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Report on Developing a System for Professional Media Regulation

28 June 2023.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) has prepared a Note on Professional Regulation of the Media as part of its wider work focusing on Myanmar. The aim is to support local actors to work together with the aim of putting in place a self-regulatory system to help improve professionalism among independent media focusing on Myanmar.

The professional systems that used to function for Myanmar are no longer legitimate or effective”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “As such, it is very important for independent media focusing on Myanmar to set up their own, credible and effective self-regulatory system, and we are very happy to support them in this.

The Note provides an overview of the three main approaches to professional regulation – namely self-regulation, co-regulation and statutory regulation – and then delves in more detail into the key features of self- and co-regulation before describing the benefits of these systems and the different roles they can play beyond merely deciding on complaints about professionalism. The final section looks at a number of practice issues regarding the establishment of a self-regulatory system for independent media focusing on Myanmar, the only option given the current situation.

The Note 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

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Invitation: Open Course on Freedom of Expression in Myanmar

8 June 2023.

CLD invites you to join our online course, Freedom of Expression: International Law and the Practice in Myanmar.

This nine-week online course, to be conducted in English, involves weekly one and one-half hour interactive lectures, discussions, background readings and an opportunity to interact with others who share your interest. The first six weeks will focus on international human rights standards on freedom of expression, media freedom and digital rights. The next three weeks will examine the legal environment for freedom of expression in Myanmar both before and since the 2021 coup.

The main course details are as follows:

    • Course Dates: 26 June – 25 August 2023
    • Online Lectures: Wednesdays at 6:00 – 7:30 PM Bangkok time
      • First lecture 28 June and last lecture 23 August
    • Registration Link: https://forms.gle/oRz9UZ1Q3NyjEgN28
    • Cost: Free

The course if open to everyone who is interested. Those who attend six of the nine lectures will receive a certificate of completion upon the end of the course, but anyone is invited to register and attend as they are able. Lectures and discussions will be conducted in English, so participants should have a working knowledge of English, although some reading materials are also available in Burmese. No knowledge of international human rights law or freedom of expression principles is necessary.

For more information or with any questions, please contact laura@law-democracy.org. You can also view a handout for this course here and the course outline here.

This course is available thanks to the generous support of the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada.

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Mexico: Global Community Calls on Senators to Appoint Information Commissioners

17 May 2023.

The lead oversight body for access to information in Mexico, the National Institute for Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data Protection (INAI), is currently unable to function because the Mexican President and Senate have refused to appoint new commissioners, so that the body currently lacks the quorum required to operate. Over 70 organisations and individuals from around the world have written a letter to the members of the relevant Senate Committee to urge them to move forward immediately to appoint new INAI commissioners.

The failure to appoint these commissioners, even though the process was initiated well over a year ago, represents a pointed attack on democracy”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “The Mexican President and the ruling National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party, which he founded, have made no secret of their dislike of democratic institutions like INAI, but to disable this body by refusing to appoint commissioners represents a real low.

INAI commissioners are appointed by the Senate but the President can “oppose the appointment”, albeit subject to an eventual override by the Senate. Although the process to replace two retiring commissioners was initiated in January 2022, the Senate only made appointments more than a year later, in March 2023. These were then vetoed by the President and no further appointments have been made since then. When another commissioner retired on 1 April 2023, INAI fell below the quorum it needs to conduct its business.

The joint letter highlights the crucial role played by INAI in supporting the right to information in Mexico, as well as the need for the Senate to use its power to replace the commissioners who have retired.

The letter is available in English and Spanish 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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2023 Joint Declaration on Media Freedom and Democracy

2 May 2023.

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 Media Freedom and Democracy. The Joint Declaration, which was drafted with the assistance of the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), describes the important role of free, independent and pluralistic media in supporting democracy, human rights and other important social values, and then sets out the obligations and responsibilities of States, online platforms and the media themselves to ensure that the media can fulfil these important roles.

A key aim of the 2023 Joint Declaration is to reaffirm the importance of professional news media in maintaining the key values that support and sustain democracy”, said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Support for media freedom is more important today than ever – due to the erosion of media business models and increasing official attacks on media freedom in both emerging and established democracies – and yet public understanding of how important this is has waned.

The Joint Declaration has three separate sections focusing on States. The first calls on States to establish an enabling environment for the media, focusing heavily on the promotion of media diversity and protection of journalists against legal and physical attacks and harassment. The second calls on States to refrain from violating media freedom, including by ensuring that legal restrictions are in line with international law and by politicians not undermining public trust in the media and instead demonstrating tolerance of criticism. The third calls for economic measures to support the media, including the fair allocation of State subsidies and advertising.

Another section calls on online platforms to respect human rights standards, to strengthen transparency and the power of users to control their online experiences, and to conduct human rights impact assessments of their operations and mitigate any risks these identify. It also calls on large platforms to compensate media fairly for their business use of media content. A final section calls on the media to respect professional standards, including by putting in place self-regulatory mechanisms to develop and apply professional codes of conduct.

The Joint Declaration is available here. Other languages will follow soon.

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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CLD Joins Letter on Internet Shutdowns in India

7 April 2023. 

CLD has joined a letter calling on India to review and reform the legal and regulatory framework governing internet shutdowns in India. It notes that “(u)nfettered access for all to an open, secure, and reliable internet is vital to the protection of fundamental rights in India, and to ensure that the livelihoods of increasing millions of people in India dependent on digital services and a connected economy are not disrupted.”

The letter can be viewed at this link

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Canada: Submission to the UPR on the Right to Information

5 April 2023.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), in collaboration with the Centre for Free Expression (CFE), the Canadian Institute for Information and Privacy Studies (CIIPS) and Democracy Watch, has made a Submission to Session 44 of the Universal Periodic Review on the Right to Information in Canada, a process which is overseen by the United Nations Human Rights Council. The entire Submission focuses on problems with the federal right to information (access to information) system in Canada, which has been broken for many years now.

“Stakeholders from almost every sector agree that the right to information system in Canada is fundamentally broken, despite some modest improvements with Bill C-58, and that root and branch reform of the legislation is needed,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “We hope that this Submission will attract the attention of some States and that a recommendation will be put to Canada on this issue, something which has not happened at previous UPR reviews of Canada.”

The Submission outlines the numerous problems with Canada’s right to information regime, from the many public authorities which are not covered by it, to procedural problems, in particular leading to delays in responding to requests, to the significantly overbroad regime of exceptions. These issues have been highlighted by civil society, the Information Commissioner of Canada and parliamentary committees quite literally for decades now. It is high time the government took note of this serious shortcoming in Canadian democracy and acted decisively to address it.

“For years, Canada’s federal Access to Information Act has fallen far short of international standards, much less international best practices,” said James Turk, Director of CFE. “This Review provides an opportunity for the Canadian law’s serious shortcomings to be corrected – corrections badly needed.”

The full submission is available here.

For further information, please contact:

Toby Mendel                                                            James Turk
Executive Director                                                    Director
Centre for Law and Democracy                               Centre for Free Expression
Email: toby@law-democracy.org                             jim@jameslturk.com
+1 902 431-3686                                                     +1 613 277-0488
www.law-democracy.org                                         https://cfe.torontomu.ca
Twitter: @law_democracy

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Pakistan: Amicus Brief Challenging Criminal Defamation

20 March 2023.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Institute for Research, Advocacy and Development (IRADA) have submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Islamabad High Court on behalf of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ). The case involves a constitutional challenge to Pakistan’s criminal defamation provisions, which provide for sanctions of up to two years’ imprisonment. The main argument is that criminal defamation laws are not justified as necessary restrictions on freedom of expression because civil defamation laws, which exert less of a chilling effect on speech, provide adequate protection for reputations.

“We have seen a bit of a resurgence in terms of countries doing away with criminal defamation rules in recent years, especially in Africa,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “But such rules still remain in place in most countries so it would be quite exciting to have a court in Pakistan declare them to be unconstitutional.”

Our brief outlines international standards in this area, showing how criminal defamation and imprisonment for defamation have been addressed by international and regional human rights courts, as well as in authoritative statements by official actors. It also reviews countries which have either repealed their criminal defamation rules or had them struck down by courts. In addition to these arguments against criminal defamation in general, the brief also highlights a number of specific ways in which the Pakistani rules in this area fail to conform to international standards. These include by providing for a defence for statements about officials only where those statements were made in good faith, and limiting the defence of truth to cases where the statements were also “for the public good”.

Our full brief 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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Note on UNESCO’s Guidelines for Regulating Digital Platforms

16 March 2023.

Last week, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) submitted a Note on UNESCO’s Guidelines for Regulating Digital Platforms Draft 2.0 to UNESCO as part of the process of review of those Guidelines. The Note includes a number of general comments on the Guidelines along with more specific suggestions on amending individual paragraphs.

“These UNESCO Guidelines will potentially impact the development of national regulatory systems for platforms and support pushback by human rights defenders against national rules that fail to respect international standards,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Our Note is designed to help ensure that they are as clear and precise as possible and, of course, align fully with international human rights standards.”

A number of CLD’s comments seek to integrate international standards on freedom of expression more clearly into the text of the Guidelines. For example, some of the language appears to juxtapose respecting freedom of expression and dealing with illegal content. While this is sometimes fair, in other cases illegal or otherwise problematical content, while representing an exercise of freedom of expression is also an attack on freedom of expression, for example when harassment of women online drives out their voices. It is important for the Guidelines to articulate this human rights nuance.

We also make the point that even where international law precludes imposing liability on individuals for certain types of content, this does not automatically mean that it would be illegitimate to require platforms to take (appropriate and graduated) measures against the proliferation of those types of content on their platforms. For example, individual statements of disinformation during elections may be protected speech but it may still be appropriate to require platforms to put in place structural measures to address such statements where necessary to protect the integrity of the elections. This idea is somehow implicit in the Guidelines but it would be helpful to make it more explicit.

These are just two examples of many comments in the Note, which 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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Report on Integrating Ethnic Content into Public Service Broadcasting

27 February 2023.

Today, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is launching a report on Integrating Ethnic Content into Public Service Broadcasting, as part of its wider work focusing on Myanmar. The report outlines the key international standards governing public service broadcasting (PSB), and then focuses on how these broadcasters can and should reflect the ethnic diversity of the societies they serve. A final section looks at other ways of promoting ethnic content within the overall broadcasting environment.

“The public broadcasting system in Myanmar never reflected the very rich and diverse ethnic makeup of the country,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “While moving forward on this issue is not possible now, following the February 2021 military coup, it is important to start building awareness of what will be needed when Myanmar transitions back to democracy.”

CLD is working to build understanding among pro-democracy Myanmar actors about international standards on freedom of expression, as well as the institutional structures which are needed to support an environment of respect for this fundamental right. A genuine public service broadcasting system which, among other things, gives voice to and serves the information needs of all groups in society is a key part of this. Our dedicated webpage for Myanmar resources is available here.

The report outlines a number of ways in which public service broadcasters can deliver on their obligation to be diverse and representative – such as through dedicated ethnic language channels and incorporating ethnic content into their programming through independent productions – providing examples of how this is done in different countries around the world. It also looks at more structural measures, such as through having representatives of ethnic groups on the governing boards of public broadcasters and general legal or policy requirements to reflect the diversity of the societies they serve. The report also looks at other ways to support the provision of ethnic content, such as by providing public funding to support the production of public interest content or ensuring the integration of ethnic broadcasters into the community and commercial broadcasting sectors.

The report is available in English here and in Burmese 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

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Launch of Guides on Making Access to Information Requests and Appealing Denials at the World Bank and IFC

16 February 2023.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and Bank Information Center (BIC) are today launching two user-friendly Guides on making requests for information at the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). The Guides describe how to file a request for information from these two institutions and how to appeal in case the request is denied.

“Although both the World Bank and IFC have had access to information policies in place for many years now, public awareness of these procedures is limited,” said Toby Mendel, CLD’s Executive Director. “Even where people do file a request for information, they may not know how to file an appeal if their request is denied. These Guides provide easy-to-follow instructions on how to do this.”

CLD and BIC are launching the guides at a virtual workshop today, 16 February, at 10:00 EST. During this workshop we will share and discuss tips for navigating the World Bank Group’s access to information system. To join us, please click the following link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/81888461343?pwd=WUkyZGlXc01odXdZaUtaMWc5SFUxUT09.

The Guides are available at: Accessing Information from the World Bank and Accessing Information from the International Finance Corporation

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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Launch of Case Studies on Building Media Lawyers’ Networks

8 February 2023.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is releasing three case studies featuring the work of the following media lawyers’ networks: Tornavoz, Brazil; Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network; and Media Law Resource Center, United States. The case studies are authored by Charlene Nagae, Executive Director of Tornavoz, Jeffrey Hermes, Deputy Director of Media Law Resource Center, and Toby Mendel of CLD, who writes about the Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network’s experiences prior to the 2021 coup.

“These case studies provide examples of successful efforts to create professional networks of lawyers specialising in media law in countries in different regions of the world, and offer advice and experience for lawyers hoping to create similar networks in their own countries,” said Toby Mendel, CLD’s Executive Director.

CLD is hosting a panel discussion today, 8 February, at 10:00 EST featuring the authors of the case studies. To register and join the discussion, please click here.

These case studies are released as part of CLD’s Promoting the Establishment of Networks of Media Lawyers Globally project, funded by the Global Media Defence Fund which is managed by UNESCO. The project provides resources and support to lawyers seeking to establish national level media lawyers’ networks. To learn more, see our Brochure describing the project and our Media Lawyers’ Networks project information page.

The case studies are available at: Tornavoz, Brazil; Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network; and Media Law Resource Center, United States.

For further information about the project 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: Accessing Information and Filing Appeals at the World Bank Group

You are invited to a webinar on accessing information at the World Bank Group on 16 February 2023 at 10:00 AM EST. To join the webinar on 16 February, please click the following link: https://us06web.zoom.us/j/81888461343?pwd=WUkyZGlXc01odXdZaUtaMWc5SFUxUT09 

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Invitation to Panel Discussion: Case Studies in Building a Media Lawyers’ Network

You are invited to a Panel Discussion: Case Studies in Building a Media Lawyers’ Network on 8 February 2023 at 10:00 AM EST. This panel discussion highlights the experiences of lawyers in three countries in forming a network of media lawyers. It will be moderated by Laura Notess, Senior Legal Officer at CLD, and will feature:

    • Charlene Nagae, Executive Director, Tornavoz (Brazil)
    • Jeffrey Hermes, Deputy Director, Media Law Resource Center (U.S.)
    • Toby Mendel, Executive Director, CLD, speaking about the Myanmar Media Lawyers’ Network

The panel coincides with the launch of short case studies featuring these three networks. The discussion will be an opportunity to share experiences, lessons learned and advice on how to create and grow such networks. To join, please register at this link.  

The webinar is held as part of CLD’s project on creating media lawyers’ networks. Learn more about this project at https://www.law-democracy.org/live/projects/media-lawyers-networks.

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Myanmar: Note on the 2021 Amendment to the Counter-Terrorism Law

26 January 2023.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is today releasing a brief Note on a 2021 Amendment to Myanmar’s Counter-Terrorism Law. This Amendment, introduced by the military regime after the February 2021 coup, increased the penalties for a number of vaguely defined expressive acts linked to terrorism from one to three years’ to three to seven years’ imprisonment, thereby exacerbating the already problematical nature of these offences.

“Most of the terms used in these offences are far too vague to meet international human rights standards for restrictions on freedom of expression, so the offences are illegitimate to begin with,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Increasing the penalties for them aggravates their chilling effect and is yet another illustration of the marked deterioration in respect for human rights in Myanmar since the coup.”

The offences to which the increased penalties apply are “acts of exhortation, persuasion, propaganda, [and] recruitment of any person to participate in any terrorist group or activities of terrorism”. The Note provides an overview of the applicable international human rights standards followed by a brief analysis of the Amendment. CLD calls for this Amendment to be repealed and, at such time as democracy is reinstated, for section 3(b)(xv) and other problematic provisions in the Counter-Terrorism Law to be reviewed through a proper democratic consultative and legislative process.

The Note is available in English here and in Burmese 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

17 January 2023.

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 2023. 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 resume, cover letter and unofficial law school transcripts to raphael@law-democracy.org by 9 February 2023. 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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Model Training Materials: Hate Speech, Defamation and National Security

20 December 2022.

The Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is today releasing a new document, Model Training Materials: Hate Speech, Defamation and National Security. These training materials focus on three commonly applied restrictions on freedom of expression under international human rights law. They are designed as a resource for professional networks of media lawyers and other organisations working to build the capacity of lawyers to defend media freedom.

“Hate speech, defamation and national security are among the most commonly applied and frequently abused restrictions on freedom of expression,” said Toby Mendel, CLD’s Executive Director. “These training materials can help lawyers clearly delineate which rules are appropriate from the perspective of international human rights law and, where possible, use these standards to promote more rights-protective domestic legal frameworks.”

The Materials consist of: 1) a Background Reading document describing core standards for each type of restriction; 2) sample exercises that can be used during training programmes; 3) discussion questions, also for use during trainings; and 4) sample agendas for a one and one-half hour or one-half-day workshop based on the materials.

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

If you are potentially interested in establishing a media lawyers’ network in your own country, please contact us. We can provide various forms of support to take this idea forward.

The Model Training Materials are available here.

For further information about the project 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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Inter-American Development Bank: Analysis of the Proposed Access to Information Policy

5 December 2022.

Today, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) is releasing Inter-American Development Bank: Analysis of the Proposal for the New Access to Information Policy. The Analysis welcomes a number of improvements in the new Proposal, particularly in terms of tightening up the regime of exceptions by making most exceptions harm tested and subject to the public interest override. At the same time, the Analysis points to a number of areas where the Proposal could still be further improved.

“After a period of improvements in the information policies of the international financial institutions until around 2010, when the current IDB policy was adopted, we have not seen much progress for a while,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “With this Proposal, the IDB is making a commitment to move forward and we encourage it to take full advantage of this opportunity and really improve its access to information policy.”

This Analysis was prepared in response to a call for feedback on the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Proposal for the new Access to Information Policy, which would replace the current Policy. It notes that the IDB’s Proposal represents a strong step in the right direction towards enhanced transparency. In addition to the advances noted above, the Proposal eliminates the “negative override”, which currently gives the IDB broad discretion to keep information secret. It also removes or narrows several problematic exceptions, creates a strong “harm test” and sets out clear procedures for requesting information from the Bank.

However, the Analysis also makes several recommendations for further strengthening the Proposal, including the following:

    • The prohibition on anonymous requests should be removed.
    • The policy should contain an overall time limit on extensions of the deadline for responding to requests.
    • The positive override should apply whenever the public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interest, be mandatory in nature and apply at all stages of decisions on requests, including the initial decision.
    • The policy should make it clear that third parties do not have a veto over disclosure and establish clear procedures for consulting with third parties.
    • The policy framework for proactive disclosure should be strengthened.

The Analysis 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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Report on Progress Towards Sustainable Development Goal 16

17 November 2022.

Today, the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD), in collaboration with a number of other civil society organisations that make up the Sustainable Development Goal 16 Data Initiative, is launching a report on progress towards achieving SDG 16, SDG 16 Data Initiative Report 2022: Are we on track to meeting the 2030 agenda? This is timely given that we are now approaching the half-way point of the SDGs. Based on the extensive collection of high-quality non-official SDG data by participating groups, the report concludes: “[T]he non-official data relied upon show stagnation, backsliding or only very limited progress which cannot possibly be said to represent a halfway point towards substantial progress, which is where the world should be at this point.”

“All of the SDGs are important, but SDG 16 – focusing on peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice and effective, accountable institutions – is a cross-cutting goal in the sense that sustainable progress towards all other goals depend on it,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “The evidence shows that progress on Goal 16 is nowhere near what it should be at the half-way point, a matter of very serious concern.”

The report contains six chapters looking at seven of the ten SDG 16 targets. CLD’s Toby Mendel co-authored Chapter 2, on SDG Target 16.10 (access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms) and authored the final Chapter 6: Nearly halfway: but where are we? As regards the first, in terms of access to information, the focus of the CLD part of the chapter, while some progress has been made in terms of adopting access to information laws, too many countries have still not done so and the average strength of those laws remains well below its 2010 peak. The evidence also suggests that progress on implementation is very weak and indeed backsliding in many countries.

The final chapter provides an overview of progress across all seven targets. With the exception of intentional homicides and conflict-related deaths (the indicators for Target 16.1), progress on all of the targets surveyed was limited or non-existent. As such, the chance of achieving significant progress on SDG 16 by 2030, the objective set by the UN for all SDGs, seems nigh on impossible.

The Report is available here.

For further information, please contact:

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

 

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Myanmar: Mapping Democratic Framework for Free Expression

3 November 2022.

CLD has today released an Outline of the key elements that should be contained in any democratic legal framework which governs freedom of expression. The goal is to provide guidance to civil society and other interested stakeholders in Myanmar on how to create a framework which is consistent with international standards.

“The 2021 coup d’état heralded in a marked deterioration in respect for human rights in Myanmar,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Despite that, many stakeholders are still committed to working towards a democratic future for Myanmar and we hope that this Outline will prove a valuable resource for them both to evaluate the current legal framework and to provide a sort of mapping of what a rights-compliant legal framework might look like.”

The Outline begins with a one-page table providing an overview of the rules presented in the Outline and then goes on to describe international standards on criminal and civil content rules, with a focus on hate speech, national security/public order, obscenity, protection of the judiciary, blasphemy, false news, defamation, privacy, and the right to information. It then turns to international standards on media regulation, highlighting the importance of ensuring the independence of regulatory bodies and promoting media diversity, and detailing how different rules are appropriate for different types of media, such as print media, private broadcasters, public broadcasters and online communications.

The Outline is available in English here and in Burmese 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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Azerbaijan: Analysis of Law on Media

1 November 2022.

Azerbaijan adopted a new Law on Media in early 2022 which seeks to provide a comprehensive framework for media regulation. The Centre for Law and Democracy is today launching its Analysis of the new law. Despite some positive elements, the Media Law does not bring a forward-looking approach to regulating online media or modern broadcasting, fails to insulate regulatory powers from the government and imposes far too many constraints, including content restrictions, on different media sectors.

“Azerbaijan has been achieving low scores in the area of media freedom for some time,” said Toby Mendel, Executive Director of CLD. “Unfortunately, this new Media Law will neither improve those scores nor create a freer or more diverse environment for the media.”

Some of the more serious problems with the Media Law are as follows:

    • It is far too broad in scope, especially in its definition of online media, although it also takes a traditional, narrow approach to defining who is a journalist.
    • It imposes a broad range of restrictions on the content media outlets may disseminate, most of which are either illegitimate entirely or overly broad and vague.
    • It creates a new Audiovisual Council which is proclaimed as an independent body, but it then fails at a practical level to ensure its independence.
    • It sets out numerous unnecessarily restrictive rules for all media outlets in areas such as logos, copyright, secret recording techniques, founders and foreign funding.
    • It imposes overly broad licensing and other requirements on broadcasters and yet fails to recognise community broadcasting or use licensing to promote diversity.
    • Print and online media have to go through a complex process to start up, and submit 18 different types of information, instead of benefitting from a simple registration system.
    • Strict conditions are placed on the recognition of journalists including having higher education, working for a registered media and not having been convicted of a crime.
    • It envisages only suspension and termination as sanctions, even for potentially very mild breaches of the rules.

We call on the Azerbaijani authorities to substantially revise the Media Law so as to bring it more fully into line with international standards.

Our Analysis is available here.

For further information, please contact:

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

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