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Observations on the Draft Access to Information Policy of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

16 May 2024.

Today, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is releasing its Observations on the draft Access to Information Policy (and accompanying draft Directive), which we submitted to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as part of its Consultation on the draft Policy. The draft Policy is generally robust and includes some very positive proposals, such as getting rid of the negative public interest override, which granted the EBRD broad discretion to refuse to disclose information. But only minor changes are being proposed for the regime of exceptions, which involves a number of overbroad exceptions and class-exclusions, and grants a number of parties a veto over the disclosure of certain types of information.

Ultimately, the regime of exceptions is at the heart of any access to information system”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “If it is overly broad – which is certainly the case with the draft Policy being proposed by the EBRD – the system will fail in its overriding goal of promoting transparency.

The introductory paragraph to the main provision on exceptions includes an exemplary statement of the standards that should be applied, namely that exceptions apply where disclosure of the information “would cause harm to specific parties or interests that would outweigh the public interest in disclosure”. Unfortunately, the operative provisions on exceptions do not align with those standards. For example, almost all information “related to” the Board of Directors is confidential unless disclosure is “expressly approved” by that Board. All communications between staff are exempt, as is a wide range of financial information, while third parties are granted a veto over the disclosure of information provided by them.

Another very serious shortcoming in the draft Policy is that, unlike for many international financial institutions (IFIs), there is no option for lodging an appeal with an independent appeals panel when access to information is refused.

CLD calls on the EBRD to fundamentally reconsider its approach to these issues so as to bring its access to information framework into line with better practice at other IFIs.

The Observations are available here.

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

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Kyrgyzstan: Note on the new Law on the Right of Access to Information

7 May 2024.

Kyrgyzstan adopted a new Law on the Right of Access to Information which entered into force in January and which replaced the earlier, 2007 right to information (RTI) law. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has updated its assessment on the RTI Rating, which measures the strength of legal frameworks for RTI globally. The Law now earns 103 points out of a possible total of 150 points, up from 87 previously, increasing the ranking of Kyrgyzstan from 64th out of the 150 countries assessed on the RTI Rating to a strong 36th place globally.

We very much welcome the important improvements introduced by Kyrgyzstan’s new RTI Law, which sets a whole new standard for countries in the Central Asian region”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “The challenge now will be for Kyrgyzstan to meet the same standard when it comes to implementation of the new law.

In addition to updating the RTI Rating assessment, CLD has prepared a Note on the 2024 Law on the Right of Access to Information. Although it is much stronger than previously, there are still important areas where the Law could be further improved, including the following:

    • The scope of the Law in terms of the public authorities which are covered should be clarified and expanded.
    • The Law continues to rely on Kyrgyzstan’s Ombudsman for oversight of RTI, which lacks specialised expertise on the right to information or a specific mandate to promote this right, so consideration should be given to creating a specialised information commission for oversight purposes.
    • The exceptions should be narrowed and structural elements of the regime of exceptions – such as a general public interest override and sunset clauses of 15 or 20 years for exceptions – should be added.
    • Protection for those who release information in good faith pursuant to the Law and for whistleblowers should be added.

The full Note is available in English here.

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

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2024 Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Climate Crisis

3 May 2024.

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, this year on the Climate Crisis and Freedom of Expression. The Joint Declaration, which was drafted with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), describes the important role of freedom of expression in combatting the climate crisis, a key challenge of our time. It follows the last few joint declarations in focusing on the role on freedom of expression and a free media in supporting key social and human rights goals, with the most recent focusing, respectively, on democracy, gender justice, and politicians and political figures.

The 2024 Joint Declaration highlights the key ways in which freedom of expression is central to efforts to address the myriad challenges posed by the climate crisis, including the threats the latter poses to freedom of expression itself, as well as other human rights”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Freedom of expression is, in particular, key both to forging social consensus so as to enable the adoption of needed measures to prevent further climate-driven disasters and to exposing actors which fail to implement and respect those measures.

The Joint Declaration is divided into five separate sections, with the first focusing on the all-important issue of the right to access to information about environmental and climate issues, something that many States and corporate actors have failed to respect. Standards addressed here include the obligation of States not only to disclose but also to collect relevant information, as well as the responsibility of corporations to produce and disclose detailed information on the environmental impact of their operations. Other sections focus on creating an enabling environment for public participation, upholding environmental journalism, the role of freedom of expression in ensuring access to climate justice, and the protection of marginalised groups.

The Joint Declaration is available here.

For further information, please contact:

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

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Republic of Congo: Analysis of 2001 Law on Freedom of Information and Communications

15 April 2024. 

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), at the request of our local partners, prepared an analysis of the Republic of Congo’s 2001 Law on Freedom of Information and Communication and more recent amending legislation based on international human rights standards, in particular relating to freedom of expression. Although the Law, as amended, has some positive features, it also suffers from some serious flaws, including imposing a range of illegitimate content restrictions and failing to secure the independence of the regulator, the Superior Council for Freedom of Communication.

“The Law on Freedom of Information and Communications is now well over 20 years old and it is in serious need of a significant overhaul,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “A number of unduly restrictive rules should simply be removed, regulation should be done by a robustly independent body and other parts of the Law should be modernised and elaborated on more clearly.”

The CLD Analysis contains several recommendations for reform, including the following:

    • The procedures for issuing broadcast licences should be clarified and a tailored and less onerous licensing procedure for community broadcasting should be added.
    • The numerous illegitimate criminal and administrative content restrictions in the Law should be reviewed and either amended or repealed entirely. Among those that should be repealed entirely are criminal defamation, insult and false news provisions.
    • The unclear procedures for rights of reply, response and correction should be clarified and consideration should be given to removing one of the rights of reply or response, given that one is sufficient.
    • The scope of the Law’s guarantee of source protection should be clarified.
    • The limited provisions on the right to information for journalists should be replaced with a comprehensive right to information law which applies to everyone.

The CLD Analysis is available in English here.

For further information, please contact:

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

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CLD Joins Letter on Safety of Journalists and Access to Information in Gaza

26 March 2024.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has joined a civil society letter to Media Freedom Coalition Member States calling for action on the safety of journalists in Gaza. The letter notes that while “on December 5, 2023, 24 members of the Media Freedom Coalition expressed concern about the plight of journalists in Israel and Gaza, in more than five months of a devastating conflict, with record numbers of journalists killed, primarily by Israeli forces in Gaza, there has been no credible action taken by MFC Member States.”

The letter calls on Member States to call for journalists to be treated as civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law norms, urges “immediate and unfettered” access of journalists to Gaza and calls for “prompt, independent, effective and thorough investigations” into killings of journalists.

The full letter is available here.

 

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Inter-American Development Bank: Note on Revised Draft Access to Information Policy

4 March 2024. 

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has submitted a Note on the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Revised Proposal for its Access to Information Policy. The Revised Proposal will, when adopted, replace the current 2010 Access to Information Policy. An initial draft proposal was released by the IDB in 2022 and CLD published an Analysis of that draft in December 2022. The current Note, which focuses on changes made since then, should be read alongside CLD’s earlier Analysis.

“Although the Revised Proposal represents a significant improvement over the current Policy and even the earlier draft, the most significant problems identified by CLD in 2022 have still not been addressed,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “We call on the IDB to show real leadership on access to information by addressing these remaining issues.”

The Note comments on several changes in the Revised Proposal as compared to the 2022 draft, including the following:

    • The rules on making and processing requests have been improved in several small but significant ways.
    • Changes to three of the exceptions are more mixed and, overall, the regime of exceptions, although notably improved from the 2010 Policy, still contains a restrictive public interest override and a veto for third parties over information provided by them.
    • The list of information in the Annex which will be routinely disclosed has been expanded to cover basic operational information, but a clear framework for proactive disclosure is still lacking.

The Note is available here and CLD’s Analysis of the initial draft 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

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Invitation: Online Course on Freedom of Expression in Myanmar

CLD invites you to join our online course, Freedom of Expression: International Law and the Practice in Myanmar, to be held from 18 March-17 May 2024, with online lectures on Thursdays from 7:30-9:00 PM Bangkok time. This nine-week online course involves weekly lectures, discussions, background readings and an opportunity to interact with others who care about freedom of expression in Myanmar. 

The course is open to everyone who is interested. Those who attend six of the nine lectures will receive a certificate of completion, but anyone is invited to register and attend as they are able. For more details on the course, see the course outline. To register, go to: https://forms.gle/DGBRJ531rWjxik2Y7

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Panama: Note on the Transparency and Access to Public Information Bill

15 January 2024.

A new right to information (RTI) Bill was presented to Panama’s National Assembly in August 2023 but was then withdrawn the following month due to civil society pressure. At the request of local civil society groups, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) prepared an analysis of the Bill, with the aim of supporting advocacy efforts to improve future drafts.

The Proposed Transparency and Access to Public Information Bill was to replace Panama’s current RTI law, first adopted in 2002. The proposed legislation would have improved the current RTI legislation, as assessed by CLD’s RTI Rating, which measures the strength of legal frameworks for RTI globally. Specifically, the current law scores just 93 points out of a possible 150 whereas the Bill scored 102 points.

“If the Bill had been adopted, Panama would rank 37th among the 139 countries currently assessed on the RTI Rating”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “While this represents an improvement over the current situation, the Bill would need to be improved in several areas to align with the many countries in the Americas which have really strong RTI laws.”

CLD welcomes the fact that the Bill was withdrawn and efforts by local civil society groups to advocate for improvements. Our key recommendations for reform include the following:

    • The legislation should cover all entities which provide public services, rather than only those which provide such services on an exclusive basis.
    • Requesters should only be required to provide a description of the information sought and an address for delivery of the information (such as an email or mailing address).
    • The legislation should override secrecy provisions in other laws, to the extent of any conflict and the regime of exceptions should be amended so as to protect only clearly and narrowly defined legitimate interests against harm.
    • Individuals who act in good faith to disclose information under the RTI law, as well as whistleblowers, should be protected against sanctions.

CLD’s analysis is available here and its RTI Rating of the proposed legislation is available here.

For further information, please contact:

Raphael Vagliano
Legal Officer
Centre for Law and Democracy
Email: raphael@law-democracy.org
+1 514 506-0948
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

8 January 2024.

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 2024. 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 different countries on media law and human rights issues.
    • Providing expert input into legal reform processes in different countries.
    • 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, applications for remote internships will also be considered on a case-by-case basis. 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 CV, cover letter and unofficial law school transcripts to raphael@law-democracy.org by 4 February 2024. 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. Proficiency in additional 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.

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Zambia: Analysis of New Access to Information Act

20 December 2023. 

On 15 December 2023, Zambia finally signed its Access to Information Act into law, following years of public debate about the importance of such legislation. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is today pleased to launch publicly its Analysis of the Access to Information Act, 2023. We also did an RTI Rating assessment of the Act, which scores 85 out of a possible total of 150 points, putting it in 70th position from among the 138 countries currently on the Rating, or almost exactly in the middle.

“We are very pleased to see that, after years of advocacy on the part of civil society groups and others, including CLD, Zambia has finally adopted a right to information law,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “We would have been even more pleased, however, if the law had been more along the lines of some of Zambia’s Southern African neighbours like Namibia, adopted just last year with a score of 116 points, South Africa, with 118 points or Malawi, with 104 points.”

The Act has some strong points, such as its broad coverage of all three branches of government, a strong public interest override and the power of the oversight body, the Human Rights Commission, to impose administrative sanctions on officials who fail to respect the law.

At the same time, the CLD Analysis contains a number of recommendations for reform, including the following:

    • A simple, broad definition of information should be added into the Act, along with clear procedures for how to lodge a request for information and a clear regime for fees.
    • The Act should state clearly that it overrides secrecy provisions in other laws, to the extent of any conflict, and the exceptions in the Act should be narrower, only protect legitimate interest and all be subject to a harm test.
    • The Act should establish sunset clauses (overall time limits) for exceptions which protect public interests such as national security, internal deliberations and public order.
    • One of the Human Rights Commissioners should be formally designated as the one who is responsible for right to information matters, and the Commission should be given the power to issue binding orders in information appeals.
    • A proper records management regime should be added either to the ATI Act or another legally binding instrument.

The CLD Analysis is available here.

For further information, please contact:

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

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Nova Scotia: Submission on the Right to Information Act

29 November 2023.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is today launching publicly its Submission to the Review of Nova Scotia’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Legislation (FOIPOP Act). The Submission, which was provided in response to a call for inputs from the government of Nova Scotia, Canada, assesses the FOIPOP Act, which scores a weak 86 points on the RTI Rating (see here for the full Rating).

“The Nova Scotia Act dates from 1993 and is sorely in need of being amended both to improve it and to bring it into line with the modern digital information environment,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “We sincerely hope the government is serious about this review and that it will, in due course, introduce extensive amendments to the legislation.”

The current government made a public commitment to amend the FOIPOP Act during its 2021 election campaign. While CLD hopes that the review will be robust, the committee which is reviewing the Act is composed entirely of officials and the head of the committee refused to meet with CLD when this was offered.

Some of the key recommendations from among the large number in CLD’s Submission include:

    • The Act should be expanded to cover all bodies which are owned or controlled by government, which receive significant public funding and the judiciary.
    • Consideration should be given to adding a section on proactive disclosure to the Act.
    • The ability to extend the time limits for responding to requests beyond 60 days should be eliminated or substantially constrained and no fees should be charged for staff time spent responding to requests.
    • The Act should set overriding standards for the secrecy provisions in other laws which it preserves, and the regime of exceptions should be substantially revised so as to protect only legitimate interests against harm, to make application of the public interest override mandatory and to impose sunset clauses on all exceptions that protect public interests.
    • The independence of the Commissioner should be substantially improved, including by making it an office of the legislature, and the Commissioner should be given binding order-making power.
    • Broader and more effective sanctions should be in place for officials who wilfully flout the provisions of the Act.

The Submission is available here.

For further information, please contact:

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

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Myanmar: More Regressive Amendments to Broadcasting Act Adopted

20 November 2023.

The military junta which is ruling Myanmar adopted another set of regressive amendments to the erstwhile progressive Broadcasting Act last week, following their first set of amendments in November 2021. The current amendments give the military junta full control over the National Broadcasting Council, which was in the original version of the Act intended to be an independent broadcast regulator. Among other things, the military-run State Administration Council will appoint the members, with the earlier provisions on appointments and protection of tenure, designed to bolster the independence of the Council, having been suspended.

“The Centre for Law and Democracy welcomed the Broadcasting Act back in August 2015, when it was first adopted, due to its progressive approach to broadcast regulation, including through the establishment of a robustly independent regulator,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “The current amendments utterly deprive the Act of any democratic legitimacy and further expand the already very extensive control of the military over the media inside Myanmar.”

The 2021 amendments expanded the definition of broadcasting to cover the use of “any other technology for the people to directly catch the television and radio programmes”, while the original law had expressly excluded Internet-based broadcasting. Those amendments also introduced prison sentences for a number of administrative breaches of the Act, all with minimum sentences of at least six months. CLD produced a detailed analysis of the earlier amendments, which is available in English and Burmese here.

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

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Central American Bank for Economic Integration: Observations on the Draft Access to Information Policy

16 November 2023.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has submitted Observations on the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI’s) draft Access to Information Policy. This draft would replace the current Access to Information Policy, which dates from 2020. The Observations welcome a number of positive proposed changes to the Policy but also call for further improvements, including significant changes to the regime of exceptions and putting in place an independent appeal option.

“CABEI’s Access to Information Policy lags significantly behind better practice in this area among international financial institutions,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director, CLD. “The new proposals incorporate some important positive changes but do not go nearly far enough. We urge CABEI to introduce further reforms before adopting the new policy so as to bring it into line with the transparency commitments of peer institutions.”

The draft Policy introduces some notable improvements, including establishing a clearer presumption in favour of the disclosure of information subject only to defined exceptions. There are also new provisions on accessibility and the draft formalises the existence of the internal Access to Information Unit.

However, in other areas the draft Policy should be improved, of which some key recommendations in our Observations include:

    • Several exceptions need to be further narrowed and all need to include a stronger harm test, while a public interest override needs to be introduced which would apply to all exceptions.

    • The relationship of the Policy to CABEI’s internal classification system is still unclear. The Access to Information Policy should override any system of administrative classification.
    • The draft Policy removes rules on the structure of the Access to Information Committee, a disappointing change from the current Policy.
    • The draft Policy adds the possibility of appeal to the CABEI’s Board but does not provide for an appeal to an independent body, such as an external appeals panel.

The Observations are 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

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Maldives: Note on the Right to Information Act

23 October 2023.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is today launching its Note on the Right to Information (RTI) Act of the Maldives. Originally prepared to support a planned official review of the RTI Act, which may now be on hold, CLD is disseminating the Note in the hope of stimulating further discussion about possible reforms. The RTI Act is already very strong, earning 113 out of a possible total of 150 points on the RTI Rating, putting it in 20th position from among the 138 countries currently assessed there. But there is always room for improvement and the Note by CLD puts forward a number of recommendations to this end.

“CLD welcomed the Maldivian RTI Act from the very beginning as one of the stronger laws globally,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “But we always support efforts to improve RTI legislation and we hope that this Note helps promote further debate in the Maldives on this issue.”

Some of the key recommendations in the Note include the following:

  • All bodies which are owned or controlled by government should fall within the ambit of the Act.
  • The time limit for responding to requests should be reduced to ten working days and requesters should not be required to provide their name, address or phone number when making a request.
  • The Act should override inconsistent secrecy provisions in other laws, to the extent of the inconsistency, and the exceptions in the Act should be amended to protect only legitimate interests and to include harm tests for all exceptions.
  • Public authorities should be required to publish a list of the documents they hold and to ensure that their staff receive appropriate training on RTI.

The Note is available here.

For further information, please contact:

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

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Happy International Right to Know Day!

28 September 2023.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) would like to wish everyone a happy International Right to Know Day (IRTKD), 2023. First established in 2002 by a group of leading right to information civil society organisations meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria, IRTKD has grown in stature and recognition, being formally recognised by UNESCO in 2015 as International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) and then by the United Nations General Assembly as a formal UN day by the same name in 2019. The purpose of IRTKD is to reflect on the importance of the right to access information held by public authorities or right to information (RTI), to welcome advances in recognition and implementation of this cross-cutting human right and to consider the many challenges for its full realisation that still lie ahead.

This is essentially a day to celebrate the right to information, its recognition as an official UN day and the inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of RTI as an aim for all States”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “At the same time, we must also recognise that only approximately two-thirds of all States have even adopted RTI laws, while many of those that have done so are struggling to implement them properly.

This year, to celebrate IRTKD, CLD is participating in UNESCO’s main event, being held in Oxford, United Kingdom, under the title The Importance of the Online Space for Access to Information; specifically, Toby is moderating Panel 2 on Internet Connectivity as an Enabler of the Ability to Exercise Rights Online, with a Particular Focus on ATI. CLD has also, as it does every year, updated the RTI Rating to include countries which have adopted laws since the last IRTKD. As of today, the RTI Rating covers all 138 countries which have national RTI laws, along with a growing number of international and sub-national jurisdictions.

Happy International Right to Know Day!

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

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Ukraine: Manual for Journalists on Documenting International Crimes

Add New

[Текст українською йде далі]

11 September 2023.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has developed a detailed Manual for Journalists on Collecting and Preserving Information About International Crimes, along with a short pamphlet, Preserving Information for International Criminal Convictions: A Pocket Guide for Journalists. The week before last, we issued a statement about the training we provided in collaboration with our local partner, the Regional Press Development Institute (RPDI), and based on the Manual. We are now launching the Manual itself, along with the Guide, in English and Ukrainian. This programme aims to help journalists, especially those reporting from the frontlines, recognise when international crimes have been committed and how to take some simple steps to capture pertinent information so that it can be used for both reporting and judicial proceedings.

While the Manual was designed primarily as a support document for the formal training programme we have developed, we hope it will also be useful as a stand-alone resource”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “International criminal law is a complex area of law, as is the law of evidence, but hopefully the Manual will give readers the basic knowledge and skills they need in this area.

The Manual is divided into four main sections providing, respectively, an overview of international crimes, a focus on crimes against journalists, a review of practical steps that can be taken to document crimes so that the information can be used for criminal justice purposes and a final section setting out some additional resources. Although the Manual was specifically designed for Ukraine, the core material is relevant to other situations, so we encourage those with an interest in this from anywhere in the world to have a look at it.

Kyrylo Ovsyany, journalist with Radio Liberty’s programme Schemes: Corruption in Detail, who took part in the training programme, shares his views: “The Manual should be read at least once by every journalist who works with war reporting. It will help to have a better understanding of the legal issues involved and will explain what details need to be paid extra attention to.

Yevheniya Motorevska, who also joined the training and leads the war investigations department of The Kyiv Independent, is convinced that the Manual “gives an understanding of the key principles of the International Criminal Court. And also explains how to correctly record shelling of cities, killings of civilians and soldiers, looting, etc., so that these facts can be used in international courts in the future. Special thanks to the authors and translators for using ordinary language terms and providing detailed explanations.

Liudmyla Pankratova, Regional Press Development Institute Executive Director and one of the trainers on the ground, notes: “The training course and the Manual are extremely useful not only for Ukrainian reporters. It is a simple, convenient and, most importantly, an effective tool that allows you to understand and distinguish war crimes in order to document them. And the collected information can be added to the materials of the International Criminal Court. I believe that the application of the Manual will seriously increase opportunities for journalists to gather evidence of appropriate quality. Documenting war crimes in Ukraine is a job that is our responsibility, because no one knows better and has more access to such unique and important information than us.

The Manual is available here in English and Ukrainian and the Guide is available here in English and Ukrainian. For those interested, we can also share the slides we used for the training upon request.

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

Oksana Maksymeniuk
Legal Department Head
Regional Press Development Institute
Email: oksana.maksymeniuk@gmail.com


Документування міжнародних злочинів: презентуємо посібник для журналістів

11 вересня 2023 р.

Центр права та демократії розробив детальний “Посібник зі збору та зберігання інформації про міжнародні злочини”, а також коротку брошуру “Зберігання інформації для міжнародних кримінальних вироків: кишеньковий посібник для журналістів”. Два тижні тому ми вже розповідали вам про тренінґ, який ІРРП провів у співпраці з нашими канадськими колегами. Тепер власне презентуємо документи англійською та українською мовами. Програма, в рамках якої проводили навчання, має на меті допомогти журналістам, особливо тим, хто працює на передовій, розпізнавати міжнародні злочини й не лише висвітлювати їх, а й фіксувати у форматі, який приймуть під час судового розгляду. 

“Якщо посібник і розробляли як супровідний документ для тренінґової програми, ми сподіваємося, він буде корисним й автономно, – каже Тобі Мендель, виконавчий директор Центру права та демократії. – Як і доказове, міжнародне кримінальне право є складною галуззю, проте маємо надію, що посібник надасть читачам базові знання та навички, яких вони потребують”.

Документ містить чотири головні секції: огляд міжнародних злочинів; фокус на злочинах проти журналістів; практичні кроки з документування інформації, що уможливлять їхнє використання для цілей кримінального правосуддя; та фінальний розділ про додаткові ресурси. Посібник спеціально розробляли для України, проте основний матеріал може бути актуальним і в інших ситуаціях. Тож ми заохочуємо зацікавлених із усього світу ознайомитись із запропонованими матеріалами.  

Кирило Овсяний, журналіст програми “Схеми: корупція в деталях”, Радіо Свобода, узяв участь у тренінґовій програмі й ділиться враженнями: “Посібник варто хоча б раз прочитати кожному журналістові, що працює з висвітленням воєнних злочинів. Це допоможе краще розуміти специфіку роботи юристів та пояснить, на які деталі потрібно звертати додаткову увагу”.

Євгенія Моторевська, що також приєналася до навчання й очолює відділ воєнних розслідувань видання “The Kyiv Independent”, переконана, що посібник “дає розуміння ключових принципів роботи Міжнародного кримінального суду. А також пояснює, як правильно фіксувати обстріли міст, убивства цивільних і військових, мародерства тощо, щоби ці факти могли в майбутньому використати в міжнародних судах. Окрема подяка авторам і перекладачам за “людську” мову та доступні пояснення”.

Людмила Панкратова, виконавча директорка Інституту розвитку регіональної преси, зазначає: “Навчальний курс і посібник є надзвичайно корисними не лише для українських журналістів. Це простий, зручний і головне – ефективний інструмент, який дає змогу розібратися й розрізнити воєнні злочини для того, щоби задокументувати їх. А зібрану інформацію можуть долучити до матеріалів МКС. Вважаю, що застосування посібника серйозно збільшить можливості журналістів у зборі доказів належної якості. Документування воєнних злочинів в Україні – це робота, яка є нашим обов’язком, оскільки ніхто, крім нас, не знає краще та не має більшого доступу до такої унікальної та важливої інформації”.

Посібник доступний українською й англійською мовами, а з порадником можна ознайомитися тут. Будемо раді поділитися слайдами презентації, яку демонстрували на тренінґу.

Із будь-яких питань щодо проєкту контактуйте із:

Тобі Менделем,
виконавчим директором
Центру права та демократії
Email: toby@law-democracy.org
+1 902 431-3686
www.law-democracy.org
Twitter: @law_democracy

Оксаною Максименюк,
керівницею юридичного напряму
Інституту розвитку регіональної преси
Email: oksana.maksymeniuk@gmail.com

Posted in News | Comments Off on Ukraine: Manual for Journalists on Documenting International Crimes

Ukraine: Training for Journalists on Documenting International Crimes

30 August 2023.

[Текст українською йде далі]

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Regional Press Development Institute (RPDI) provided a training programme for Ukrainian experts and journalists last week based on our Manual for Journalists on Collecting and Preserving Information About International Crimes. The core idea behind the programme is that journalists reporting from the frontlines are often the first to come across information about the commission of international crimes, including war crimes. The focus of the training was on how to recognise international crimes in the first place and then to capture information about them such in a manner that it might be accepted as evidence by courts.

The idea is not to divert journalists from their core reporting role, which is particularly important during armed conflicts”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Rather, we are trying to promote the idea that the information can, with relatively little additional effort, essentially be used for both reporting and criminal accountability purposes.

Journalists in Ukraine have already demonstrated the potential of their work to contribute to international crimes prosecutions. The project seeks to expand and further professionalise that work.

The training programme started with a training of trainers delivered by CLD experts and was followed up by having the trained trainers deliver training to frontline journalists with support from the CLD experts. The idea is that this will be followed up by having the local experts deliver further training sessions. The Manual has been translated into Ukrainian and the translation is currently being reviewed; we will distribute both the English and Ukrainian versions shortly.

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


30 серпня 2023 року.

Україна: Тренінг з документування міжнародних злочинів для журналістів

Минулого тижня Центр права та демократії (CLD, Канада) та Інститут розвитку регіональної преси (RPDI, Україна) провели тренінг з документування міжнародних злочинів для українських експертів і журналістів. Програма базувалась на інформації з Посібника для журналістів зі збору та фіксації інформації про міжнародні злочини.

Журналісти, які працюють на передовій, часто першими стикаються з інформацією про вчинення міжнародних злочинів, зокрема воєнних. Тому під час тренінгу основна увага була приділена тому, як розпізнати міжнародні злочини та зафіксувати інформацію про них таким чином, щоб вона могла бути прийнята судами як доказ.

«Важливо не заважати журналістам виконувати свою основну задачу, яка є особливо важливою під час збройних конфліктів», — говорить Тобі Мендель, виконавчий директор CLD. «Натомість ми намагаємося просувати ідею того, що інформація може, якщо докласти невеликі додаткові зусилля, бути використана і для притягнення до кримінальної відповідальності винних у скоєнні міжнародних злочинів».

Українські журналісти вже продемонстрували, що їх діяльність може сприяти міжнародному правосуддю. Наш проєкт дозволить розширити та професіоналізувати цю роботу.

Перший етап навчальної програми включав тренінг для тренерів, проведений експертами CLD. На другому етапі підготовлені тренери за підтримки експертів CLD організували власний тренінг для українських журналістів. Подібні навчальні заходи будуть надалі проводитись місцевими тренерами самостійно.

Посібник для журналістів зі збору та фіксації інформації про міжнародні злочини перекладено українською мовою; англійська та українська версії будуть незабаром оприлюднені та розповсюджені.

Для отримання додаткової інформації звертайтеся до:

Тобі Мендель
Виконавчий директор
Центр права і демократії
Електронна адреса: toby@law-democracy.org 
+1 902 431-3686
http://www.law-democracy.org
Твіттер: http://@law_democracy

Posted in News | Comments Off on Ukraine: Training for Journalists on Documenting International Crimes

Myanmar: NGO Law Imposes Severe Restrictions on Civil Society

21 August 2023.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) released today its Analysis of the Organisation Registration Law, or NGO Law, which was adopted in late 2022 by Myanmar’s military junta, which has claimed lawmaking authority since the February 2021 coup. The NGO Law imposes substantial restrictions on both domestic and international NGOs. It makes ordinary NGO operations administratively complex and dependent on the whims of the military, undermining NGOs’ ability to respond to the widespread humanitarian needs in Myanmar.

“The NGO Law is only the latest in a long series of attacks on independent civil society in post-coup Myanmar,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director, CLD. “This Law provides a legal basis for existing practices of harassment and sends a message that NGOs are expected to align their activities and views with those of the military.”

The Analysis assesses the NGO Law based on international human rights standards governing freedom of association and expression. It highlights numerous areas where the NGO Law fails to respect those standards, including:

    • Mandatory registration requirements for all NGOs, with criminal penalties for operating an unregistered NGO.
    • NGO registration boards which are not independent and are vulnerable to military interference.
    • Burdensome registration requirements, including government letters of recommendation.
    • Broad authority for NGO registration boards to sanction NGOs on ambiguous grounds, including to cancel their certificate to operate.
    • New crimes which could cover ordinary NGO activities and peaceful advocacy.
    • Mandatory quarterly activity reports and other intrusive oversight requirements.
    • Prohibitions on any activity which relates even indirectly to political, religious or economic matters.

The full Analysis, including an Executive Summary, is available in both English and Burmese.

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

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Myanmar: Baseline Study on Access to Information Post-Coup

[Burmese text follows]

14 August 2023.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Hope Organization are today launching a baseline Study on Access to Information in Myanmar: Changes in How Health CSOs Access Information. The Study, which relied on a survey of 60 CSOs operating in Myanmar, assessed the state of access to health information since the 1 February 2021 coup. Some of the key findings were that 91% of respondents indicated that they feel less safe accessing information than before the coup, 85% found it more difficult to access information and 75% had changed the way they accessed information.

This is the first empirical survey of changes in access to information in Myanmar since the coup, and it provides unprecedented insight into those changes”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “While the results vary by survey question, the overall conclusion is clear: it has become more dangerous and more challenging to access both information in general and the core professional information health CSOs need to do their work.

The Study contains a wealth of detailed information about access of CSOs to health information. 92% of respondents indicated that information was only partially reliable, including due to the spreading of propaganda and false information by official sources. However, 77% said they had the means to validate information, mainly via other CSOs, trusted local contacts and peer-to-peer networks. A very concerning 60% indicated that they could not access the information they needed to do their work including, in some cases, because they were not willing to ask the government for information in “sensitive” cases. A number of respondents noted security measures they were taking currently, for example installing better digital security systems. Some of these highlight the repressive nature of the current situation in Myanmar, such as using different devices when leaving the home, changing SIM cards and social media accounts regularly, and hiding or removing apps on their devices.

The Study 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
+1 902 431-3686
www.law-democracy.org
Twitter: @law_democracy


၁၄ ဩဂုတ်လ ၂၀၂၃

အာဏာသိမ်းပြီးနောက်ပိုင်း မြန်မာနိုင်ငံတွင်း သတင်းအချက်အလက်ရယူမှုကို ကနဦးလေ့လာဆန်းစစ်ခြင်း

ဥပဒေနှင့် ဒီမိုကရေစီရေးရာဌာန (Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD)) နှင့် The Hope Organization တို့ ပူးပေါင်း၍ မြန်မာနိုင်ငံတွင်း သတင်းအချက်အလက်ရယူမှုကို လေ့လာဆန်းစစ်ခြင်း – ကျန်းမာရေးဆိုင်ရာ လူထုအခြေပြု အဖွဲ့အစည်းများ၏ သတင်းအချက်အလက်ရယူမှုအပြောင်းအလဲ ကနဦးလေ့လာဆန်းစစ်မှုအစီရင်ခံကို ယနေ့တွင် ထုတ်ပြန်ပါသည်။ ဤလေ့လာဆန်းစစ်မှုတွင် ပြည်တွင်းလူထုအခြေပြုအဖွဲ့အစည်း ၆၀ ၏ ၂၀၂၁ ခုနှစ် ဖေဖော်ဝါရီ ၁ ရက် မြန်မာနိုင်ငံတွင် စစ်တပ်အာဏာသိမ်းပြီးနောက် ကြုံတွေ့ရသည့် ကျန်းမာရေးဆိုင်ရာသတင်းအချက်အလက်ရယူမှု အခြေအနေများကို အဓိကထား လေ့လာထားခြင်းဖြစ်သည်။ လေ့လာဆန်းမှုအရတွေ့ရှိသည့် ထင်ရှားသောအချို့အချက်များအနေနှင့် အာဏာသိမ်းမှု မဖြစ်ခင်နှင့် ဖြစ်ပြီး အခြေအနေကို နှိုင်းယှဉ်ရာတွင် ဖြေဆိုသူများ၏ ၉၁% က ယင်းတို့အနေနှင့် သတင်းအချက်အလက်များကို ရယူရာတွင် အာဏာသိမ်းပြီးနောက်ပိုင်းတွင် လုံခြုံမှုပိုမိုကင်းမဲ့လာကြောင်း၊ ၈၅% က သတင်းအချက်အလက်များ ရယူရန် ပိုမိုခက်ခဲလာကြောင်းနှင့် ၇၅% က ယင်းတို့၏ သတင်းအချက်အလက်ရယူသည့် ပုံစံနည်းလမ်းများကို ပြောင်းလဲရကြောင်း စသည်တို့ကို တွေ့ရှိရသည်။

CLD ၏ အမှုဆောင်ဒါရိုက်ဖြစ်သူ Toby Mendel က “ဒီလေ့လာဆန်းစစ်မှုဟာ စစ်တပ်ကအာဏာသိမ်းပြီးနောက်ပိုင်း မြန်မာနိုင်ငံရဲ့ သတင်းအချက်အလက်ရယူခြင်းနဲ့ပတ်သက်တဲ့ ပြောင်းလဲမှုတွေကို နည်းလမ်းတကျနဲ့ပြုလုပ်တဲ့ ပထမဆုံး စစ်တမ်းဖြစ်ပြီး ထိုပြောင်းလဲမှုများအပေါ် တမူထူးခြားတဲ့ အမြင်တွေကို ပေးစွမ်းနိုင်မှာပါ“ “အချို့တွေ့ရှိချက်တွေက စစ်တမ်းမှာအသုံးပြုတဲ့ မေးခွန်းတွေအပေါ်မူတည်ပြီး ကွဲပြားပြောင်းလဲမှုရှိနိုင်သော်လည်းပဲ အဓိကတွေ့ရှိချက်တော့ ရှင်းလင်းပါတယ် – အဲဒါကတော့ သာမာန်ပြည်သူလူထုအတွက်ရော ကျန်းမာရေးကိစ္စဆောင်ရွက်ပေးနေသူတွေအတွက်ပါ သတင်းအချက်အလက်တွေရယူတဲ့ နေရာမှာ အန္တရာယ်ပိုများလာပြီး ပိုမို ခက်ခဲလာတယ်ဆိုတာပါပဲ“

ဤလေ့လာဆန်းစစ်မှုတွင် လူထုအဖွဲ့အစည်းများအနေနှင့် ကျန်းမာရေးဆိုင်ရာသတင်းအချက်အလက်ရယူခြင်းနှင့် ပတ်သက်သည့် ကိစ္စရပ်များကို ကျယ်ပြန့်စွာတွေ့နိုင်ပါမည်။ ဖြေဆိုသူ ၉၂% က ယင်းတို့ ရရှိသော သတင်းအချက်အလက်များသည် တစိတ်တပိုင်းသာ ယုံကြည်ရပြီး ထိုသို့ဖြစ်ရခြင်းမှာလည်း တရားဝင်သတင်းရင်းမြစ်များ ကိုယ်တိုင်က ဝါဒဖြန့်ခြင်းနှင့် သတင်းမှားဖြန့်ချိခြင်းတို့ကို ဆောင်ရွက်လာသောကြောင့်ဖြစ်သည်ဟု ဆိုကြသည်။ သို့ရာတွင် ဖြေဆိုသူ ၇၇% က ယင်းတို့တွင် ထိုသတင်းအချက်အလက်များကို တိုက်ဆိုင်စစ်ဆေးရန် နည်းများရှိကြသည်ဟုဆိုကြပြီး အများစုမှာ အခြားအဖွဲ့အစည်းများ၊ ယုံကြည်စိတ်ချရသော ဒေသခံအဆက်သွယ်များနှင့် ချိတ်ဆက်ထားသော ဒေသကွန်ရက်များကို မေးမြန်း၍ တိုက်ဆိုင်စစ်ဆေးကြသည်ဟု ဆိုကြသည်။ အလွန်စိုးရိမ်ရသည့်တွေ့ရှိချက်တခုမှာ ဖြေဆိုသူ ၆၀% က ယင်းတို့ လုပ်ငန်းနှင့်သက်ဆိုင်သည့် သတင်းအချက်အလက်များကို ရယူနိုင်ခြင်းမရှိ ဆိုသည့် တွေ့ရှိချက်ဖြစ်ပြီး အချို့အခြေအနေများတွင် သက်ဆိုင်ရာ အုပ်ချုပ်ရေးကို လိုအပ်သော သတင်းအချက်အလက်များ တောင်းဆိုခြင်းသည်ပင် ‘အကဲဆတ် ထိရှလွယ်သော’ အန္တရာယ်ရှိသည့်အခြေအနေတရပ်ကဲ့သို့ ဖြစ်နေခြင်းပင်။ ဖြေကြားသူအချို့၏ အဆိုအရ လက်ရှိအချိန်တွင် ယင်းတို့၏ လုံခြုံရေးအတွက် ဒစ်ဂျစ်တယ်လုံခြုံရေးနည်းစနစ်များကို အသုံးပြုနေကြရသည်။  ပြည်သူလူထုအနေနှင့် အပြင်သို့ သွားလာသည့်အခါတိုင်း ဖုန်းအပိုများကို ယူဆောင်သွားရခြင်း၊ SIM ကဒ်များနှင့် လူမှုကွန်ရက် အချက်အလက်များကို ပြောင်းလဲအသုံးပြုရခြင်းနှင့် Application များကို ဖွက်ခြင်း၊ ဖျက်ခြင်းများကို ဆောင်ရွက်ခြင်းဖြင့် ယင်းတို့ လုံခြုံရေးအတွက် အလွန်သတိထား နေထိုင်သွားလာနေကြရပြီး အထက်ပါ တွေ့ရှိချက်များသည် မြန်မာနိုင်ငံအတွင်းတွင် လက်ရှိဖြစ်ပွားနေသည့် ဆိုးရွားသည့် ဖိနှိပ်မှုများကို မီးမောင်းထိုးပြလျှက်ရှိပါသည်။

ဤ အနှစ်ချုပ်မှတ်စုကို အင်္ဂလိပ်၊ မြန်မာ ၂ ဘာသာနှင့် ဖတ်ရှုနိုင်ပါသည်။

 

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Myanmar: Note on Printing and Publishing Enterprises Law Amendments

24 July 2023.

On 6 March 2023, the military council ruling Myanmar issued amendments to the Printing and Publishing Enterprises Law (PPEL). These amendments weakened the already inadequate safeguards contained in the PPEL to protect the printing, publishing and news industries from abuses of power. The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has published a brief note analysing the implications of the amendments for freedom of expression as part of its wider work focusing on Myanmar.

The PPEL’s registration system for the printing, publishing and news industries was already unnecessary and prone to abuse”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “The amendments have further concentrated powers in the Ministry of Information. As such, they represent a continuation of broader trends of deteriorating respect for freedom of expression and rule of law since the 2021 coup”.

The amendments now effectively give the Minister of Information the power to ban publications simply by publishing a notice in the Official Gazette to the effect that a publication is invalid for breach of the overbroad content restrictions found in the law. Following such a notice, the police can confiscate the publication. The Note concludes with a recommendation that the amendments be withdrawn until such a time as democracy returns to Myanmar and the PPEL can be revised in a democratic and participatory manner with a view to addressing shortcomings in that legislation instead of weakening its safeguards. 

The Note is available in English and Burmese.  For more CLD publications on Myanmar, visit CLD’s Myanmar Resource Page.

For further information, please contact:

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

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