Centre for Law and Democracy Logo
 

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) are today launching 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. This brand-new course on access to information is aimed at both requesters (demand-side) and information providers (supply-side) and covers a wide range of both conceptual and practical issues relating to Access to Information (ATI).

The right to information is an important human right and a democratic need. When citizens exercise their right to access public information they are able to make reasoned choices about their daily lives. In order to guarantee the right to know, it should be protected by law and these laws need to be implemented.

UNESCO and the Centre for Law and Democracy developed this self-paced online course on access to information Laws and Policies and how to implement them. When completing the 8-module course, which should take about six hours, professionals, institutions, governments and citizens can better work together to fulfil their aspiration of building the fair and just knowledge society of tomorrow. Upon finishing the course, participants will also receive a formal certification of completion.

“After completing this course, participants should have a strong understanding of all of the key access to information concepts and tools” said Toby Mendel, Centre for Law and Democracy’s Executive Director. “Designed to be engaging for both seasoned professionals and newcomers to the issue, this course incorporates a wide range of learning tools and approaches”.

The eight modules cover international standards on access to information, development and benefits of access to information, principles of access to information legislation, proactive disclosure, reactive disclosure, exceptions, oversight and implementation of access to information laws. To access the course please go to the dedicated website.

According to UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, Tawfik Jelassi, “the course is an important step in building the capacity of a range of stakeholders to ensure public access to information and protecting fundamental freedoms in accordance with national legislation and international agreements”.

Access to Information is an essential tool to strengthen citizen trust and participation. It also gives citizens the means to access justice to claim what is rightfully theirs. This training initiative is part of UNESCO’s initiatives to promote the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicator 16 on Access to Information. The General Assembly of the United Nations appointed UNESCO in September 2015 as the custodian UN agency for global monitoring of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicator 16.10.2: the “number of countries that adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information”.

The initiative is supported by the Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists and the International Programme for the Development of Communication.

****

Link to the online course on Access to Information.

 

Press Contact

Toby Mendel                                    Jaco Du Toit
Executive Director                            Chief of Universal Access to Information Section
Centre for Law and Democracy       Communication and Information Sector, UNESCO
toby@law-democracy.org               j.dutoit@unesco.org
+1 902 431-3686                             +33 145681006

Posted in News | Comments Off on UNESCO and Centre for Law and Democracy Launch Free Online Course on Access to Information Laws and Policies

Maldives: Amend Provision in the Evidence Act that Compels Journalists to Reveal Sources

25 July 2022.

The undersigned 10 organizations call 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.

Article 136 of the new law uses vague and overbroad terms such as “acts of terrorism” and “national security related crimes” when identifying instances where journalists can be compelled to disclose their sources. These overly broad categories, which are not defined, are deeply concerning due to the Maldives’ long history of stifling peaceful dissent and muzzling press freedom using “acts of terrorism” and “national security related crimes” as an excuse to arbitrarily arrest, jail and even torture political dissidents, journalists, and human rights defenders and activists.

The Act also mandates courts to decide, on a balance of probabilities, whether to order source disclosure. This clearly fails to respect international standards for restrictions on freedom of expression, which rely on a three-part test requiring, among other things, any restriction to be “necessary”.

Journalists who refuse to disclose a source, after being ordered to do so by the court, can be found in contempt, and face up to three months in jail or be fined.

The Maldivian parliament ignored a comprehensive document listing concerns and recommendations which was provided to the parliament by the Maldives Journalist Association (MJA) and the Maldives Media Council (MMC). The parliament also ignored calls from Transparency Maldives, International Federation of Journalists, Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists and other organizations that urged the authorities to uphold their international human rights obligations and remove provisions that put impermissible restrictions on the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and press freedom.

The signatories of this statement also note that President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih ignored a petition by 158 Maldivian journalists calling on him to refuse to sign the bill into law.

The current provisions – which will become enforceable within six months – are a grave threat to press freedom and freedom of expression in the Maldives. It will have a dramatic impact on the work of journalists including the loss of access to important sources who might refuse to talk to journalists out of fear of being exposed in a court of law. This will have a chilling effect on the work of journalists investigating and reporting on human rights violations, corruption, and abuse of power by state authorities.

We call on the authorities to repeal or amend the provision of the Evidence Act in line with international human rights law and standards and in consultation with international and local experts including journalists, editors, and human rights activists, before it comes into force.

This is an opportunity for the Maldivian government and parliament to demonstrate their commitment to human rights and rule of law by ensuring that the progress made with regard to promotion and protection of freedom of expression and press freedom in the Maldives is not reversed.

Amnesty International
Centre for Law and Democracy
CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
Committee to Protect Journalists
Human Rights Watch
International Federation of Journalists
Maldives Journalist Association
Maldives Editors Guild
Reporters Without Borders
Transparency Maldives

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel                                                        
Executive Director                                               
Centre for Law and Democracy                      
toby@law-democracy.org                                
+1 902 431-3686                                    
www.law-democracy.org                                 
twitter: @law_democracy 

Posted in News | Comments Off on Maldives: Amend Provision in the Evidence Act that Compels Journalists to Reveal Sources

Invitation: Webinar on Creating a Media Lawyers’ Network

14 July 2022.

You are invited to our webinar on 20 July, Introduction to Creating a Media Lawyers’ Network. This webinar provides a general introduction to the concept of a media lawyers’ network, steps which can be taken to establish one and resources developed by CLD to support the formation of such networks. An agenda for the webinar is available here

Register at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_bWdW96JPRdmfBcb9sj0VvA and Learn more about our project on creating media lawyers’ networks at https://www.law-democracy.org/live/projects/media-lawyers-networks/.

Posted in News | Comments Off on Invitation: Webinar on Creating a Media Lawyers’ Network

Submission on Freedom of Expression in Times of Armed Conflict

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.

The importance of freedom of expression is perhaps greater during armed conflicts than ever, and yet States often try to take advantage of the situation to further limit this right ”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “This Submission tries to set out some of the key freedom of expression principles that apply during armed conflicts”.

CLD’s Submissions focus on the following areas:

    • The prohibition on propaganda for war.
    • Legal protections for journalists working in conflict zones.
    • Emergency derogations from freedom of expression obligations.
    • The responsibilities of social media companies during armed conflict in relation to:
      • Measures, such as content moderation and deprioritisation, for harmful speech.
      • Decisions to deplatform.
      • Transparency issues.

In addition to making a number of direct recommendations for States and social media platforms, CLD’s Submission lists several areas where further exploration by the Special Rapporteur would be useful, given the novelty of this issue.

The Submission is available here.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel                                                           
Executive Director                                               
Centre for Law and Democracy                      
toby@law-democracy.org                                
+1 902 431-3686                                    
www.law-democracy.org                                 
twitter: @law_democracy 

Posted in News | Comments Off on Submission on Freedom of Expression in Times of Armed Conflict

Guide on Using International Law on Freedom of Expression in Domestic Courts

 7 July 2022.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is today releasing 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.

“In many countries, international law can be invoked directly before national courts” said Toby Mendel, CLD’s Executive Director. “Even where this is not the case, international law can provide a rich source of inspiration for interpreting domestic constitutional protections for freedom of expression and offer important lessons for resolving thorny freedom of expression issues.”

This Guide is part of CLD’s Promoting the Establishment of Networks of Media Lawyers Globally project, funded by the Global Media Defence Fund run by UNESCO and currently in its second phase. The project provides resources and support for lawyers seeking to establish national level media lawyers’ networks. To learn more, see our Brochure describing the project and our Media Lawyers’ Networks project information page.

We also invite lawyers and others who are interested in learning more about how to create a national media lawyers’ network to join our webinar on the topic, Introduction to Creating a Media Lawyers’ Network, on 20 July 2022 at 14:00 CET (Central European Time). You can register for this webinar here.

The Guide is available in English, Spanish and French.

For further information about the project and upcoming webinar, please contact:

Laura Notess
Senior Legal Officer
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: laura@law-democracy.org
+1 782 234 4471
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

Posted in News | Comments Off on Guide on Using International Law on Freedom of Expression in Domestic Courts

Guide for Journalists on Documenting International Crimes

5 July 2022 – for immediate release

The Centre for Law and Democracy and News Media Europe are thrilled to launch 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. News professionals are often the first observers to arrive at international crime scenes and may be in a position to document them at an early stage, which is invaluable since evidence often degrades with time.

This Guide aims to help journalists take simple steps to increase the reliability of the information they collect, thereby enhancing the chance that a court will accept it as evidence”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD.

Iacob Gammeltoft, Policy Manager at News Media Europe, added: “In these extraordinary times, this resource is designed to support journalists and news organisations investigating international crimes and to help them understand what kind of impact they can have.”

The role of news professionals is first and foremost to inform the public, and not to collect and analyse evidence on behalf of public authorities. At the same time, news organisations are expressing a growing interest in understanding the requirements for information to be admissible as evidence in court, so as to help to hold criminal actors to account.

The Guide provides advice about several legal issues in a way that is accessible to non-legal experts, including: 

    • Privileges regarding the protection of confidential sources and not having to testify
    • What constitutes an international crime
    • Different types of evidence and basic rules regarding admissibility of evidence
    • How to gather information in a way that promotes its legal reliability and tips on doing this
    • Interviewing victims and witnesses

The Guide also includes a section on Resources with links to various written documents, apps and civil society organisations which can provide support.

The Guide is available in English here, Burmese here and Russian here. Ukrainian translation to follow.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel                                                   Iacob Gammeltoft
Executive Director                                           Policy Manager
Centre for Law and Democracy                      News Media Europe
toby@law-democracy.org                               iacob.gammeltoft@newsmediaeurope.eu
+1 902 431-3688                                            +32(0)472 536703
www.law-democracy.org                                 www.newsmediaeurope.eu
twitter: @law_democracy

Posted in News | Comments Off on Guide for Journalists on Documenting International Crimes

Myanmar: Summary of the Right to a Public Trial

30 May 2022.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has today 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. The military regime running Myanmar has reportedly established courts inside various prisons, including Insein Prison, to try certain cases deemed by the regime to be politically sensitive. While publicly available information is limited, in addition to the public being prevented from witnessing these cases, legal counsel have reportedly faced barriers representing their clients, including difficulties obtaining sufficient information on the proceedings and being subjected to threats and intimidation.

The right to a public trial allows for scrutiny of judicial proceedings and supports public confidence in the administration of justice”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director, CLD. “The closure of criminal trials to the public should be ordered only in highly exceptional circumstances, based on strong justification, which does not appear to be the case with most of the secret trials in Myanmar.

The briefing note sets out the limited circumstances in which criminal trials may be closed to the public including, in the context of national security, to protect the identity of witnesses who may be at risk or to protect the confidentiality of highly sensitive national security information, while noting that in both cases alternative measures for protecting these interests should be considered. It also indicates that where criminal trials are held in unconventional venues, such as prisons, authorities should make appropriate arrangements to facilitate public access to them.

The briefing note is available in English and Burmese.

For further information, please contact:

Raphael Vagliano
Legal Officer
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: raphael@law-democracy.org
Phone: (+1) 514-506-0948
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

Posted in News | Comments Off on Myanmar: Summary of the Right to a Public Trial

2022 Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Gender Justice

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 2022 Joint Declaration is really innovative inasmuch as it is the first to address the importance of gender justice in the area of freedom of expression”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “It highlights the fact that barriers to equality are not only a problem in their own right but also for the way they undermine the effective exercise of freedom of expression by women, including in terms of access to information, to the detriment of society as a whole.

Some of the many specific standards in the Joint Declaration include the following:

    • Eliminating discrimination against women and gender non-conforming people requires a “whole of society” approach whereby States, the private sector and civil society work together to remove barriers and to put in place positive measures to promote equality.
    • Special measures are needed to promote equal access to information, including to address the gender digital divide and relative paucity of gender-disaggregated data.
    • Gender-specific restrictions on freedom of expression, including where they are justified by paternalistic or traditional notions of “public morals”, should be removed.
    • States should take specific steps to eliminate gender-based violence, which is increasingly undermining equality in terms of freedom of expression.
    • The responsibility of companies to exercise human rights due diligence includes a responsibility on the part of Internet intermediaries to take effective steps in a number of areas to increase women’s freedom of expression online.

The Joint Declaration is available in:

English
French
Spanish

For further information, please contact:

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on 2022 Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Gender Justice

Myanmar: Note on New Draft Cyber Security Law

2 May 2022.

The military regime running Myanmar first proposed a draft Cyber Security Law in February 2021, but strong criticism from a number of companies and organisations, including the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), led to the temporary withdrawal of those proposals. In January 2022, however, the regime promulgated a new version of the draft Law which retains all of the repressive elements of the original version and adds further restrictions. CLD is today releasing its Note on the New Draft Cyber Security Law, providing a detailed assessment of the impact of the changes to the draft Law and how they breach international human rights guarantees.

“The original version of this draft Law was already very repressive, but these amendments make it much worse,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “The changes are carefully tailored to give the military regime power to control those aspects of digital and civil space where it feels threatened, such as the use of VPNs and reliance on cryptocurrencies to get around its increasingly repressive control measures.”

Some of the key points made by CLD in the Note were:

    • The regulatory powers of institutions which are not independent of the military regime and which were already too extensive have been further expanded.
    • The requirement to get permission from the Ministry to use a VPN, not to mention the minimum sanction of one year’s imprisonment for breach, is completely illegitimate.
    • The significant expansion of control over financial services, including the explicit ban on the use of cryptocurrencies, represents, in conjunction with other measures, a clear breach of the right to freedom of association and an attempt to limit further civic space.
    • The power of military-controlled (i.e. non-independent) bodies to impose harsh administrative sanctions on a range of actors is not legitimate, and this is also true of the provision for mandatory minimum imprisonment sentences for numerous offences.

CLD recommends that the military regime stop trying to introduce this illegitimate law, especially given the undemocratic approach it has been taking. At such time as democracy returns to Myanmar, proper consultations could be held regarding what form of cyber security law might be needed.

CLD’s Analysis of the Amendments is available here in English and here in Burmese.

For further information, please contact:

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on Myanmar: Note on New Draft Cyber Security Law

Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada: Courts Impose Excessive Limits on Power of Information Commissioner to Review Legal Documents

8 April 2022.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) expresses deep disappointment in the recent decision of the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court to deny the province’s information commissioner the authority to review documents which the government claims are protected by solicitor client privilege. This effectively deprives the commissioner of the power to review such claims so that the only real recourse available to requesters where such claims are made is to go to court.

When the provincial Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act was adopted in 2015, the government made it clear that the intention was to enable the commissioner to review all documents claimed to be exempt, including claims based on solicitor client privilege. Historically, this exception has often been abused, for example when officials rely on it when lawyers are simply present or included on communications.

“It is surprising that the Supreme Court would interpret the Act in this fashion when this was clearly not the legislative intent behind it, which seems to reflect an overly secretive approach within the legal profession” said Toby Mendel, CLD’s Executive Director. “Hopefully this decision will get overturned on appeal since, otherwise, the only option will be to amend the Act.”

Newfoundland and Labrador has the strongest right to information law in Canada, as shown by CLD’s RTI Rating. This is the result of a comprehensive reform of the law in 2015. At the time, the government made a clear commitment to craft a strong law that would empower transparency in the province. The Supreme Court’s decision, along with the government’s reliance on solicitor-client privilege to avoid oversight, represents an unfortunate backsliding on government transparency in the province.

For further information, please contact:

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada: Courts Impose Excessive Limits on Power of Information Commissioner to Review Legal Documents

Canada: Submission on British Columbia Right to Information Law

31 March 2022.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has 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 follows an appearance before the Committee by CLD Executive Director, Toby Mendel, on 16 March 2022. Although relatively strong by Canadian standards, the BC law was weakened by amendments which were rushed through in late 2021 and, internationally, would rank in 50th place from among the 135 national laws assessed on the RTI Rating.

“People across Canada were shocked when the BC government rushed through negative amendments to FIPPA last year, at a time when the all-party Special Committee had already started its review of the Act” said Toby Mendel, CLD’s Executive Director. “The Committee now has the opportunity to redress that democratic backsliding by making strong recommendations to improve the Act.”

The CLD Submission makes a number of recommendations of which some of the more important are:

    • The Committee should make clear its rejection of both the process and substance of the 2021 amendments.
    • The scope of FIPPA should be increased substantially to cover all three branches of government and all bodies which are owned, controlled or substantially funded by government or which undertake public functions.
    • There should be overall limits to the extensions to the time for responding to requests and no fees should be payable for making requests or time spent to respond to requests.
    • The exceptions should be comprehensively reviewed and any that do not protect legitimate interests or include a harm test should be repealed or amended.

CLD’s Submission is available here.

For further information, please contact:

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on Canada: Submission on British Columbia Right to Information Law

Myanmar Resource Page

28 March 2022.

In February 2021, Myanmar’s military overthrew the democratically elected government in a coup. Since then, they have conducted a highly repressive and frequently violent campaign against democracy advocates and human rights defenders. Independent media now operate largely underground as the regime has legally closed and harassed them and arrested journalists.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has 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 coup, as well as older resources which are still relevant or useful. Most publications are available in both English and Burmese.

We will regularly update this page as we develop new resources on Myanmar. The most recent addition is a Guide summarising international standards relating to the right to information. Other publications include in-depth analyses of amendments made by the military regime to the Penal Code and the Broadcasting Law, as well as shorter explanatory briefing notes on key international law issues.

CLD has been engaged in law reform and media freedom work in Myanmar for ten years. Accordingly, we have a number of resources analysing older Myanmar laws governing freedom of expression or the media, or which elaborate on international standards on freedom of expression. The page also links to these older publications.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431 3686
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

Posted in News | Comments Off on Myanmar Resource Page

Puerto Rico: Online Webinar on Access to Information and the SDGs

15 March 2022.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is collaborating 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 include 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.

“CLD prepared a detailed analysis of the legal framework for the right to information in Puerto Rico in 2020, including an assessment based on CLD’s RTI Rating, which showed that the framework was weak, earning only 73 points out of a possible total of 150,” said Toby Mendel, CLD’s Executive Director. “We are pleased to see that Puerto Rico’s executive and legislative branches are open to review both the Transparency Law and Open Data Law adopted in 2019 and we encourage them to take full advantage of this opportunity to bring the rules into line with international standards.”

As part of these events, Red de Transparencia and United Nations Association-USA-Puerto Rico Chapter is hosting a webinar today at 3pm Puerto Rican time/EST on Transparency and Access to Information for the Development of Solid Institutions: How can They Help us Achieve Sustainable Development Goals? This will look at how to assess progress in Puerto Rico on SDG Indicator 16.10.2, on adoption and implementation of access to information legislation, as well as the importance of progress on this indicator for achieving the other SDGs.

At 6pm Mendel will also deliver a master class at the University of Puerto Rico Graduate School of Public Administration titled An Open Government is Possible: Puerto Rico in the Global Context.

Through their work in the areas of research, strategic litigation and community outreach, power literacy and organising, Espacios Abiertos and the members of the Red de Transparencia pave the way towards a more open, transparent, accountable, democratic society in Puerto Rico, with increased justice and equity for its citizens.  “We are delighted to have the opportunity to welcome Dr. Mendel to Puerto Rico and to host an open conversation with local stakeholders on this very important subject. We firmly believe that transparency in government is of utmost importance for an informed and engaged society and as the antidote to the corruption that has weakened the people’s trust in its public institutions,” said Cecille Blondet-Passalacqua, Esq., EA’s Executive Director.

The flyer for this event is available here and you can register at this hyperlink.

A Spanish version of this press release is available here.

For further information, please contact:

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

Maricelis Rivera
Communications Advisor
Espacios Abiertos
maricelisrivera@accessallservices.com
+17876152876
www.espaciosabiertos.org
twitter: @EApuertoricos

Posted in News | Comments Off on Puerto Rico: Online Webinar on Access to Information and the SDGs

Colombia: Amicus Brief Challenging Rules Allowing Zero Rating

24 February 2022.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has 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.

“Zero-rating schemes are popular in some countries but are rarely subjected to sufficient scrutiny in terms of their compatibility with human rights law, including States’ obligation to promote universal access to the full Internet in a manner that respects net neutrality” said Toby Mendel, CLD’s Executive Director. “The Constitutional Court has an important opportunity in this case to recognise this obligation and to strike down a provision which enables zero-rating schemes without subjecting them to proper conditions and oversight.”

Article 56(1) of Colombia’s Law 1450 of 2011 enables zero-rating schemes without setting conditions on their use and regardless of their impact on access to the Internet. CLD’s brief argues that such schemes are legitimate only if they do not undermine the progressive achievement of universal access to the whole Internet. In the case of Colombia, no due diligence has been conducted to assess the impact of these schemes and no conditions are placed on their use, leaving their operation entirely to the discretion of commercial companies. While zero-rating schemes, if subjected to appropriate conditions, may be appropriate in countries with very low Internet access rates, as Internet access increases such schemes often leave users in “walled gardens” instead of increasing access to the full Internet.

CLD’s amicus curiae brief is available here.

El informe de amicus curiae está disponible en español aquí.

For further information, please contact:

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on Colombia: Amicus Brief Challenging Rules Allowing Zero Rating

Regressive Changes Proposed for El Salvador’s Right to Information Law

14 February 2022.

(A Spanish translation is below)

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. Thus, on CLD’s RTI Rating, which ranks right to information laws globally (rti-rating.org), El Salvador does very well and is in 11th place globally.

“Reforming a right to information law should be an opportunity to strengthen transparency, in consultation with the public and key stakeholders, based on lessons learned,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Instead, the Government of El Salvador has chosen to do the opposite and undermine the right to information in El Salvador.”

Key concerns around the proposed amendments include:

    • Responses to requests for information would no longer need to be provided as soon as possible and the time limit for responding would increase to 20 days. This would cost El Salvador three points on the RTI Rating.
    • The sanctions in the law would apply to everyone instead of just government officials. This could potentially expose civil society groups or journalists to sanctions for reporting on information that has already been leaked by a third party.
    • The ability of the government and other public entities to reclassify information subject to proactive disclosure obligations would expand, so that it could more easily restrict the automatic disclosure to the public of information.
    • There were already problems with the process for selecting members of the access to information oversight body (the Institute for Access to Public Information), in particular in terms of political interference, for example because the president formally appointed all members. However, the amendments would further limit the role of non-governmental actors, including civil society, in nominating candidates.
    • The amendments would limit the circumstances in which a requester can come in person to consult physical copies of information directly.

Our updated RTI Rating of the legal framework for RTI in El Salvador based on these amendments is available here.

For further information, please contact:

Laura Notess
Senior Legal Officer
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: laura@law-democracy.org
+1 782 234-4471
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

**

14 de febrero de 2022

Propuesta de reformas regresivas a la Ley de Acceso a la Información Pública de El Salvador

El Centro para la Democracia y el Derecho (CLD) ve con preocupación las propuestas de reforma a la Ley de Acceso a la Información Pública de El Salvador, ya que, de ser aprobadas, limitarían la transparencia y el derecho de acceso a la información en dicho país. Esta situación es lamentable, dado que la actual ley es robusta e históricamente ha sido un referente regional. En el índice de Derecho de Acceso a la Información del CLD (RTI Rating por sus siglas en inglés), que clasifica las leyes del derecho de acceso a la información a nivel mundial (rti-rating.org), El Salvador tiene una buena ubicación, clasificándose en el puesto 11 a nivel mundial.

“Reformar una ley de derecho a la información pública debería ser una oportunidad para fortalecer la transparencia, en consulta con la ciudadanía y con actores claves, con base en las lecciones aprendidas”, dijo Toby Mendel, Director Ejecutivo del CLD. “En cambio, el Gobierno de El Salvador ha optado por hacer lo contrario y socavar el derecho de acceso a la información en El Salvador”.

Las principales preocupaciones  de las reformas propuestas son:

    • Las respuestas a las solicitudes de información ya no tendrían que entregarse con prontitud, pues  el plazo para responder aumentaría a 20 días. Esto implicaría que El Salvador bajaría tres puntos en el índice RTI.
    • Las sanciones previstas en la ley, se aplicarían a los particulares y no solo a los funcionarios públicos, por el uso de información pública. Esto podría exponer a la sociedad civil o a los periodistas a sanciones por informar sobre información que ya ha sido divulgada por un tercero.
    • Se ampliaría la capacidad del gobierno y otros entes públicos para reclasificar información que es de naturaleza oficiosa, de modo que podría restringir fácilmente la divulgación automática de información al público.
    • Ya había problemas con el proceso de selección de los miembros del organismo garante del acceso a la información (Instituto de Acceso a la Información Pública- IAIP), en particular en lo que respecta a la interferencia política, por ejemplo, porque el presidente nombraba formalmente a todos los miembros. Sin embargo, las reformas limitarían aún más el papel de los actores no gubernamentales, incluida la sociedad civil, en la proposición de candidatos.
    • Las reformas limitarían las circunstancias en las que un solicitante de información puede acudir personalmente a consultar directamente copias físicas de la información.

Nuestro índice RTI actualizado para la clasificación del El Salvador de acuerdo a su marco legal, tomando en cuenta que se aprobaran estas enmiendas está disponible aquí .

Para más información contactar a:

Laura Notess
Senior Legal Officer
Centro para la Democracia y el Derecho
Email: laura@law-democracy.org
+1 782 234-4471
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

Posted in News | Comments Off on Regressive Changes Proposed for El Salvador’s Right to Information Law

Launch of Toolkit for Judges on Freedom of Expression

gavel7 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 launch of this toolkit is a major achievement and the culmination of an important collaborative effort among the four key partners,” said Toby Mendel. “We hope to be able to train judges not only in Jordan but throughout the Arab World using this high-powered resource.”

The toolkit is divided into six main modules, namely: International and National Guarantees of Freedom of Expression, The Legitimate Scope of Criminal and Civil Law Restrictions on the Right to Freedom of Expression, Legal Resolution of Attacks on Freedom of Expression, The Right to Access Public Information, Media Regulation to Promote Free, Independent and Diverse Media, and Regulating Freedom of Expression in the Digital Era. It also has a number of annexes addressing common questions and answers, and containing exercises to support the training and additional resources.

‘’Journalists need a competent and independent judiciary to protect their right to free expression.  The more judges are trained on this topic, the more steps are being taken towards the protection and promotion of the right to freedom of expression. We hope the manual will help judges in translating the theoretical frameworks underpinning the right to freedom of expression into practice,” stated Min Jeong Kim, UNESCO Representative to Jordan.

The key objective of the toolkit is to promote freedom of expression by helping judges integrate international standards on this fundamental human right into their domestic decisions. It builds on work in this area by UNESCO in Latin America and Africa but is specifically tailored to freedom of expression issues that are commonly found in the Arab World.

Integrity and independence are equally important for journalists and judges. Supporting the judicial system in their work with the protection and promotion of the right to freedom of expression is a key activity, including when it comes to combatting impunity for crimes against journalists. It is our hope that this manual will be widely used,” says Jesper Højberg, Executive Director at IMS (International Media Support).

The toolkit is available English here and in Arabic here

For further information, please contact:

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

Posted in News, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Launch of Toolkit for Judges on Freedom of Expression

Are You a Law Student Interested in International Human Rights? Summer Internship Applications Now Open

21 January 2022.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), an international human rights organisation based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, will host up to four interns for the summer of 2022. The position will involve a range of substantive legal work in areas such as freedom of expression, media law, digital rights and access to information.

CLD provides expert legal services on foundational rights for democracy for the support and promotion of these rights around the world. Select recent projects include:

    • Providing training and support to journalists, lawyers, judges and activists in countries around the world on media law and human rights issues.
    • Maintaining a comprehensive rating of the strength of access to information laws globally (rti-rating.org).
    • Providing training and support to journalists, lawyers, judges and activists in different countries on media law and human rights issues.
    • Providing expert input into legal reform processes in different countries, such as in including Vietnam, Samoa and Jordan.
    • Supporting strategic litigation on the human rights issues we focus on.
    • Supporting the development of networks of media lawyers in several countries globally.
    • Maintaining a global ranking of right to information laws (RTI-Rating.org) and a methodology for assessing the quality of implementation of right to information laws (RTI-Evaluation.org).
    • Campaigning against global threats to digital rights, such as mass surveillance, Internet shutdowns and efforts to undermine encryption and digital security.

We ask interns to commit to at least three months full-time work during the months of May to August. We normally ask interns to be based in our office in Halifax, since we believe being with us in-person provides a richer all-round experience for interns. However, given the ongoing pandemic, we will accommodate remote internships if necessitated by travel restrictions or other pandemic-related restrictions. These positions are unpaid and we encourage prospective interns to seek funding from their law schools or other sources.

CLD is known for providing its interns with a rich and varied substantive legal experience. As such, interns will have the opportunity to be directly involved in advancing the cause of human rights, normally in a range of countries, over the summer. For more information on CLD’s work, visit our website at www.law-democracy.org.

Those interested in applying should send a copy of their resume, cover letter and unofficial law school transcripts to laura@law-democracy.org by 15 February 2022. Final candidates may be asked to provide a writing sample.

Successful candidates will have a strong academic record, excellent research skills, the ability to multi-task, and a demonstrated commitment to international law and human rights. Languages and international experience are assets. Applicants should be current law students or recent graduates; on an exceptional basis we will consider candidates without a law background.

CLD is an equal opportunity employer and will not discriminate against any applicant on the basis of characteristics such as age, disability, gender, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation.

Posted in News | Comments Off on Are You a Law Student Interested in International Human Rights? Summer Internship Applications Now Open

Panel Discussion Launch of SDG16 DI’s 2021 Global Report

7 December 2021. Toby Mendel, the Executive Director of Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), will today be speaking 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.

“The pandemic has obstructed both the official and non-official measurement of progress on SDG 16, while disinformation has had a serious negative impact on both,” said Toby Mendel. “The SDG16 DI Global Report provides important insights into both of these issues and how non-official data can deepen and enrich our understanding of where countries are in terms of achieving SDG 16.”

The panel, Impact of the Pandemic on Measuring Progress of SDG16+: Looking Forward, Tackling Obstacles, is being convened by International IDEA, the current coordinator of SDG16 DI. The panel will be moderated by Massimo Tommasoli (International IDEA) and feature Toby Mendel (CLD), Sarah Long (World Justice Project), Haakon Gjerløw (Peace Research Institute Oslo), Ivana Vucinic (Global Forum for Media Development) and Miguel Otaola (International IDEA). Panelists will present the main findings of the Global Report and, in doing so, will help articulate the linkage between SDG 16 and the fight against corruption, respect for human rights and resistance against rising authoritarianism.

To attend the online discussion panel, please register here.

To read the Global Report, click here.

 

For further information, please contact:

 

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on Panel Discussion Launch of SDG16 DI’s 2021 Global Report

Mongolia: Friendship Medal Awarded to the Centre for Law and Democracy’s Executive Director

6 December 2021. Toby Mendel, the Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), will today be 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.

“I feel deeply honoured to receive the Friendship Medal from the Government of Mongolia,” said Toby Mendel. “It has been an immense privilege to work for many years in partnership with the Mongolian Government and civil society colleagues to advance foundational human rights that underpin Mongolian democracy.”

Toby has been engaging in law reform and capacity building work in Mongolia since 2002, first with ARTICLE 19 and then with CLD. This has included legal analyses and drafting support for Mongolian laws and bills, such as the Law on Information Transparency and the Right to Information, adopted in 2011, and various versions of the draft Broadcasting Law. CLD has also undertaken regular missions to the country to hold training workshops, discuss legal reform opportunities with stakeholders and assess the media law landscape. Additionally, CLD has been engaged with Mongolian media law development processes in various external fora, including a 2013 UNESCO-led National Media Conference that assessed the country’s media sector in accordance with internationally accepted media development indicators.

CLD looks forward to continuing the important work of advancing freedom of expression and other key human rights in Mongolia in the years to come.

For further information, please contact:

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

Posted in News, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Mongolia: Friendship Medal Awarded to the Centre for Law and Democracy’s Executive Director

For the Myanmar Press Council, Legitimacy Requires Independence

5 December 2021.

The military regime running Myanmar recently hosted members of the new Myanmar Press Council (MPC) at a much-vaunted ceremony in Nay Pyi Taw. But the new 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. It is meant to serve as an alternative to legal action, such as criminal charges.

“Prior to the February coup, the Myanmar Press Council acted independently to affirm media freedom and to promote media professionalism in Myanmar,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Sadly, due to military interference, it can no longer be relied upon to act as an independent institution.”

International standards call for media to be regulated via a professional, independent oversight body. If a media regulator is established by law, the following principles apply:

    • The entity should be strictly independent from the government and political parties
    • Members should be experts appointed with limited government influence
    • The body should support media freedom

These principles are not respected in the current arrangements regarding the MPC. The new Council’s leadership has strong military ties. The military has also shown it improperly expects the MPC to serve as an enforcer of government messaging. In February, it directed the Council to tell journalists to avoid certain “incorrect words” about the coup.

CLD has prepared a short Note on international standards governing media regulatory bodies and the situation of the Myanmar Press Council. It is available in English and Burmese.

For further information, please contact:

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

Posted in News | Comments Off on For the Myanmar Press Council, Legitimacy Requires Independence