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Launch of Reports on SDG 16.10.2

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). This methodology is specially designed to facilitate parallel reporting by civil society groups. First designed and applied in 2017-18, the current methodology was launched on International Right to Know Day, 28 September 2018.

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) currently taking place at the United Nations in New York. This report provides an overview of the general findings from the ten country reports, summary reports from each country and also, in Annexes, more detailed statistical information from each country.

It is wonderful to see the FOIAnet methodology having been applied in the ten countries and then presented in a spotlight report at the HLPF”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Hopefully we can continue to increase the number of countries where civil society groups are applying this methodology.

The Centre for Law and Democracy applied the FOIAnet methodology in Canada, which is one of the countries reflected in the synthesis report. We also produced a full report on the application of the methodology in Canada. Overall, Canada did well, getting a green grade, although some public authorities did better than others.

The synthesis report is available at: Road to 2030: Access to Information in the Driver’s Seat and the Canadian report is available at: Canada: Civil Society Parallel Assessment of Compliance with Sustainable Development Goal Indicator 16.10.2. The FOIAnet methodology is available at: http://foiadvocates.net/?page_id=11036.

For further information, please contact:

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

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20th Anniversary Joint Declaration by Special Rapporteurs

10 July 2019.

Today, 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.

The fact that Joint Declarations have been issued continuously for 20 years is itself a tremendous achievement”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “This Declaration is special inasmuch as it provides a framework to guide monitoring of future threats to freedom of expression.

The first section, on an enabling environment, focuses on both traditional threats – such as safety, excessive content restrictions, maintaining media diversity and the need for independent, accountable regulators – as well as some more modern ones – such as the dominance of online companies in terms of advertising, the need for States to respect human rights when seeking to influence major online intermediaries, restrictions on encryption and anonymity tools, and the growth in surveillance. The next section, on a free, open and inclusive Internet, looks at issues such as ensuring universal, affordable, quality Internet access, disruptions and shutdowns, network neutrality and State actions that fragment the Internet.

The last section examines the threat of private control over digital communications systems. It calls for independent multi-stakeholder oversight of the application of private content rules, regulatory measures to address business models which foster disinformation and hate speech, company responsibilities to respect human rights, transparency in algorithmic and artificial intelligence moderation of content, and effective measures to address concentration of ownership and abuses of dominant market positions.

The Joint Declaration is available in English and other languages at:

2019 Joint Declaration in Arabic
2019 Joint Declaration in English
2019 Joint Declaration in French
2019 Joint Declaration in 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

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Join CLD at the Open Government Partnership Summit 2019

On 30 May 2019, CLD will lead a panel on “Three Methodologies to Assess the Implementation of SDG Indicator 16.10.2” at the 2019 Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit 2019 in Ottawa, Canada. The session will be from 10:30-11:50 in Room 205 in the Shaw Centre. It will feature a discussion of various methodologies for assessing State progress towards implementating right to information laws.

Further information can be found here.

CLD welcomes all OGP Summit participants to attend the workshop. We look forward to seeing you there!

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Vietnam: New Regulations Improve the Law on Access to Information

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. The Centre for Law and Democracy worked with a local organisation, Towards Transparency, the national contact of Transparency International in Vietnam, to review the Rating. In 2017, the two organisations collaborated in providing inputs into the regulations.

“It is encouraging to see Vietnam improve its legal framework for RTI,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director, CLD.“Hopefully now some effort can be put into implementing the law and then it could perhaps be reviewed in a few years to fill in some gaps and address some weaknesses.

Some of the gains on Vietnam’s RTI Rating score were based on gaps that were addressed through the regulations, while others were based on different laws that had not been taken into account in the original rating, which Towards Transparency brought to CLD’s attention.

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

Anh The Do (Mr.)
Program Officer, Law and Advocacy
Towards Transparency Vietnam
Email: anhdo@towardstransparency.vn
+84 946 503 069
www.towardstransparency.vn

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20 Expert Organisations Urge Myanmar to Fully Guarantee Freedom of Expression in the Constitution

11 April 2019.

Today, CLD joins 19 other expert organisations in a statement calling on Myanmar to protect freedom of expression as it revises the Constitution. The text is as follows, in English and in Burmese:

11 April 2019 — A new parliamentary committee tasked with reviewing Myanmar’s constitution is an opportunity for the government to guarantee the democratic rights to free expression, media freedom, and access to information.

We welcome the government’s creation of the Constitutional Amendment Committee, established to review and propose amendments that will support Myanmar’s transition to democracy.

Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution does not include the guarantees required in a democracy to protect freedom of expression. Those that it does include do not meet relevant international human rights standards. This threatens the transition to and quality of Myanmar’s democracy as can be seen for example in the wide range of laws used to prosecute journalists and human rights defenders.  

We call on the Constitutional Amendment Committee to recommend:

  • • Replacement of the current heavily prescribed guarantee for freedom of expression in Articles 354(a) and 365 with a single article that guarantees the right to freedom of expression in accordance with international standards, so that it fully reflects the requirements of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  • • A new separate article guaranteeing the right to access information held by public authorities.
  • • A new separate article guaranteeing media freedom, which should prohibit prior censorship of the media or licensing of the print media and individual journalists, and should protect journalism as well as the independence of the Myanmar Press Council, Myanmar Broadcasting Council, and any future public service media.
  • • Each guarantee should include only those limitations that are provided by law and are necessary for the respect of the rights or reputations of others, or for the protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals.

We are committed to supporting Myanmar’s transition to democracy and would be happy to provide further information and guidance as the Committee conducts its review.

Signed:

Action Committee for Democracy Development (ACDD)
Burma News International (BNI)
Centre for Law and Democracy
Equality Myanmar
Free Expression Myanmar (FEM)
Generation Wave
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
International Commission for Jurists (ICJ)
International Press Institute (IPI)
Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar (ILAM)
Myanmar Journalist Network (MJN)
Myanmar Journalists’ Union (MJU)
Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network (MMLN)
Myanmar Women Journalist Society (MWJS)
Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists (PCMJ)
PEN America
PEN Myanmar
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Smile Education Foundation

Supported by:
ရွှေခြံမြေကွန်ရက်၊ ကွမ်းခြံကုန်း ၊ ရန်ကုန်တိုင်းဒေသကြီး။ 
လူ့အခွင့်အရေးကာကွယ်မြှင့်တင်ရေးကွန်ရက်၊ ချောက်မြို့နယ်၊ မကွေးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး။
အလုပ်သမားအဖွဲ့ဖွဲ့စည်းပေါ်ပေါက်ရေးနှင့် အမျိုးသမီးအခွင့်အရေးအသိပညာပေးရေး ပဲခူးကွန်ရက်၊ ပဲခူးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး။ 
တောင်သူလယ်သမားများနှင့် ရေလုပ်သားများ အကျိုးစီးပွားကာကွယ်စောင့်ရှောက်ရေးကွန်ရက်၊ မြစ်ကျိုးတိုက်နယ်၊ ပဲခူးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး။
ဥသျှစ်ပင် လူငယ်ကွန်ရက်၊ ဥသျှစ်ပင်မြို့၊ ပန်းတောင်းမြို့နယ်၊ ပဲခူးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး။ 
တောင်သူလယ်သမားများဥပဒေအထောက်အကူပြု ကွန်ရက် (PLAN-A)၊ မြောက်ဦးမြို့နယ်၊ ရခိုင်ပြည်နယ်။
မွန်လူငယ်ကွန်ရက်၊ ရေးလမိုင်း၊ မွန်ပြည်နယ်။
လူမူဖွံ့ဖြိုးရေးနှင့် ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးကွန်ရက်၊ ပေါင်မြို့နယ်၊ မွန်ပြည်နယ်။ 
Ramkhye – ရမ်းခေး မြစ်ကြီးနား ကွန်ရက်၊ မြစ်ကြီးနား၊ ကချင်ပြည်နယ်။ 
Justice Drum ကွန်ရက်၊ ရှမ်းပြည်နယ်တောင်ပိုင်း။
ရပ်ရွာငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးနှင့်ဖွံ့ဖြိုးရေးရှေ့ဆောင်အဖွဲ့ (Area Peace and Development Forward ) ကလေး မြို့နယ်၊ ကလေး ခရိုင်၊ စစ်ကိုင်းတိုင်း။
ဒို့လယ်ယာ ကွန်ရက်၊ အင်္ဂပူမြို့နယ်၊ ဟင်္သာတခရိုင်၊ ဧရာဝတီတိုင်း။

For further information, please contact Yin Yadanar Thein, Free Expression Myanmar, yin@FreeExpressionMyanmar.org 09260037058

(၁၁ဧပြီလ၂၀၁၉— မြန်မာနိုင်ငံဖွဲ့စည်းပုံအခြေခံဥပဒေကိုသုံးသပ်ရန်တာဝန်ဖြင့် လွှတ်တော်ကော်မတီအသစ်တစ်ရပ် ဖွဲ့စည်းလိုက်ခြင်းသည်ဒီမိုကရေစီအခွင့်အရေးများဖြစ်ကြသည့်လွတ်လပ်စွာထုတ်ဖော်ပြောဆိုခွင့်၊မီဒီယာလွတ်လပ်ခွင့်နှင့်သတင်းအချက်အလက်ရယူပိုင်ခွင့်တို့ကိုအစိုးရမှ အကာအကွယ်ပေးရန် အခွင့်အရေးတစ်ရပ်ပင်ဖြစ်သည်။

မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ၏ဒီမိုကရေစီအသွင်ကူးပြောင်းရေးကိုအထောက်အပံ့ပေးလာမည့်အခြေခံဥပဒေပြင်ဆင်ချက်များကိုသုံးသပ် အဆိုပြုရန်အစိုးရမှ ဖွဲ့စည်းပုံအခြေခံဥပဒေပြင်ဆင်ရေးကော်မတီတစ်ရပ်ဖွဲ့စည်းဆောင်ရွက်နေမှုကိုကျွန်ုပ်တို့အနေဖြင့်ကြိုဆိုပါသည်။

လွတ်လပ်စွာရေးသားထုတ်ဖော်ပြောဆိုခွင့်ကို အကာကွယ်ပေးရန်ဒီမိုကရေစီနိုင်ငံတခုတွင်လိုအပ်သည့်အာမခံချက်များကိုမြန်မာနိုင်ငံ၏၂၀၀၈ဖွဲ့စည်းပုံအခြေခံဥပဒေတွင်ထည့်သွင်းထားခြင်းမရှိပါ။  ပါဝင်သည့်ပြဋ္ဌာန်းချက်များသည်လည်းသက် ဆိုင်ရာနိုင်ငံတကာလူ့အခွင့်အရေးစံနှုန်းများနှင့်ကိုက်ညီမှုမရှိချေ။ထိုကဲ့သို့လူ့အခွင့်အရေးစံနှုန်းများနှင့် ကိုက်ညီမှုမရှိခြင်း ကြောင့်  ဂျာနယ်လစ်များနှင့်လူ့အခွင့်အရေးကာကွယ်သူများကိုတရားစွဲဆိုရန်ကျယ်ပြောများပြားလှသည့် ဥပဒေများအား အသုံးပြုနေနိုင်သည်ကိုဥပမာအဖြစ်တွေ့ရှိနိုင်ပြီး၊ထိုအချက်ကမြန်မာ့ဒီမိုကရေစီလမ်းကြောင်းနှင့်ဒီမိုကရေစီအရည်အ သွေးကိုခြိမ်းခြောက်လျက်ရှိသည်။

အောက်ပါအချက်များကိုထည့်သွင်းအကြံပြုပေးပါရန်ဖွဲ့စည်းပုံပြင်ဆင်ရေးကော်မတီအားကျွန်ုပ်တို့မှတိုက်တွန်းတောင်း ဆိုလိုက်ပါသည်။

  • လွတ်လပ်စွာထုတ်ဖော်ပြောဆိုခွင့်ကိုကာကွယ်ရန်လက်ရှိပုဒ်မ၃၅၄နှင့်၃၆၅နှစ်ခုတွင်ပြဌာန်းထားသောအလွန် အမင်းတင်းကျပ်ထိန်းချုပ်ထားသည့်အာမခံချက်အစားနိုင်ငံတကာအရပ်ဖက်နှင့် နိုင်ငံရေးအခွင့်အရေးဆိုင်ရာပဋိ ညာဉ်စာချုပ် (ICCPR) ၏ ပုဒ်မ၁၉ပါ လွတ်လပ်စွာထုတ်ဖော်ရေးသားပြောဆိုခွင့်အား အကာကွယ်ပေးရမည့် အချက်များကို ပြည်ပြည့်ဝဝ ညွှန်းဆိုထားကာ၊လွတ်လပ်စွာထုတ်ဖော်ရေးသားပြောဆိုခွင့်ကိုနိုင်ငံတကာစံနှုန်းများ နှင့်အညီ အကာကွယ်ပေးနိုင်မည့်ပုဒ်မတစ်ခုတည်းဖြင့်ရေးဆွဲအစားထိုးပါ။
  • အစိုးရအာဏာပိုင်တို့လက်ထဲရှိသတင်းအချက်အလက်များအားရယူနိုင်ခွင့်/ ရယူပိုင်ခွင့်ကိုအာမခံ ချက်ပေးထား သည့်သီးခြားပုဒ်မအသစ်တစ်ခုရေးဆွဲပါ။
  • မီဒီယာလွတ်လပ်ခွင့်အားအပြည့်အဝအာမခံချက်ပေးထားသည့်ပုဒ်မအသစ်တစ်ခုကိုအကြံပြုထည့်သွင်းပါ။(ယင်းပုဒ်မသည်မီဒီယာအားကြိုတင်ဆင်ဆာဖြတ်တောက်ခြင်းသို့မဟုတ်ပုံနိပ်မီဒီ ယာလိုင်စင်စနစ်နှင့်သတင်း ထောက်လိုင်စင်စနစ်တို့အားတားမြစ်ပြီး၊မြန်မာသတင်းမီဒီယာကောင်စီ၊  မြန်မာရုပ်သံလွှင့်မီဒီယာကောင်စီနှင့်အနာဂတ်တွင်ပေါ်ပေါက်လာမည့်  အများပြည်သူဝန်ဆောင် မှုမီဒီယာများ၏လွတ်လပ်အမှီအခိုကင်းမှုကို အာမခံ ချက်ပေးနိုင်ရမည်ဖြစ်သည်။)
  • လွတ်လပ်စွာရေးသားထုတ်ဖော်ပြောဆိုခွင့်ကိုကန့်သတ်ရာတွင်ဥပဒေတွင်ပြဌန်းထားမှသာ၊အခြားသူများ၏ဂုဏ် သိက္ခာနှင့်အခွင့်အရေးကိုလေးစားလိုက်နာရန်လိုအပ်မှသာ(သို့မဟုတ်) နိုင်ငံတော် လုံခြုံရေး၊အများပြည်သူတည် ငြိမ်အေးချမ်းရေး၊အများပြည်သူ့ကျန်းမာရေးနှင့်စိတ်ပိုင်းဆိုင်ရာကျင့်ဝတ်များအတွက်လိုအပ်မှသာပြုလုပ်ရမည် ဖြစ်ကြောင်းဖွဲ့စည်းပုံ၏အာမခံချက်အသစ်တိုင်းတွင်တိတိကျကျထည့်သွင်းဖော်ပြသင့်သည်။

မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ၏ဒီမိုကရေစီအသွင်ကူးပြောင်းရေးကိုအားပေးထောက်ခံရန်ကျွန်ုပ်တို့မှသံဓိဌာန်ချထားပြီး၊ကော်မတီမှ သုံးသပ် အကြံပြုရာတွင်လိုအပ်မည့်နောက်ထပ်သတင်းအချက်အလက်များနှင့်လမ်းညွှန်ချက်များကိုထောက်ပံ့ပေးသွားရန်လည်းဆန္ဒရှိပါသည်။

သဘောထားထုတ်ပြန်ချက်အားလက်မှတ်ရေးထိုးထောက်ခံသည့်အဖွဲ့အစည်းများ

Action Committee for Democracy Development (ဒီမိုကရေစီဖွံ့ဖြိုးတိုးတက်ရေးလှုပ်ရှားဆောင်ရွက်မှု ကော်မတီ)
Burma News International (BNI)
Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD)
Equality Myanmar (ညီမျှခြင်းမြန်မာ)
Free Expression Myanmar (လွတ်လပ်သောထုတ်ဖော်ပြောဆိုခြင်းမြန်မာ)
Generation Wave (မျိုးဆက်သစ်လှိုင်း)
Human Rights Watch (HRW)
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
International Press Institute (IPI)
Independent Lawyers’ Association of Myanmar (မြန်မာနိုင်ငံလွတ်လပ်သောရှေ့နေများအသင်း)
Myanmar Journalist Network (မြန်မာဂျာနယ်လစ်ကွန်ယက်)
Myanmar Journalists Union (မြန်မာစာနယ်ဇင်းသမဂ္ဂ)
Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network (မြန်မာမီဒီယာရှေ့နေများကွန်ယက်)
Myanmar Women Journalist Society (မြန်မာနိုင်ငံအမျိုးသမီးသတင်းသမားများအဖွဲ့)
Protection Committee for Myanmar Journalists (မြန်မာသတင်းသမားများကာကွာရေးကော်မတီ)
PEN America
PEN Myanmar (ပဲန်မြန်မာ)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
Smile Education Foundation

ရွှေခြံမြေကွန်ရက်၊ ကွမ်းခြံကုန်း ၊ ရန်ကုန်တိုင်းဒေသကြီး။
လူ့အခွင့်အရေးကာကွယ်မြှင့်တင်ရေးကွန်ရက်၊ ချောက်မြို့နယ်၊ မကွေးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး။
အလုပ်သမားအဖွဲ့ဖွဲ့စည်းပေါ်ပေါက်ရေးနှင့် အမျိုးသမီးအခွင့်အရေးအသိပညာပေးရေး ပဲခူးကွန်ရက်၊ ပဲခူးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး။
တောင်သူလယ်သမားများနှင့် ရေလုပ်သားများ အကျိုးစီးပွားကာကွယ်စောင့်ရှောက်ရေးကွန်ရက်၊ မြစ်ကျိုးတိုက်နယ်၊ ပဲခူးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး။
ဥသျှစ်ပင် လူငယ်ကွန်ရက်၊ ဥသျှစ်ပင်မြို့၊ ပန်းတောင်းမြို့နယ်၊ ပဲခူးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး။
တောင်သူလယ်သမားများဥပဒေအထောက်အကူပြု ကွန်ရက် (PLAN-A)၊ မြောက်ဦးမြို့နယ်၊ ရခိုင်ပြည်နယ်။
မွန်လူငယ်ကွန်ရက်၊ ရေးလမိုင်း၊ မွန်ပြည်နယ်။
လူမူဖွံ့ဖြိုးရေးနှင့် ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးကွန်ရက်၊ ပေါင်မြို့နယ်၊ မွန်ပြည်နယ်။
Ramkhye – ရမ်းခေး မြစ်ကြီးနား ကွန်ရက်၊ မြစ်ကြီးနား၊ ကချင်ပြည်နယ်။
Justice Drum ကွန်ရက်၊ ရှမ်းပြည်နယ်တောင်ပိုင်း။
ရပ်ရွာငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးနှင့်ဖွံ့ဖြိုးရေးရှေ့ဆောင်အဖွဲ့ (Area Peace and Development Forward ) ကလေး မြို့နယ်၊ ကလေး ခရိုင်၊ စစ်ကိုင်းတိုင်း။
ဒို့လယ်ယာ ကွန်ရက်၊ အင်္ဂပူမြို့နယ်၊ ဟင်္သာတခရိုင်၊ ဧရာဝတီတိုင်း။

ထပ်မံသိရှိလိုပါကယဉ်ရတနာသိန်း(လွတ်လပ်သောထုတ်ဖော်ပြောဆိုခြင်းမြန်မာ) ထံသို့၀၉၂၆၀၀၃၇၀၅၈မှဖြစ်စေ၊ yin@FreeExpressionMyanmar.orgမှဖြစ်စေ၊ဆက်သွယ်နိုင်ပါသည်။

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Launch of Charter on Engagement with the League of Arab States

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 today, 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.

In September 2018, the four organisations published a report on Improving Civil Society Engagement at the League of Arab States which highlights how far behind other inter-governmental organisations (IGOs) – including regional bodies like the Council of Europe and Organization of American States – the LAS is in terms of engaging with civil society. The Charter, which was finalised after several rounds of consultation and discussion, sets out standards and processes for improving LAS engagement, organised under three main headings.

As a first step, the Charter calls on the LAS to “conduct an open and inclusive process of consultation with civil society with a view to putting in place a new framework for engagement”, providing some minimum conditions for this, including that the process should be transparent, collaborative and genuine in the sense that the LAS commits to real change at the outset. Second, the Charter calls on the LAS to “adopt a dedicated information disclosure policy”, in line with international standards, leading to a substantial improvement in the disclosure of information by the League. Finally, the Charter calls on the LAS to put in place a number of short-term measures to improve engagement, given that the deeper reform process is likely to take some time. These include transforming the current system of accrediting “observers” into one which allows civil society to be given consultative status (i.e. with the right to speak as well as observe) and putting in place other engagement systems, including ad hoc accreditation to attend meetings.

The Charter is available in English and Arabic at: [in 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

Roula Mikhael
Executive Director
Maharat Foundation
Email: roula.mikhael@maharatfoundation.org
+961 3 612 413
http://www.maharatfoundation.org

Mousa Rimwa
General Director
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)
Email: m.rimawi@madacenter.org
+970 22976519
http://www.madacenter.org

Fouad Zirari
Staff Coordinator
Transparency Maroc
Email: fouadzirari@gmail.com
+212 06 61 09 61 68
http://transparencymaroc.ma/TM/

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Launch of Digital Freedom of Expression Teaching Portal

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. The project grew out of meetings at Columbia University which concluded that the teaching of free speech, media law and communications remains heavily centred on one country and one discipline and, as such, is badly out of alignment with global needs.

“As an organisation that does a lot of training of freedom of expression and the right to information, is a pleasure for CLD to collaborate on this project,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director, CLD. “We believe that bringing together high quality and more internationally focused training materials, under the auspices of such renowned founding partners, will bring a lot of benefits.”

Freedom of Expression Without Frontiers offers close to 300 academic and training resources on the laws, institutions and actors that have founded a global system of freedom of expression, information and media. Its target audiences include educators, whether academic or civil society based, who wish to design and offer courses and trainings on this global information ecosystem, and students, journalists, legal practitioners who wish to engage and understand free speech issues from a global standpoint.

The Portal includes pedagogical resources designed by professors and trainers from different parts of the world and across different disciplines. The website is organised around nine teaching modules, each of which covers a variety of themes within its subject area. For example, the module on Journalism offers resources exploring how international and regional law and bodies have defined the practice of journalism – from the rejection of licensing, to the protection of journalistic sources and the importance of self-regulation – and debating the professional and ethical standards that ought to be demanded of citizen journalists and bloggers. Resources can be segmented further according to their fields and medium, such as required readings, international standards, jurisprudence, academic articles, Massive Online Open Courses (MOOC) and other multimedia resources.

In addition to CLD and Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, the founding partners include:

• Article 19 (London, UK)
• Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University (Cambridge, US)
• Centre for Communication Governance, National Law University (Delhi, India)
• Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (New York, US)
• Institute for Information Law (IViR), Amsterdam Law School, University of Amsterdam (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
• Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong)
• Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, Northwestern University (Evanston, US)
• Pritzker School of Law, Northwestern University (Chicago, US)
• School of Law, University of Los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia)

For further information, please contact:

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

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Bermuda: Time to Update the Access to Information Act

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.

“The Bermudian Act has some positive features, including an independent oversight body and a strong set of promotional measures,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director, CLD. “But it also has a lot of weaknesses, including several for which we believe that experience with implementing the law has already shown to be unnecessary.”

According to CLD’s sources, the government may be considering a review of the Act, although no formal announcement to this effect has been made. We believe that this would be a perfect time for such a review, given that Bermuda now has four years’ experience of implementing the Act. Our Analysis uncovered a number of areas where tests or approaches clearly need to be improved, some duplication and some unfortunately vague language, as well as a number of areas where the Act simply fails to respect international standards.

CLD urges the government to move ahead with a comprehensive review of the Act. If this does happen, we will be happy to engage in the review process.

The CLD Analysis is available at: Bermuda: Analysis of the Public Access to Information Act 2010.

For further information, please contact:

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

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Pilot Data Collection on Sustainable Development Goal Indicator 16.10.2

7 March 2019,

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is partnering with UNESCO to carry out a preliminary data collection exercise on implementation of right to information (RTI) laws as part of UNESCO’s role as “custodian agency” for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicator 16.10.2.

SDG 16 sets targets related to peace, justice and “effective, accountable and inclusive institutions”. One indicator of global progress towards this goal is SDG Indicator 16.10.2: “Number of countries that adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information”. The RTI Rating already provides us with reliable information about the adoption of RTI laws, but this Indicator assesses whether States have gone beyond this and ensured proper implementation of those laws. This is complex and involves an assessment of factors such as the oversight system for RTI as well as measures taken by public authorities to disclose information proactively, to appoint and train information officers and to develop appropriate procedures to ensure that requests are processed properly.

UNESCO, as the custodian agency for Indicator 16.10.2, has developed a Template consisting of two surveys to assess progress on this Indicator. The first survey is designed to be completed by RTI oversight bodies while the second is for individual public authorities. The goal of the Template is to gather information on measures taken so far to implement RTI, and to identify gaps and remaining challenges.

CLD is assisting UNESCO in collecting data via this Template in 43 countries which have agreed to submit Voluntary National Reviews this year of their progress towards meeting the SDGs. These are:

Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Congo  (Republic of the), Côte  d’Ivoire,  Croatia, El  Salvador,  Eritrea,  Eswatini  (Swaziland),  Fiji,  Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana,  Indonesia,  Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mongolia, Nauru, Pakistan, Palau, Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan and United Republic of Tanzania.

If you are a government official or civil society representative working in one of these countries and believe you can contribute to this data collection exercise, please contact Toby Mendel at toby@law-democracy.org.

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Launch of the Right to Information Implementation Methodology

20 February 2019,

The Methodology for Assessing Right to Information Implementation in Pakistan was launched today 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.

“This is the first comprehensive tool that has ever been developed for assessing how well right to information laws are being implemented,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director, CLD.“We are really pleased to have been able to work on this with the Information Commissions and other stakeholders in Pakistan and we now plan to roll this out globally.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Indicator 16.10.2 looks at whether States have adopted and implemented RTI legislation. The RTI Rating indicates which countries have adopted laws and how strong those laws are. However, assessing how well countries are doing in terms of implementing their laws, the second part of Indicator 16.10.2, is far more complicated and this methodology addresses that issue, filling thereby a gap in the assessment framework. There are current plans to run a pilot assessment using the methodology in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan.

The Methodology has been developed in the context of Pakistan, but it is easily adaptable to other countries. CLD plans to develop a global version of the methodology soon and then to apply it in other countries. The Methodology has been developed with the technical support of the German Development Cooperation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

The Methodology is available at: Methodology for Assessing Right to Information Implementation in Pakistan.

For further information, please contact:

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

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Myanmar: Media Law Reform Discussions with the Press Council

28 January 2019,

The Myanmar Press Council (MPC), established by the 2014 News Media Law, has been discussing amendments to its founding legislation. Over the past week, 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.

“When it was first adopted, the News Media Law represented an important step forward for Myanmar, in particular because it was part of the process of repealing the repressive 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Law,” said Toby Mendel, Executive, CLD. “Nearly five years later, however, it is time to align it more fully with international human rights guarantees.”

The discussions at the roundtables focused on an analysis that CLD had prepared of the News Media Law and the Printing and Publishing Enterprises Law, which were adopted on the same day in 2014. The analysis called for both enhancing the structural independence of the MPC and positioning it as the main regulatory body for the print media. Some of the other key points in the analysis included the following:

  • • The scope of the law should be set out clearly and narrowly and cover only professional news media outlets, while also allowing other entities, in particular online news disseminators, to opt into its provisions.
  • • The law should set out stronger positive protections for the rights of media outlets and workers.
  • • The vague and broad content restrictions in the current law should be replaced by a system which empowers the MPC to adopt and apply a detailed code of conduct.
  • • The law should require anyone with a professional complaint against the media to complain first to the MPC before they may initiate a court case about the matter.
  • • The MPC should have fewer members (there are currently 29) and the proportion of media
    representatives should be reduced in favour of more public representatives.

The analysis is available at:

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel
Executive Director
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+95 (0)995 096 0849
www.law-democracy.org
twitter: @law_democracy

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

15 January 2019,

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), an international human rights organisation based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is receiving applications for up to four interns for the summer of 2019. The positions 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:
    • • Supporting Myanmar’s democratic transition, including by fostering the development of a robust and independent media sector and the drafting of new laws governing broadcasting, digital speech and access to information.
    • • Working to promote human rights within the League of Arab States, including by enhancing civil society engagement with that body.
    • • Providing technical support to a major project aimed at increasing civil engagement by women and marginalised groups at the local level in Nepal.
    • • Working with a range of actors to support implementation of the access to information laws in Pakistan.
    • • Providing expert input into law reform processes in a range of countries, including Tanzania, Pakistan, Indonesia and Mongolia.
    • • Campaigning against global threats to digital rights, such as mass surveillance, content restrictions, Internet shutdowns and efforts to undermine encryption and digital security.
    • • Providing training and support to journalists, lawyers, judges and activists in multiple countries on media law and human rights issues.
    • • Maintaining a comprehensive rating of access to information laws globally (www.rti-rating.org).

We ask interns to commit to at least three months full-time work in our office in Halifax during the months of May to August. These positions are unpaid and we encourage prospective interns to seek funding from their law schools or other sources. 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 CV, cover letter and transcripts to Laura Notess at laura@law-democracy.org by 11 February 2019. 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 regional knowledge 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.

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Pakistan: Note on Proposed Amendments to Media Regulation

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 today by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA), based in Pakistan, analyses this policy document, highlighting some of the challenges going forward.

It is very welcome that Pakistan is reviewing its rules and systems for regulating the media, which is very important”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “However, the current proposals fail to address, and in some ways even exacerbate, some of the most serious problems with the existing regime.

One of the key problems with the new proposals is that they seek to bring not only broadcasting and the print media under one regulator but also the “digital/social media”. This even extends to the idea of having one code of conduct for all of these media sectors. Another serious shortcoming is that even though the statements on the establishment of the regulator are very brief, it is already quite clear that there is no intention to make it independent of government, a key international law requirement in this area.

We believe that the government of Pakistan needs to go back to the drawing board and start with an open consultation about what is needed in this area,” said Muhammad Aftab Alam, Executive Director of IRADA. “We are willing to work with the government to make sure that the rules
are in line with international and constitutional human rights guarantees.

CLD and IRADA urge the government of Pakistan to put aside their draft document and to host a broad consultation with interested stakeholders on the way forward.

The Note is available at:

For further information, please contact:

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

Muhammad Aftab Alam
Executive Director
Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development
Email: ed@irada.org.pk
+92 321 5959775
www.irada.org.pk
twitter: @IRADAPK

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Mauritius: Broad Content Restrictions in Judicial and Legal Provisions Act

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 today by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) highlights problems with these provisions.

The new rules prohibiting blasphemy and providing for special protection against criticism for judges do not respect international guarantees of freedom of expression”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “While it is legitimate to prohibit hate speech, such rules need to be carefully and narrowly tailored, which is unfortunately not the case with this provision.

One rule, making it an offence to insult judges, ushers and officials, appears to be a new addition to the legal framework in Mauritius. It is unclear why the government introduced this provision when the clear international trend is to recognise that these individuals, like other officials, should be required to tolerate a greater degree of criticism than ordinary officials.

The other rules only amend slightly existing prohibitions in the Criminal Code. The blasphemy rule is particularly problematical inasmuch as it not only protects religions but also good morals and public morality. These latter concepts are not only undefined but run directly counter to the principle that the right to freedom of expression protects unpopular and even offensive speech. The hate speech rule is the least problematical of the three, but it is cast in unduly broad terms and provides for wholly disproportionate sanctions of up to 20 years’ imprisonment.

CLD urges the government of Mauritius to amend these rules so as to bring them into line with international standards.

CLD’s Analysis of the content restrictions in the Judicial and Legal Provisions Act is available at: Note on the Judicial and Legal Provisions Act 2018 of Mauritius.

For further information, please contact:

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

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Consultative Meeting on Civil Society Engagement with the League of Arab States

29 October 2018,

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) (Canada), Transparency Maroc (TM), Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA), 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, which is a continuation of the organisations’ earlier work in this area, was on how to improve the opportunities for civil society organisations to engage with the League of Arab States (LAS).

A report on Improving Civil Society Engagement at the League of Arab States, launched in September, found that the LAS lagged significantly behind other comparable inter-governmental organisations (IGOs) when it came to the issue of engagement.

The consultative meeting reviewed engagement rules and systems at other IGOs and compared them to the policy and practice at the LAS to identify specific gaps and areas for improvement. An important focus of the meeting was on how to advocate to enhance the performance of the LAS in this area.

A key outcome of the meeting was agreement on a Charter for Improving Civil Society Engagement with the League of Arab States, attached as an annex to this press release. The Charter sets out a civil society vision for the steps needed to improve the system of engagement with the LAS. The first set of recommendations calls on the LAS to conduct an open and inclusive process of consultation with civil society with a view to putting in place a new framework for engagement. The Charter also calls for a number of short-term measures, including in relation to access to information and opportunities for consultation.

A number of organisations have already endorsed the Charter and we are seeking further endorsements from civil society groups based in the Arab World.

The Charter can be accessed in English and Arabic at: [in English here] and [in Arabic here]. For an Arabic version of this press release, 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

Roula Mikhael
Executive Director
Maharat Foundation
Email: roula.mikhael@maharatfoundation.org
+961 3 612 413
http://www.maharatfoundation.org

Mousa Rimwa
General Director
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)
Email: m.rimawi@madacenter.org
+970 22976519
http://www.madacenter.org

Fouad Zirari
Staff Coordinator
Transparency Maroc
Email: fouadzirari@gmail.com
+212 06 61 09 61 68
http://transparencymaroc.ma/TM/

Amal Shawahneh
Director
Social Economic Forum for Women Organization
Email: amalshaw@hotmail.com
+962 795528197
http://www.mnt.org.jo

Charter for Improving Civil Society Engagement with the League of Arab States

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, based in different Arab countries,

Recognising the foundational importance for inter-governmental organisations, including the League of Arab States, of engaging in genuine consultations with civil society so as to improve their policy and decision-making processes, to build better relations with their constituents, who are ultimately the people living in Arab States, and to promote greater democracy in and accountability for their work;

Noting that the League of Arab States falls far short of better international practice, including the practice of similar inter-governmental organisations in other regions of the world, when it comes to engaging with civil society;

Stressing that the current civil society engagement arrangements and practices at the League of Arab States not only fail to respect basic human rights and democratic norms but also undermine the effectiveness, influence and legitimacy of the League of Arab States;

Emphasising that the trend, at both the national government and the inter-governmental levels, is strongly towards increasing engagement opportunities for civil society;

Recalling that effective engagement involves transparency, particularly around the subjects of engagement, and concrete and effective consultation opportunities;

Highlighting the fact that many civil society organisations based in Arab countries are both interested in and fully able to participate effectively in more genuine engagement opportunities at the League of Arab States, should such opportunities become available;

Call on the League of Arab States to undertake the following actions to improve its engagement with civil society:

  1. Consultations about Engagement

The League of Arab States should conduct an open and inclusive process of consultation with civil society with a view to putting in place a new framework for engagement. This should respect the following:

  • The process should be collaborative in nature, along the lines of a partnership or joint effort between the parties,[1] with the League of Arab States working closely with civil society to explore options for a strong engagement framework.
  • The process should be transparent, with the League of Arab States providing civil society with access to all of the documents it needs to participate fully in the consultation process and with information about the positions of different stakeholders and how it was used being provided.
  • The League of Arab States should make a commitment at the beginning of the process to revise substantially its current approach to civil society engagement, including by adopting a new policy framework for this.
  • Consideration should be given to creating a new, dedicated structure within the League of Arab States to lead on this process, in an attempt to address current relationship shortcomings and to build trust with civil society.
  1. Access to Information

Ensuring access to information is key to building trust and to facilitating real engagement. The League of Arab States should practise far greater levels of openness than in the past. Following consultations, it should adopt a dedicated information disclosure policy in line with better international practice among inter-governmental organisations. In the meantime, it should do the following:

  • Publish, sufficiently in advance, information, including the agendas, of key meetings and other engagement opportunities, along with key relevant background documents, subject only to legitimate grounds for secrecy.
  • Respond promptly and fulsomely to requests for information, including by appointing staff with dedicated responsibilities for doing this.
  • Take full advantage, in doing the above, of digital technologies, including by providing information for free and in open digital formats.
  1. Short-term Engagement Measures

The League of Arab States should undertake the following measures to improve engagement over the short term, pending the outcome of the consultation process noted above:

  • The current observer status system should be transformed into a consultative status approach, so that individuals and organisations with status benefit from a range of engagement rights and opportunities. This should include the rights to make submissions and interventions, and not merely the right to attend meetings and listen to official actors.
  • The process of obtaining status should be open, streamlined and insulated from political or other irrelevant considerations, so that status is given to any organisation which meets pre-defined conditions for obtaining consultative status.
  • To the extent possible, the grant of status should directly enable the holder to engage with a range of League of Arab States bodies, including, in particular, those dealing with human rights and economic and social development.
  • A number of engagement options beyond the status system should be put in place, such as the ability to apply on an ad hoc basis to attend a particular meeting or to work with the League of Arab States to implement projects or policies.

Endorsements

  1. ADALA, Morocco
  2. Maharat Foundation, Lebanon
  3. Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)
  4. Social Economic Forum for Women Organization, Jordan
  5. TAFRA, Morocco
  6. Transparency Maroc

[1] As an example, Open Government Partnership (OGP) guidance on consultation is available at: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/attachments/OGP_consultation%20FINAL.pdf.

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Afghanistan Jumps to Top Position on RTI Rating

28 September 2018,

In an exciting development, Afghanistan has 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 today, International Right to Know Day, with ratings for 123 countries, up from the 111 that were hosted on the old site.

The RTI Rating is a sophisticated methodology for assessing the strength of the legal framework for the right to information (RTI), developed by the Centre for Law and Democracy (Canada) and Access Info Europe (Spain). Every country which has adopted a national RTI law is ranked on the RTI Rating in due course.

It is tremendous that Afghanistan has passed such an incredibly strong RTI law,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of the Centre for Law and Democracy. “Although implementation is always a challenge, this law will at least give the country the tools it needs to ensure its citizens can access information from public authorities.”

Countries from the Global South dominate the top of the RTI Rating, with not a single Western country in the top 25. All but one of the countries in the top 25 positions adopted their laws since 2000, reflecting the fact that RTI laws are, on average, getting stronger and stronger as time goes on. Sustainable Development Goal Indicator 16.10.2 sets the adoption and implementation of an RTI law as a common standard of achievement for all States, which has given new impetus to the advancement of this human right.

Note for editors

More information on the RTI Rating, including the detailed results, can be found at: www.rti-rating.org/. The results can be viewed in a number of different ways, including by country or by indicator.

For further information, please contact:

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

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CLD Hosts Trivia Night on the Right to Information

27 September 2018, Halifax

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. The host for the evening was Fola Adeleke, Freedom of Information and Privacy Officer at the Nova Scotia Health Authority and Senior Research Fellow at the Mandela Institute at Wits University.

Participants delved into topics such as the foundations of the right to information in international human rights law, the history of access to information laws and the practicalities of making a freedom of information request in Nova Scotia. Would you have been able to answer the following questions?

Which country was the first ever to adopt a right to information law? The answer is Sweden, in 1766.

As of today, how many countries have adopted national right to know laws? Over 120 countries have adopted such laws.

What is the basis, in international human rights law, of the right to information? The right to information is considered part of the right to freedom of expression.

True or false: in Nova Scotia, most access to information requests are made by the media. False; most requests are made by the business sector.

What is the longest time extension claimed by the Canadian government in response to an access to information request, based on complaints to the Information Commissioner of Canada? The answer here 9,840 days, which is almost 27 years.

If you would like to learn more about the right to information, visit the media page of the Centre for Law and Democracy’s website (https://www.law-democracy.org/live/media), join our mailing list (https://www.law-democracy.org/live/join-our-mailing-list) or check out the RTI Rating website (rti-rating.org).

For further information, please contact:

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

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

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Report on Improving Civil Society Engagement at the League of Arab States

24 September 2018,

A major report on Improving Civil Society Engagement at the League of Arab States was launched in English and Arabic today by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) (Canada), Transparency Maroc (TM), Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) and Maharat Foundation (Lebanon). The report looks at transparency and consultation opportunities at the League of Arab States (LAS) and compares them to opportunities at other inter-governmental organisations – such as the Council of Europe, the Organization of American States and the World Bank – finding that the LAS is significantly less open to civil society engagement in its work.

The report notes that civil society engagement is more important today than ever before, including to address the democratic deficit that plagues most inter-governmental organisations, to harness the ideas and links to local populations that civil society offers, and to bolster credibility and hence effectiveness. All of these are key needs for the LAS, which currently largely excludes civil society from most of its work.

The four main recommendations for reform are set out in the report as follows:

  • Consulting about Consulting: the LAS should reach out to Arab civil society to discuss what steps need to be taken to improve engagement opportunities.
  • Access to Information: the LAS should commit to far greater levels of transparency than in the past and, over time, adopt a dedicated information disclosure policy.
  • Accreditation: the current observer status system should be transformed into a consultative status approach which is far more accessible to civil society organisations and which grants those with status not just the right to listen but also the right to participate.
  • Other Issues: the LAS should also support engagement in other ways such as by offering concrete support, including funding, and by creating specific forums for engagement.

The report can be accessed in English and Arabic at: Report on Improving Civil Society Engagement at the League of Arab States [English] and Improving Civil Society Engagement at the League of Arab States [Arabic].

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

Roula Mikhael
Executive Director
Maharat Foundation
Email: roula.mikhael@maharatfoundation.org
+961 3 612 413
http://www.maharatfoundation.org

Mousa Rimwa
General Director
Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)
Email: m.rimawi@madacenter.org
+970 22976519
http://www.madacenter.org

Fouad Zirari
Staff Coordinator
Transparency Maroc
Email: fouadzirari@gmail.com
+212 06 61 09 61 68
http://transparencymaroc.ma/TM/

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Join CLD for a Right to Know Day Trivia Night

Trivia Night: It’s Your Right to Know!

Wednesday 26 September  2018

7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Board Game Room Cafe

1256 Barrington St., Halifax

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IDB Invest: Draft Information Policy Needs Improvement

27 August 2018,

IDB Invest is conducting a consultation on the draft Access to Information Policy it circulated in April 2018. In its Analysis of the draft Policy, released today, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) welcomes 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.

The new policy proposals would do a lot to make IDB Invest more transparent”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “But it is failing to take the bold steps that are needed if it really wants to realise the principle of maximum disclosure proclaimed in the draft Policy.

One of the more serious problems with the regime of exceptions is that it essentially grants third parties a veto over the disclosure of information provided by them, instead of simply protecting their legitimate interests. A more general problem is that while many exceptions start with a reasonably tight statement of the interest being protected against harm, they go on to list a number of overbroad, non-harm tested categories of exempt information.

Other areas of concern include:

  • The policy would only apply to information created after it came into effect.
  • The rules on the processing of requests and the system for appointing members of the appeals bodies are not detailed enough.
  • There are no sanctions for wilful obstruction of access and or protections for good faith disclosure of information.
  • The draft Policy contains a number of technical weaknesses, many of which give rise to uncertainty about how the policy would be applied.

CLD urges IDB Invest to introduce substantial changes to the draft Policy, in line with the recommendations in its Analysis.

CLD’s Analysis of IDB Invest’s draft Policy is available here: Analysis of IDB Invest’s Draft Access to Information Policy

For further information, please contact:

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

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