider the current draft and, instead, to prepare a strong law which will properly implement Article 27 of the 2011 Constitution.
8 September 2014: CLD issued a letter to MPs in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) urging speedy passage of the proposed Law on Access to Information (Loi sur l’accès à l’information). CLD’s letter also notes that Africa remains one of the world’s weaker performing regions in terms of right to information legislation, but that is beginning to change. Over the past five years, the number of African right to information laws has more than quadrupled. CLD hopes that the DRC will continue this positive trend towards greater openness and transparency across the continent.
14 August 2014: CLD and Global Partners Digital published “Travel Guide to the Digital World — Surveillance & International Standards“, by CLD Legal Officer Michael Karanicolas. The Guide explores how online surveillance takes place and how it stacks up against international human rights standards, particularly in terms of privacy and freedom of expression. Drawing on international standards and better practice legislation from around the world, the Guide also presents a set of standards for regulating and conducting surveillance in a way which is consistent with human rights. It concludes with a discussion of emerging debates, and how the questions around online surveillance have altered the global discourse around human rights on the Internet.
25 July 2014: Michael Karanicolas testified on behalf of the Centre for Law and Democracy before an independent panel reviewing Newfoundland and Labrador’s Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (ATIPPA), presenting CLD’s formal Submission to the review. CLD’s main recommendations are regarding needed reforms of the regime of exceptions, which is currently very overbroad, but the Submission recommended several other procedural and structural reforms to the law.
17 July 2014: A group of lawyers in Myanmar with an interest in media law have come together to form the Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network. The decision was made at a workshop for media lawyers, the third such meeting facilitated by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and International Media Support (IMS), as part of their capacity building work in Myanmar. The 30 lawyers who attended the meeting were unanimous in their interest in and enthusiasm for the idea.
9 July 2014: CLD and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) have sent a letter to Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, the Honourable Sheikh Hasina, urging her government to reconsider passage of the proposed Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act, 2014 (the Bill). The Bill would grant the NGO Affairs Bureau, a department under the Prime Minister’s Office, extensive powers over NGOs, including a veto over their ability to receive foreign contributions of any kind. The law would also put in place an onerous registration system and given the NGO Affairs Bureau the power to forcibly dissolve non-compliant NGOs.
9 July 2014: The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) have sent a letter to Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, the Honourable Sheikh Hasina, urging her government to reconsider passage of the proposed Foreign Donations (Voluntary Activities) Regulation Act, 2014 (the Bill). The Bill would grant the NGO Affairs Bureau, a department under the Prime Minister’s Office, extensive powers over NGOs, including a veto over their ability to receive foreign contributions of any kind.
7 July 2014: The European Investment Bank (EIB) is undertaking a consultation process towards conducting a review of their 2010 Transparency Policy. In a letter to the EIB, CLD, in a collaboration with a coalition of international transparency organizations, has outlined specific reform proposals to the Policy itself, and called on the EIB to provide a fully inclusive and meaningful consultation process in undertaking the review.
26 June 2014: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) adopted an Access-to-Information Policy which fails to live up to international standards and better practice by other inter-governmental organisations (IGOs), and also the very standards which UNEP has recommended to States in this area. In a letter to UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, CLD has called on the UNEP to do better after the pilot phase of the Policy expires in one year.
26 June 2014: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) adopted an Access-to-Information Policy which fails to live up to international standards and better practice by other inter-governmental organisations (IGOs), and also the very standards which UNEP has recommended to States in this area. In a letter to UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, CLD has called on the UNEP to do better after the pilot phase of the Policy expires in one year
20 June 2014: In East Timor, as in many States emerging from long periods of undemocratic rule, unprofessional reporting by journalists is a widespread problem. A Media Law adopted in May of this year by the National Assembly, which is currently awaiting Presidential signature, was justified in part as being necessary to address this problem. Comments on the Law published today by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) reveal serious problems in terms both of human rights and of the stated goals of the law.
12 June 2014: The Centre for Law and Democracy calls on the Hungarian Government to stop its harassment of civil society and to respect the right to freedom of association. A vibrant civil society sector is vital to the maintenance of democracy, Hungarian NGOs and civil society at large should be free to receive funding from foreign donors and any public auditing measures should respect the principles of independence, non- discrimination and non-arbitrariness.
2 June 2014: Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, a prominent human rights defender, was detained by the Burundian government for exposing, with photographic evidence, that the ruling party was training youth militia groups in preparation for the next election. CLD authored this letter calling for his release. The letter is also available in French.
27 May 2014: The Centre for Law and Democracy released a set of short Notes on international standards for criminal restrictions in five key areas, with the aim of helping interested stakeholders better understand the issues involved. The Notes were prepared for the workshop: Toward Media Regulatory Reform in the Middle East and North Africa: Workshop on Criminal Restrictions on Media Content.
23 May 2014: CLD released an Analysis of the main problems with Bill 1, Newfoundland and Labrador’s proposed whistleblower protection law. The Analysis provided several concrete recommendations, including extending whistleblower protection to the private sector and removing an exception for Cabinet documents.
21 May 2014: On 12 May 2014, the Council of the European Union adopted the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression: Online and Offline. There are certain problems from the perspective of freedom of expression in the Guidelines, particularly that they fail to recognise the right of the public to access information held by public authorities as an element of the right to freedom expression and as an operational priority for the EU. CLD, along with other organizations, are calling on the relevant EU actors to reconsider the Guidelines, or to adopt a dedicated set of guidelines on the promotion of the right to information as an element of freedom of expression.
6 May 2014: The 17th annual Joint Declaration by the four specialised mandates tasked with promoting and protecting freedom of expression at the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission was prepared with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy and ARTICLE 19. It highlights issues relating to the universality of the right to freedom of expression.
29 April 2014: The Middle East and North Africa remains one of the world’s most troubled media environments, despite some gains since 2011. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), International Media Support (IMS) and Maharat Foundation unveiled a Statement on Media Regulatory Reform in the Middle East and North Africa: Criminal Restrictions on Media Content. The Statement is the product of a workshop in Beirut, Lebanon, from 24-25 April, and was adopted by experts from Egypt, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen.
10 April 2014: The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), working with Democracy Reporting International (DRI), published a Briefing Paper on International Standards on Transparency and Accountability. The Paper is one of a series which focuses on the main foundations of democracy.
10 April 2014: CLD was among several organisations to sign this letter to Ireland’s Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform calling for reform of the freedom of information process, specifically around fees.
4 April 2014: CLD, along with several other organisations, have forwarded this letter on Ontario’s Attorney General calling on her to prioritize the passage of Bill 83, the Protection of Public Participation Act, 2013.
31 March 2014: UNESCO published a book prepared by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) which focuses on international standards govenring the regulation of community radio as well as the legal framework for this in some thirty countries from different regions of the world. It also includes a set of recommendations on better practice regarding the regulation of community broadcasting.
17 March 2014: The Centre for Law and Democracy has done an analysis of the latest draft of the Access to Information Law being prepared by the Palestinian authorities which indicates that the law has been substantially weakened since our last analysis in December 2013. Using the RTI Rating (www.RTI-Rating.org), the December draft obtained a score of 92 points out of a possible 150, which has now declined to just 85 points, well into the bottom half of all countries globally with right to information laws. The Press Release is also available in Arabic.
6 March 2014: CLD released Comments on a new cybercrime law, the draft Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2014, which is being considered by the government of Pakistan. The CLD Comments highlight the fact that the draft Act threatens to undermine the development of the Internet in Pakistan. The draft Act does contain some positive aspects, such as rigorous procedural protections regarding cybercrime investigation and limitations on intermediary liability, but its broadly defined crimes threaten to turn almost every Pakistani Internet user into a criminal.
24 February 2014: CLD signed this letter to the President of the World Bank urging him to expand funding for B-SPAN, their Internet-based webcasting system.
20 February 2014: To promote implementation of Indonesia’s Law 14/2008 on Public Information Disclosure, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Indonesian Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) undertook a major training programme to build the capacity of key stakeholders – mainly journalists and civil society groups – to use the law. CLD and AJI have now released a report on the over 200 requests that were made as part of this programme.
18 February 2014: CLD and the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) released a Training Manual for Public Bodies on Implementing Law 14 of 2008 Regarding Openness in Public Bodies. The Manual has already been used to conduct various training sessions for public officials, for example in Jakarta and the Indonesian province of Banten. It is available in English and Bahasa Indonesian.
17 February 2014: CLD is among several signatories to a letter to the Moroccan government urging them to drop all charges against journalist Ali Anouzla, whose detention is a violation of freedom of expression and of his right to inform the public, and is unfounded in international law. The letter is also available in Arabic.
14 February 2014: In October 2013, Sierra Leone became the 96th country in the world, and the 12th country in Africa, to pass an RTI law. An analysis by CLD rates the Right to Access Information Act as tied for the 5th strongest in the world. The law scored 124 out of a possible maximum of 150 points on the RTI Rating, an internationally renowned analytical tool developed by CLD and its partner organisation, Access Info Europe, which has been applied to every national RTI law globally.
13 February 2014: CLD and ICEL developed two sets of guidelines designed to assist Indonesian public bodies overcome the major challenges associated with implementing the right to information legislation Indonesia adopted in 2008. One guideline provides an overall roadmap of what public bodies need to do to implement the law and the other provides guidance on the difficult issue of applying exceptions.
3 February 2014: CLD signed onto a letter to the Open Working Group to fully integrate the governance recommendations of the UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons Report (A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development) into the proposed Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, specifically in relation to its recommendations to establish a specific goal to “ensure good governance and effective institutions” and to include as components of this goal a clause to “ensure people enjoy freedom of speech, association, peaceful protest and access to independent media and information” and to “guarantee the public’s right to information and access to government data”. The letter is also available in French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
27 January 2014: The CLD and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) prepared this Note analysing the Right to Access Information Law, No. 11 of 2013, adopted by the government of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The Law is a relatively progressive piece of legislation, garnering 98 points out of a possible 150 on the RTI Rating (www.RTI-Rating.org), which would put it in 28th place globally out of 95 countries, as of the time of publication. The Press Release is also available in Arabic.
19 December 2013: CLD carried out an assessment of Palestine’s draft Law on the Right of Access to Information using the RTI Rating which found that the draft would obtain a rather modest score of 92 points out of a possible 150.
18 December 2013: Specialist right to information organisations Access Info Europe and Centre for Law and Democracy led on the drafting of a set of recommendations for progressive improvements to the right to information (RTI) which should be introduced by governments participating in the Open Government Partnership.
6 December 2013: The Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) has been a magnet for controversy since its inception, largely due to the excessive secrecy in which it is being negotiated and rumours that its intellectual property provisions would threaten Internet freedom. The Centre for Law and Democracy prepared an Analysis of the TPP, based on a draft version of the intellectual property chapter released by Wikileaks, which notes several significant problems with the treaty from a freedom of expression perspective.
5 December 2013: The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) drafted this press release expressing concern over a Japanese secrecy law which signally fails to respect international standards and, in particular, the standards set out in the Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information (The Tshwane Principles), which CLD participated in drafting.
30 November 2013: CLD drafted a document with a brief set of recommendations for how to improve the development process for Canada’s OGP Action Plan in advance of the second round of consultations.
19 November 2014: CLD signed onto this letter urging the OGP to recognise the need to update understandings of privacy and human rights with regards to surveillance. The letter urges OGP member states to review their surveillance laws, and to commit in their OGP Action Plans to transparency around the mechanisms for surveillance, exports of surveillance technologies, aid directed towards implementation of surveillance technologies and agreements to share citizen data among states.
15 November 2013: Irish and international civil society organisations participated in a campaign against a threatened policy change which would charge multiple up-front fees for requests deemed to include more than one question. CLD, along with Access Info Europe, wrote a letter to the Irish government as part of this.
15 November 2013: On Wednesday November 13, Wikileaks released an early draft of the intellectual property provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multifaceted trade deal being secretly negotiated by 12 States. CLD released these initial observations about the treaty’s provisions, in advance of a more comprehensive analysis which is being prepared.
12 November 2013:As part of a wider project to support implementation of the Indonesian Law on Public Information Openness, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law (ICEL) carried out a training for public officials in the Indonesian province of Banten. The training was attended by information officers (PPIDs) from over 40 different public bodies from across the province, as well as representatives from the Banten and Jakarta Information Commissions.
1 November 2013: CLD, along with Access Info Europe, called on the participating countries of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to make serious commitments to strengthen their right to information laws in the next round of action plans at the OGP Summit in London.
1 November 2013: CLD signed onto a letter drafted by the World Wide Web Foundation which calls on the member countries of the Open Government Partnership to ensure that their Internet surveillance policies are proportional and transparent, and do not unduly undermine online privacy.
8 October 2013: In response to a series of attacks against journalists in the Maldives, which culminated in the burning of a television station in Male, CLD issued a call for the Maldivian authorities, and particularly the police, to enhance the protection that it offers to journalists with a view to preventing future violent incidents.
7 October 2013: In the run up to Nova Scotia’s election on October 8, CLD asked all three major political parties to sign up to three promises for transparency. CLD is pleased to report that two of Nova Scotia’s three major political parties, the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives, endorsed the pledges.
3 October 2013: The Green Climate Fund (GCF), an international financial institution (IFI) which uses lending to promote compliance with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), has prepared a draft policy on information disclosure for consideration by the Board at its fifth meeting in Paris from 8-10 October 2013. The Global Transparency Initiative (GTI) has prepared a Note analysing the draft policy, prepared by CLD.
Call on the Montenegrin Authorities to Keep Company Register and State Cadastre Registries Transparent and Accountable
2 October 2013: CLD participated in a campaign by Montenegro’s Network for the Affirmation of the NGO Sector (MANS) calling on the Montenegrin government to maintain the Company Register and State Cadastre Register, which has become a key source of information for civil society organizations and media to investigate cases of corruption and organized crime.
CLD released an Analysis pointing to major problems with Nova Scotia’s transparency framework, the Freedom of Information and Protection and Privacy Act (FOIPOP). Among major recommendations are that the Review Officer should have the power to make binding orders, and an expanded mandate including investigative powers, that timeline extensions for response should be capped at 30 days, that unnecessary and overly broad exceptions should be removed or revised, and that the rules on release of information in the public interest should be strengthened.
CLD was among 60 organisations to sign a letter to the Moroccan government demanding the release of Ali Anouzla, editor of the Arabic edition of the news website Lakome. Anouzla was arrested after his organisation reported on a Youtube video by Al-Qaeda which was critical of Morocco’s King and called on Moroccan youth to engage in terrorism. Although the article was critical of the video, it also contained a link to it, which the Moroccan government characterised as an incitement to terrorism.
UPDATE: October 10 CLD also was among 60 human rights groups which signed a follow-up later after Ali Anouzla was indicted, which is available here
Over 140 groups, including environmental organizations, unions and freedom of expression advocates, signed a letter calling on the Ontario legislature to adopt strong legislation to prevent Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) from being used to limit freedom of expression, public participation and prevent the abuse of libel laws.
As part of the Open Government Partnership process, Canada hosted an open consultation on its progress. CLD submitted a report evaluating the scope and ambition of Canada’s commitments and the government’s success in implementing them.
CLD and IFJ launch Handbook on International Standards and Media Law in the Arab World, 9 September 2013
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) launched a Handbook on International Standards and Media Law in the Arab World. The Handbook sets out international standards regarding media freedom and assesses the extent to which the legal regimes governing the media in Arab countries conform to those standards. It is designed to support journalists and others in the Arab world in their struggle for press freedom and media law reform in the region.
The Centre for Law and Democracy has joined a growing group of concerned individuals and organisations in a call to action against SLAPPs or “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.” These lawsuits are designed to inhibit and silence individuals in important matters of public concern and have a concerning impact on their rights to freedom of expression.
The Centre for Law and Democracy is joining a large group of international human rights organisations as signatories to an open letter to President Obama. The letter cites growing concern over the response to whistleblowers and journalists in the United States in the wake of the Edward Snowden’s recent disclosures. Signatories are concerned over criminal charges filed against Snowden and that it may represent a growing trend.
The Centre for Law and Democracy is releasing an analysis today of key recent changes to Russia’s internet policy.In recent years, freedom of expression in Russia has come under severe attack. A number of pieces of legislation have been adopted limiting the ability of opposition voices to make themselves heard. The analysis demonstrates that, even against this troubling backdrop, the recent decision by Russia’s government to create an Internet blacklist is a particularly ominous development. Key problems with Russia’s blacklist are that it imposes overly broad and illegitimate bans on content and that it lacks appropriate safeguards against political abuse. The full analysis can be read here.
In a major Report released today, Reconceptualising Copyright: Adapting the Rules to Respect Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age, CLD examines the current copyright rules from the perspective of freedom of expression. The Report finds that the rules signally fail to respect basic freedom of expression standards and proposes dramatic changes to bring copyright into line with its core purpose of promoting expression. Changes to the distinction between moral and economic rights, the duration of copyright protection and the framework for dealing with derivative works are among the proposals. The full report can be read here.
The Centre for Law and Democracy is today releasing an Analysis of the European Union’s 2006 Data Retention Directive, assessing it from the perspective of the right to freedom of expression. The Directive has attracted a lot of criticism, mostly on the basis that it fails to respect privacy. CLD’s Analysis highlights the ways the Directive exerts a chilling effect on freedom of expression, and its failure to pass muster as a restriction on free speech. The full analysis can be read here.
Today, the Freedom of Information Advocates Network (FOIAnet) launched a major global analysis of the development of the right to information (RTI) movement, broken down by region. The publication follows FOIAnet’s celebration of its 10th anniversary on International Right to Know Day, 28 September 2012. The analysis is a comprehensive effort to incorporate access to information issues from across the world and the different challenges that civil rights advocates face. CLD Executive Director Toby Mendel is also the chair of FOIAnet. The full analysis can be read here.
The Centre for Law and Democracy is today releasing an Analysis of the South Korean Copyright Act. The Act attracted a lot of criticism for 2009 amendments introducing a three strikes system whereby users could have their Internet services cut off after being warned three times about copyright infringements. Recommendations including removing provisions that allow for account suspension, a far too serious response, and establishing an independent body to administer the law. The full analysis can be read here.
Disagreements over the scope and nature of copyright rules have made it one of the most high profile battlegrounds regarding issues affecting freedom of expression. Around the world, rights-holding lobbies are pushing for increasingly draconian measures to combat copyright infringements, while others are calling for copyright law to be significantly revised to align it with modern digital realities. Both sides claim international guarantees of freedom of expression support their causes. On 24 June 2013, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), the Centro de Estudios en Libertad de Expresión y Acceso a la Información (CELE) and Fundación Via Libre (FVL) held a workshop in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to discuss problems with the international framework for copyright and possible solutions.
The Centre for Law and Democracy is releasing an analysis of 2012 amendments to Jordan’s Press and Publications Law. The amendments were recently implemented in a June 2nd blocking of major Jordanian news websites to international condemnation, including from CLD. The analysis points to a number of problematic portions of the law including its broad nature, registration requirements and its effect on user-generated comments. If fully implemented, the law is of serious concern to the right of freedom of expression in Jordan. The full analysis can be read here.
The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is today releasing a Note analysing the freedom of expression provisions in the new draft Constitution for Tunisia, dated 1 June 2013. Given the Constitution’s role as the foundational document for the system of governance in post revolutionary Tunisia, the Note highlights the importance of providing strong guarantees for freedom of expression and information. Among the recommendations are a call for restrictions to be limited to those that are both necessary and provided by law. The full note may be read here. It is also available in Arabic.
The Global Climate Fund (GCF), a new international financial institution (IFI) which aims to use lending to promote compliance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is proposing to adopt an information disclosure policy. The Global Transparency Initiative (GTI) has prepared a Note on Better International Practices on Access to Information for the GCF Board, which will discuss this issue at its next meeting in Songdo, Republic of Korea, 25-28 June 2013. The Note was prepared by Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD, with comments from GTI members. It can be read in full here.
The launch of Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information (Tshwane Principles) today was the culmination of a multi-year consultation process to set out a careful balance between protecting genuine national security interests and respecting the right to information. The consultation process involved 100s of individuals and 22 key support institutions, including the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD). The goal is to implement the Tshwane Principles at the national government level. A full copy of the principles can be found here.
The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) today released an analysis of four draft press laws in Morocco. While positive aspects do exist, the law has a number of seriously concerning elements with freedom of expression implications. The analysis points to a number of provisions, including requirements for press council membership, minimum requirements to become a journalist and overly harsh defamation laws as needing of revision. The full analysis can be found here.
Concerns remain anti-expression trends being displayed by Jordan. On June 2nd, the Kingdom issued blocking orders for over 300 websites who have failed to register in part of its 2012 Press and Publications Law reform that expands press limiting regulations to the internet. The blockage orders are flagrant violations of freedom of expression and the law’s amendments as a whole represent a significant threat to freedom of expression in Jordan.
The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Indonesian Centre for Environmental Law (ICEL) provided training for local public officials from seven provinces and regencies across Indonesia in an effort to aid implementation of Indonesia’s Law on Public Information Disclosure. Despite the law passing in 2010, implementation has been uneven, with some representatives not yet appointing required officials. However, the enthusiastic response to the training is an encouraging sign that local governments may be moving to meet its government obligations. The program, and the development of a training manual to aid it, are part of a larger project funded by Open Society Foundations to improve access to information in Indonesia.
Immediately following Myanmar’s second Conference on Media Development, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and International Media Support (IMS), in partnership with Mizzima Media hosted two media workshops. The workshops focused media regulation and international standards for defamation, for members of parliament and lawyers respectively. The workshops are part of an ongoing CLD commitment to support reform processes in Myanmar, including technical processes workshops to various stakeholders.
In a Joint Declaration the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission, focused on the importance of diversity of opinion in the upcoming changes to media coverage in the world, in a statement prepared in part by the Centre for Law and Democracy. Without diversity of opinion it becomes more difficult to achieve true freedom of expression. The Joint Declaration highlights a number of important aspects States should take to promote and protect freedom of expression, including an open and consultative decision making process and a lack of political or commercial interference in regulatory bodies.
The new right to information (RTI) legislation being proposed by the Danish government, the Act on Openness in Administration, signally fails to address the very serious problems in the current regime. The Danish proposals have come under significant fire for their restrictive treatment of ministerial information. However, an analysis by CLD demonstrates that this problem is just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to several new exceptions, the major problems with the current system – including its limited scope, flexible time limits for responding to requests, the absence of a public interest override for exceptions and the lack of a dedicated administrative appeals body – have not been addressed.
The Centre for Law and Democracy has prepared a set of Comments on the draft Access to Information Law published by the Afghan government. There have been discussions in Afghanistan about a right to information law for some time. The Centre for Law and Democracy welcomes efforts to adopt a right to information law in Afghanistan, and urges the government to bring the draft law more fully into line with international standards before it is adopted.
Given the steady stream of corruption and mismanagement allegations that have emanated from the province in recent months, it is hardly revelatory to suggest that Quebec has a problem with transparency. This Submission was prepared for a general consultation and public hearing being held by the Province of Quebec’s Committee on Institutions that is meant to address, among other issues, the implementation of Quebec’s Act Respecting Access to Documents Held by Public Bodies and the Protection of Personal Information. The Submission identifies a litany of deficiencies, including overly broad exceptions, the limited scope of the law, routine breaches of timelines and overcharging of requesters. It also notes that several public authorities, including ministers’ offices, municipalities and members of the National Assembly, are under no firm obligation to disclose any information, instead having the discretion to release information only when they feel this would be expedient.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has launched a review its Transparency Policy, last revised in 2009. As part of the Review, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has produced a Submission assessing the current policy against the standards developed by the Global Transparency Initiative (GTI) (www.ifitransparency.org). Some international financial institutions (IFIs) – including the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank – have made significant progress on transparency in the recent years; the IMF Policy, in contrast, remains limited to a proactive disclosure list approach.
The Centre for Law and Democracy, along with the International Federation of Journalists and Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada, put out this statement to note the release of Mam Sonando, a prominent Cambodian broadcaster who had been arrested for exercising his right to freedom of expression.
In February 2013, the Centre for Law and Democracy was contacted by the Canadian Press regarding a Memorandum from the Treasury Board disputing CLD’s RTI-Rating of Canada. The Memo makes two key points in defence of Canada’s performance on RTI. The first is that the RTI Rating only measures the letter of the law and not the strength of its implementation and the second is that, notwithstanding problems in the legal framework, Canada’s overall commitment to openness, and to open data in particular, is strong. CLD Executive Director, Toby Mendel, responds to both points and calls for Root and Branch reform of the Canadian Access to Information Act, along with major shifts in official attitudes towards openness.
The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and Mizzima Media jointly hosted three workshops for different stakeholders – the media, civil society, political parties and members of parliament – to discuss international standards relating to freedom of expression and principles on media regulation.
The Government of Indonesia is proposing to replace its authoritarian 1985 law on civil society organisations (CSOs) with a new Law Pertaining to Mass Organisations. While this is generally a welcome development, an analysis by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) highlights a number of serious problems with the draft Law, which is currently before the National Assembly.
Weak civil society demand for information, combined with a lack of understanding about how to make requests for information, can be a major implementation weakness in countries seeking to implement new right to information (RTI) laws. To help address this problem in Indonesia, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) have completed a training of trainers programme in Jakarta. Trainees from across Indonesia will follow up by conducting training programmes for civil society organisations in their home provinces of West Java, South Sumatra, West Nusa Tenggara and North Sulawesi. Those groups will then be expected to lodge a minimum of ten requests for information related to the areas in which they work, while the trainers will provide support to them through this process.
The 15th Philippine National Congress failed to pass a right to information (RTI) law, despite promises by the Aquino administration – to the Philippine people and in its Open Government Partnership (OGP) Action Plan – to ensure the adoption of this key democratic legislation. The Centre for Law and Democracy and the Philippine based Institute for Freedom of Information have written to the OGP Steering Committee asking it to take action on this signal failure by the Philippine administration to live up to its promises and commitments. Efforts to adopt a right to information law, which continued until the very last minute, were ultimately unsuccessful, in circumstances reminiscent of the similar failure of the previous Congress.
The 15th Philippine National Congress failed to pass a right to information (RTI) law, despite promises by the Aquino administration – to the Philippine people and in its Open Government Partnership (OGP) Action Plan – to ensure the adoption of this key democratic legislation. The Centre for Law and Democracy and the Philippine based Institute for Freedom of Information have written to the OGP Steering Committee asking it to take action on this signal failure by the Philippine administration to live up to its promises and commitments. Efforts to adopt a right to information law, which continued until the very last minute, were ultimately unsuccessful, in circumstances reminiscent of the similar failure of the previous Congress.
The Centre for Law and Democracy, working with the African Union/United Nations Information Support Team (IST), and in partnership with UNESCO, released the Somalia: Media Law and Policy Review, analysing the legal framework for media regulation in Somalia. There has been important progress in Somalia in recent months, with the drafting of an interim constitution, and the election of a parliament and a president. The Review is designed to help the new government move forward to implement media reforms in line with the interim constitution.
Canada’s right to information system is broken and comprehensive legal reform is now an urgent priority. There has for some time been consensus on this among journalists, civil society, Information Commissioners and even Parliamentary committees. But successive governments have refused to take action to resolve the problem. On International Right to Know Day, 28 September 2012, Canada’s Information Commissioner launched a consultation to solicit broad national input into this issue. The Centre for Law and Democracy released its Response to the consultation, calling for ‘root and branch’ reforms to bring Canada’s right to information into line with international standards.
The Centre for Law and Democracy, as part of the International Media Mission to Nepal, has written to Dr Baburam Bhattarai, the Rt. Honourable Prime Minister of Nepal, urging him not to obstruct the murder case against Dekendra Thapa, a journalist who was brutally tortured and then murdered in 2004. From 3-5 January 2013, the police arrested five suspects in the case. However, reports suggest that the Prime Minister has sought to halt the investigation, on the basis that political crimes committed during the ten-year conflict period should, pursuant to the 2006 peace agreement, be dealt with by a truth commission. This is troubling in light of the danger that journalists face in Nepal, with their attackers often enjoying immunity from justice.
The Centre for Law and Democracy, as part of the International Media Mission to Nepal, has written to Dr Baburam Bhattarai, the Rt. Honourable Prime Minister of Nepal, urging him not to obstruct the murder case against Dekendra Thapa, a journalist who was brutally tortured and then murdered in 2004. From 3-5 January 2013, the police arrested five suspects in the case. However, reports suggest that the Prime Minister has sought to halt the investigation, on the basis that political crimes committed during the ten-year conflict period should, pursuant to the 2006 peace agreement, be dealt with by a truth commission. This is troubling in light of the danger that journalists face in Nepal, with their attackers often enjoying immunity from justice.
The Centre for Law and Democracy released a Report that presents nine guidelines for assessing Open Government Partnership (OGP) Participating States’ action plans. The development and implementation of action plans is central to the whole OGP project: they contain the concrete commitments made by Participating States and hence the standards against which performance is measured. The guidelines are designed to be used by local stakeholders to assess the quality of country action plans.
The Centre for Law and Democracy released an analysis of the provisions in the draft Egyptian Constitution that protect freedom of expression, information and the media, as the days tick down to the constitutional referendum scheduled for 15 December. Although the draft contains reasonably solid positive protections for freedom of expression, it leaves the scope for restrictions wide open, subject only to the “Principles of Islamic Sharia”. Providing strong constitutional protection for freedom of expression is essential if democracy is to be established in Egypt.
CLD signed this letter, alongside International Federation of Journalists, Southeast Asian Press Alliance and Committee to Protect Journalists, protesting the lack of progress made in investigating the perpetrators of the Ampatuan Massacre, which killed 58 people, including 32 journalists. The letter was sent to Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III.
Immediately after it was passed on 12 September 2012, the Philippines’ Cybercrime Prevention Act was met with a flurry of legal challenges from journalists and civil society organisations in the Philippines. An Analysis released by the Centre for Law and Democracy confirms and supports their concerns, finding that the law perpetrates significant violations of international standards on freedom of expression.
CLD drafted a submission on freedom of expression and the right to information as a stakeholder submission to the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process on Canada.
CLD, along with the International Federation of Journalists, drafted this letter to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen protesting the conviction of Mam Sonando, a prominent broadcaster and opposition figure. Mr. Sonando has now been sentenced to 20 years in jail for exercising his right to freedom of expression.
Egypt is in the midst of a vitally important phase in its democratic transition, and a vibrant debate is ongoing over the nature of its constitutional protections for human rights. In order to provide support to this discussion, the Centre for Law and Democracy released a set of Comments on the Freedom of Expression and Information Clauses in the Draft Constitution for Egypt.
CLD and Access Info Europe have launched a new, updated version of the RTI Rating website, including ratings for newly passed laws (Brazil and Yemen) and several other updates to reflect legislative and regulatory changes, as well as an improved interface to allow easier cross-comparisons.
The Centre for Law and Democracy celebrated the 10th anniversary of International Right to Know Day by launching two comparative publications and by hosting a debate on the right to know.
This open letter, signed by CLD along with Southeast Asian Press Alliance, Media Defence-Southeast Asia and Centre for Independent Journalism, urges the Malaysian Prime Minister to commit to adopting a right to information law.
The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and International Media Support (IMS) released an Analysis of the guarantees for freedom of expression in the 2008 Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar. Although the 2008 Constitution represented an important step forward in terms of democracy and human rights, the Analysis highlights shortcomings in terms of both the positive guarantees for freedom of expression and the relatively wide latitude it allows for restricting that right.
On 23 August 2012, Egypt’s newly elected President, Mohamed Morsi, passed his very first decree after having wrested back legislative powers from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) earlier that month. The decree cancelled the possibility of pre-trial detention for journalists charged with insulting the president, leading to the release of Islam Afifi, editor-in-chief of Al-Dustour newspaper. This is a positive measure, which has earned the President kudos. The laws on defamation, however, are in need of far more profound reform if they are to be brought into line with international standards. A Statement on the issue released today by the Centre for Law and Democracy describes the wider needs and offers recommendations for reform.
The Government of Myanmar is preparing a press law which is supposed to significantly democratise regulation of the print media, an important part of its overall plans to become a democracy. In order to help ensure that the law promotes press freedom, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), working with the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), has published a report, Myanmar: Guidance for Journalists on Promoting an Empowering Press Law.
Centre for Law and Democracy, along with Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada and the International Federation of Journalists – Asia Pacific, have drafted an open letter to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to protest the detention of Mam Sonando, an independent broadcaster and prominent critic of Cambodia’s government. CLD believes that Mr. Sonando was arrested for exercising his right to freedom of expression. We call on the Cambodia authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him and to drop all of the charges against him.
This Press Release discusses and analyses Yemen’s recently passed RTI law. The Press Release is also available in Arabic.
Centre for Law and Democracy sent this open letter to the President of the Philippines urging him to stop delaying the passage of the Freedom of Information Act, which has now been under consideration for over two years. The letter was signed by 73 human rights organisations, as well as 15 individuals.
This release marks the launch of a report on the lack of substantive RTI reform within OGP Action Plans.
This release discusses the state of the right to information in Canada on the 30th anniversary of Canada’s Federal Access to Information Act.
This press release announced the 13th annual Joint Declaration by the four specialised mandates of the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission tasked with promoting and protecting freedom of expression. The Declaration, prepared with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy and ARTICLE 19, expresses “abhorrence over the unacceptable rate of incidents of violence and other crimes against freedom of expression”.
This was issued by the Centre for Law and Democracy after a speech by Newfoundland’s Minister of Justice that criticised a CLD analysis of Newfoundland’s Bill 29, legislation which significantly weakens Newfoundland’s access to information framework. The Minister’s comments dismissed the analysis and attacked the Centre for Law and Democracy as an organisation, as well as deriding several of the nations cited by CLD as having better access frameworks than Newfoundland. CLD Legal Officer Michael Karanicolas also issued a separate open letter to the Minister, available here.
At a time when the right to information is being strengthened around the world, the government of Newfoundland’s Bill 29 would be a major step backwards for government transparency according to an assessment by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD). CLD has analysed Newfoundland’s law using its RTI Rating methodology, a tool it has used to assess the strength of all national access to information laws.
UPDATE 15 June 2012: CLD issued a second Press Release in response to criticism of the organisation by Newfoundland’s Justice Minister Felix Collins.
The Centre for Law and Democracy has conducted an analysis of Yemen’s new RTI law using our RTI Rating and found that it scored 102 out of a possible 150 points, which would put Yemen in twenty-first place globally. The law’s strongest features include its broad scope and applicability and its strong promotional regime. At the same time, the law has important weaknesses, including the lack of proper recognition of the human right right to information and the absence of a public interest override.
CLD published an analysis of the draft Somali Communications Act of 2012. The draft, which was prepared by the African Union/United Nations Information Support Team, at the request of the Minister of Information, Posts and Telecommunications, provides only a very framework set of rules for broadcasting, focusing instead largely on telecommunications. We understand that the idea is to adopt a full broadcasting law later on.
The Government of Myanmar has made a strong public commitment to undertake a programme of democratisation, including through creating an environment in which freedom of expression is respected. As first steps, the Government is planning to adopt new press and broadcasting laws.
To provide expertise on relevant international standards as well as better national practice, International Media Support (IMS) and the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) organised two one-day workshops in Myanmar, one on broadcast regulation in the new capital, Naypyidaw, on 23 April 2012, and another on print media regulation in Yangon on 25 April.
CLD and AJI held a workshop in Jakarta as part of a project which has trained local groups working in different sectors to make requests for information. The project has created a significant database of requests for information, made to different public bodies and focusing on different issues. A study of their experience was launched at the workshop, where a number of structural problems with the way public bodies in Indonesia process requests for information were identified. The workshop highlighted a number of key recommendations for improving the performance of public bodies in terms of providing information.
The Centre for Law and Democracy published a major Report examining the Internet from the perspective of human rights. It analyses the critical role that the Internet plays in the actualisation of fundamental human rights, particularly the right to freedom of expression, and concludes that there is a human right of access to the Internet. The Report also examines the implications of the right to freedom of expression in terms of regulation of the Internet.
This study, conducted using the RTI-Rating, found significant differences between the overall strengths of the provincial laws, while concluding that all four had deficiencies. The province of British Columbia topped the rankings, scoring 97 points out of a possible 150, while Alberta came in last, with 80 points. CLD plans to apply the RTI Rating to all 14 Canadian jurisdictions – the federal level, the ten provinces and the three territories, all of which have adopted right to information laws – in order to provide a comprehensive picture of the situation in the country.
CLD published a comparative report on international and comparative constitutional guarantees of the right to information. The report, Entrenching RTI: An Analysis of Constitutional Protections of the Right to Information, is part of CLD’s ongoing work to support right to information reform in Egypt. At the same time, the standards outlined in the report are relevant to any country undergoing constitutional reform in this area.
As part of its ongoing work to strengthen Indonesia’s democratic institutions, CLD published a comparative analysis of the rules relating to paid political advertising, with a specific focus on elections, Regulation of Paid Political Advertising: A Survey. The analysis was compiled at the behest of members of Indonesia’s Press Council, which is faced with the issue of how to ensure democratic media participation in elections.
The International Media Mission (IMM) to Nepal has prepared detailed comments on the constitutional proposals on freedom of expression, media freedom and the right to information, prepared by the Constituent Assembly. The comments, prepared by Toby Mendel of the Centre for Law and Democracy on behalf of the IMM, highlight the positive nature of the proposals, while also identifying shortcomings, in particular their failure to sufficiently limit the scope of permissible restrictions on these rights. By letter of 26 March 2012, the comments have been sent to a number of key stakeholders in Nepal, including the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, leaders of the main political parties, and the Chair and key members of the Constituent Assembly.
The Centre for Law and Democracy launched a detailed comparative Study on the regulation of broadcasting to protect children at a workshop organised by UNESCO and the Brazilian Ministry of Justice. The Study analyses international standards in this area and compares the practice of six democracies with the system in place in Brazil. It concludes that the Brazilian system is largely in line with international standards. Two problem areas are the regulatory role played by the Ministry of Justice, a government body, and the undue complexity of the system.
Right to information laws in Africa and the Americas are falling below the standards set by regional human rights bodies, while in Europe the standards themselves are weaker than the better right to information laws, according to a new analysis.
A recent analysis by CLD of a draft right to information law for Egypt, prepared at the request of the group of civil society actors who developed the draft law, concludes that it largely reflects international standards, scoring 129 out of a possible total of 150 on our RTI Rating. The draft is particularly strong in terms of its wide scope, progressive requesting procedures, narrow regime of exceptions and extensive promotional measures. At the same time, the CLD analysis points to a number of ways in which the draft could still be improved, including a number of areas where clarification is needed, imposing overall time limits, say of 20 years, on exceptions and further bolstering the independence of the Information Commissioner.
As part of an ongoing programme of cooperation between CLD and Indonesian partners, on March 5 CLD and the Indonesian Center for Environmental Law hosted a conference on the right to information. The conference featured the launch of two major publications, as well as presentations by the former Hungarian Information Commissioner and by representatives from the Indonesian Central Information Commission, the Indonesian National Police Headquarters, the Indonesian Supreme Court and the Indonesian Presidential Task Force.
Nepal is currently at an important stage in its democratic development, as a nation struggling with constitutional crises and slow progress in terms of promoting freedom of expression. In support of this development, the International Media Mission visiting Nepal issued a Joint Statement, addressing key law and policy issues including strengthening the constitution and limiting the scope of classification of information. The Centre for Law and Democracy will be involved in several of the follow-up actions, including efforts to introduce changes to the proposed draft constitutional provisions on freedom of expression, of information and of the media.
Letter to the General Secretary of the Council of Europe Regarding Press Freedom and Anti-Terrorism Laws, 8 February 2012
This letter points out that, although in May 2009 the Council of Europe Ministers committed to reviewing their national anti-terrorism legislation and/or practice to ensure that any impact on the right to freedom of expression and information is consistent with Council of Europe standards, no country has yet done so. It asks that Press Freedom and Anti-Terrorism Laws and the follow-up of the Reykjavik Declaration should continue to be an agenda item for the CDMSI and should be put on the agenda of the 2013 Belgrade Ministerial Conference.
The Centre for Law and Democracy has published its analysis of the draft Kenyan Freedom of Information Bill. The draft Bill has a number of strengths, including its wide scope, the narrow regime of exceptions and the establishment of an independent and powerful oversight body. A number of CLD’s recommendations are fairly technical in nature, and should be relatively uncontroversial to implement. It is hoped that the current process will finally bring to fruition the long-standing campaign for right to information legislation in Kenya.
The Centre for Law and Democracy is very pleased to note that the Burmese government has just announced that it is freeing 691 prisoners in a general amnesty, including a large number of high profile dissidents. Included among the 691 are five video journalists – Sithu Zeya, U Zeya, Hla Hla Win, Ngwe Soe Lin, Win Maw – who were arrested for reporting for the Democratic Voice of Burma. CLD issued a detailed report on the legal flaws in the cases against these five, as part of the “Free Burma VJ” campaign.
A report by CLD, Openness Policies of the International Financial Institutions: Failing to Make the Grade with Exceptions, examines how exceptions for internal deliberations and third-party commercial information are interpreted overly broadly by IFIs. CLD produced the report as a member of the Global Transparency Initiative (GTI).
CLD was one of a group of organisations that issued a joint press release calling for the Cambodian government to either abandon or heavily revise its proposed NGO law.
Cambodia’s government has issued another draft of the their proposed NGO law. But while some improvements have been made, the problems at the heart of the law remain. CLD and LRWC have drafted an open letter to senior officials in Cambodia’s government offering substantive critiques of the latest version of the NGO law. We hope its recipients in the Cambodian government will take heed of these problems before the proposal is passed into law.
CLD and Yayasan SET hosted an international conference in Jakarta which called on the Indonesian government to drop its long-standing initiative to adopt a secrecy law. In the one-day meeting, several speakers noted that Law No. 14 of 2008 on Public Information Disclosure already provided sufficient protection to legitimate confidentiality interests.
The Open Government Partnership, a global transparency initiative jointly sponsored by US President Obama and Brazilian President Rousseff, must significantly improve its internal access to information policy to meet the standards it is advancing according to an analysis by CLD and Access Info Europe. Two months after its launch in September 2011, when 46 countries pledged to work towards greater openness, the OGP is struggling with its own transparency rules according to the expert analysis submitted as part of a one-month public consultation.
Having previously commented on the need for the Cambodian government to reconsider passage of their draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations, the Centre for Law and Democracy welcomed news that the Ministry of the Interior is inviting representatives of civil society to present comments on its newest (fourth) draft of the Law. CLD, together with Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC), took advantage of this consultation to draft a second open letter to the Cambodian government containing a set of recommendations which we hope will be incorporated into the final version of the Law.
The Centre for Law and Democracy published an analysis of a draft Sri Lankan Freedom of Information Act. The draft Act was prepared by UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya, an opposition Member of Parliament. Mr. Jayasuriya has been trying for some time, so far without success, to have this Bill introduced into Parliament. Although the draft Act is unlikely to move forward, it has generated important debate in Sri Lanka about this key human rights issue and is being discussed at a National Seminar on the right to information on 18 November 2011.
The Centre for Law and Democracy and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada have co-authored an open letter to the Cambodian government urging them to reconsider passage of their draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations. The letter points out that the law in its current form violates international standards and serves to undermine the fundamental right of freedom of association. By imposing unduly broad and onerous requirements on all NGOs, the law has serious potential for abuse and is a particularly troubling development within the context of recent reports of administrative and judicial harassment of government critics in Cambodia.
The Centre for Law and Democracy and the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe brought together a range of groups working on different issues in Bvumba, Zimbabwe, to discuss a broad-based campaign on the right to information. The groups – working on issues such as HIV-AIDs, the disabled, media freedom, faith-based groups and economic rights – agreed to work together to build a strong network of support for law reform in this area.
The Centre for Law and Democracy has published its analysis of a draft Afghan Access to Information Law. The draft Law was created from two previous drafts, one prepared by civil society and one by government. The aim is to present a consensus version in the hope that this will help ensure that it becomes a legislative priority.
The Centre for Law and Democracy released a Commentary on the Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet, providing a detailed analysis of the implications of a range of fundamental human rights for the Internet. The Charter itself was prepared by the Internet Rights and Principles Coalition, which in turn arose out of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), a tri-partite gathering bringing together civil society, governments and the commercial sector to discuss regulatory issues relating to the Internet. The Commentary reviews the implications of a wide range of human rights for the Internet, including rights of systematic relevance, such as non-discrimination, freedom of expression and privacy, and more thematic rights, such as the rights to education, culture and work.
Centre for Law and Democracy conducted a legal analysis of the case against five Democratic Voice of Burma video-journalists currently imprisoned in Burma. The analysis found widespread abuses of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom from torture. The violations result from both the Burmese government’s abusive application of laws that restrict freedom of expression, and their capricious application of broader legislation to target political opponents.
The largest global monitoring of the right of access to information in practice, the Ask Your Government! 6 Question Campaign, has found widespread violations of the right to information with only 1 in 4 requests resulting in provision of full information. 480 requests for budget information were submitted in 80 countries by a global network of civil society organisations. The results were presented in Ottawa during at the 7th International Conference of Information Commissioners.
On International Right to Know Day CLD, in partnership with Access Info Europe, launched the first detailed analysis of the legal framework for the right to information (RTI) in 89 countries around the world. The RTI Rating is based on 61 Indicators drawn from a wide range of international standards on the right to information, feedback from an international Advisory Council of renowned experts on the right to information and comparative study of numerous right to information and related laws from around the world.
Comments on Model African Access to Information Law, 7 September 2011
The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa is preparing a Model Law for AU Member States on Access to Information, in partnership with the Centre for Human Rights at the University of Pretoria. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is asking for feedback on the draft Model Law and CLD, in partnership with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), has prepared a detailed set of Comments on it.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) is currently reviewing its 2005 access to information policy. As part of the process of consultation, the Bank posted a new draft policy document, the African Development Bank Group Policy on Disclosure and Access to Information, on its website in June 2011. The Global Transparency Initiative (GTI), a global network of civil society organisations advocating for greater transparency at the international financial institutions, of which CLD is a member, has submitted a set of Comments on the draft Policy.
The Kazakh Parliament (the Mazhilis) is working on developing a right to information law, after years of advocacy by civil society groups. The current draft has been published for comment and will be reviewed by the government and Parliament in 2012. The Centre for Law and Democracy has issued a set of Comments on the latest draft, with a view to trying to ensure that the final version which is adopted is more fully in line with international standards in this area.
CLD and AJI completed three training sessions for journalists and civil society organisations in Jakarta, Surabaya and Lampung. The training aimed at building civil society demand for information under the Indonesian right to information law, which came into force in 2010. It is part of a wider programme on openness that CLD is conducting with a number of partners in Indonesia. The Participants’ Manual which CLD and AJI prepared for the training will now be updated and finalised.
Letter to Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland and others on the commitments made at the Reykjavik Ministerial Conference, 10 June 2011
The Centre for Law and Democracy, along with 35 other human rights, media rights, and right to information organisations, signed the following letter calling on the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to ensure that member states fulfill the pledge made at the Reykjavik Ministerial Conference to review how their anti-terror law are impacting freedom of information and freedom of expression in order to ensure that these fundamental rights are not unduly infringed.
On 1 June 2011, CLD was proud to participate in launching the 11th annual Joint Declaration by the four specialised mandates of the UN, OAS, OSCE and African Commission tasked with promoting and protecting freedom of expression. The strongly worded Declaration, prepared with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy and ARTICLE 19, notes that many States actively seek to control the Internet and that good faith attempts at regulation often work to undermine freedom of expression. The Joint Declaration recognizes access to the internet as a right, and sets out detailed standards regarding freedom of expression and the Internet. CLD hopes that this statement will encourage states to take concrete measures to promote and protect universal access to the Internet.
A Journalist Protection Law, prepared by the Iraqi Syndicate of Journalists and endorsed by the government of Iraq, has been laid before the Iraqi Parliament for its consideration. A Note on the draft Law prepared by CLD highlights the important protections for journalists included in the draft Law. But the draft also defines a journalist as a member of the statutory Syndicate of Journalists, the same body which drafted the law, and grants a number of powers exclusively to the Syndicate.
One of the first priorities of the new Tunisian High Commission for the Realisation of the Objectives of the Revolution and Democratic Transition has been to prepare a new press law to replace the repressive 1975 law that has been used for over 30 years as a mechanism of control. Unfortunately, despite its name, the draft Press Law released by the Commission late last month fails to deliver on the goals of the revolution, according to a Comment analysing its provisions, published today by CLD.
UPDATE: The Tunisian government has since published a new draft, available in Arabic here
Letter to the Cambodian Prime Minister and others on the Draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations, 8 April 2011
A joint letter with Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada highlighting some concerns with the draft Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations, and calling for the authorities to consider making some changes to the draft so as to bring it into line with international standards.
In January 2011, the Mongolian Ministry of Justice submitted to Parliament a Draft Law of Mongolia on Information Transparency and Freedom of Information. This is the latest development relating to ongoing discussions around adopting a right to information (RTI) law that have been taking place in Mongolia for many years now. The draft Law has a number of both strengths and weaknesses, which CLD has highlighted in a new Comment it published today.
CLD has prepared a Note detailing its recommendations for draft General Comment No. 34 prepared by the UN Human Rights Committee. The draft Comment elaborates on Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Once adopted, the new General Comment will replace a Comment on Article 19, adopted by the Committee in 1983. The Committee published the draft Comment in November 2010 as part of a process of public consultation.
This press release describes the workshop held by CLD and ATIN, as members of GTI, to facilitate a dialogue between civil society and Asian Development Bank (ADB) representatives on further measures needed to bring the draft ADB information disclosure policy fully into line with international standards. It also announces the publication by the GTI of the document Proposed Amendments, outlining the specific changes recommended to achieve the above.
A press release announcing Comments by CLD on the draft Spanish Law on Transparency and Citizen Access to Public Information. The draft Law was leaked to the press in August 2010 but has still not been officially released and it is not clear when the Spanish government will start formal consultations on this issue.
A press release announcing comments by the Global Transparency Initiative, drafted by CLD and the Philippine Access to Information Network, on the second draft by the ADB of its Public Communications Policy. The new policy is expected to be adopted in March or April of 2010.
An open letter from a number of organisations noting that the Legislative Assembly motion to suspend a journalist and calling for his prosecution, along with that of his newspaper, was a breach of the right to freedom of expression and calling on the Speaker to repeal the motion.
This press release announces the release by CLD of its analysis of the Radio and Television Corporation of Slovenia Act. The Act was passed on 20 October 2010 and was due to be considered at a national referendum on 12 December 2010.
A joint letter from organisations participating in the Six Question Campaign highlighting the importance of budget openness to achievement of the MDGs and calling on the MDG Summit to adopt principles on budget transparency.
Joint Statement by the UNCAC Civil Society Coalition and Transparency International protesting the detention of Algerian anti-corruption activist, Dr. Djilali Hadjadj.
Joint Statement on the need for the South African government to fundamentally revise the Protection of Information Bill (the Secrecy Bill) to bring it into line with the constitution.
A letter from the Global Transparency Initiative welcoming indications that it was about to engage in a review of its 2005 Disclosure Policy.
Statement to African Heads of State and Government: Access to Information Central to Improving Maternal, Child and Infant Development in Africa, 15 July 2010
Joint Statement on the need for African countries to adopt national access to information laws as well as regional statements on access to information as part of the strategy to ensure maternal, infant and child health in Africa.
Letter to Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President, Hon. Juan Ponce Enrile, President of the Senate, and Hon. Prospero Nograles, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Republic of the Philippines, 23 May 2010
An open letter urging the addressees to do all within their power to ensure the passage of the Philippine Freedom of Information Act before the Congress was dissolved.
An open letter to all Bermuda MPs highlighting problems with the Media Council Bill and asking them not to adopt this legislation.
A letter from the Global Transparency Initiative welcoming the review by the IDB of its Information Disclosure Policy, highlighting problems with the existing policy and pointing the way towards reform.
Joint Statement about the new opportunities, but also threats, brought about by the April overthrow of the Kyrgyz government and the installation of a new government
A letter was about the barring of Mr. Yahia Shukkeir, a well-known journalist and media freedom advocate, from entering the Jordan Media Institute, based on the fact that Mr. Shukkeir had, without prior authorisation, published articles in the media.
Letter to President Rajapakse about allegations that State intelligence units had been compiling information about human rights activists and rating them as security risks, based on their human rights work.