magnify
Home Articles posted by Sejal Parmar

Academic Freedom Under Pressure

Published on December 2, 2019        Author: 

 

Contemporary threats to academic freedom are global, diverse and mounting. The ICNL-commissioned report Closing Academic Space published in March found “repressive and potentially repressive government practices against higher education institutions, including academics and students, in more than 60 countries”, including Hungary, Russia, Venezuela, Turkey, Egypt and China.

Challenges to academic freedom and autonomy in Europe, particularly the EU, now seem alarming, despite significant resistance. A couple of causes célèbres illustrate the point. On Wednesday 27 November, the distinguished constitutional law scholar Professor Wojciech Sadurski faced the first hearing in one of three SLAPP lawsuits brought against him under civil and criminal defamation laws by Poland’s governing Law and Justice party and the public broadcaster, TVP. Various actors have stood in solidarity with Professor Sadurski. In the run-up to the hearing, constitutional law scholars launched the #WithWoj hashtag, following an open letter on the Verfassungsblog in May; ARTICLE 19 submitted an amicus curiae brief, live-monitored the hearing and, together with other NGOs, issued a statement.

On Friday 15 November, my institution, the Central European University (“CEU”) officially inaugurated its Vienna campus, having been forced to move its US accredited degree programmes from Budapest as a result of amendments to Hungary’s higher education law adopted in April 2017 (“Lex CEU”). The subsequent fight to defend CEU spurred street demonstrations, the #IstandwithCEU hashtag and thousands of statements of support – including from academic institutions and associations, Nobel Laureates, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the late former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and a network of freedom of expression NGOs. It also motivated the adoption of the Utrecht Declaration on Academic Freedom by human rights academics.

These cases raise a number of individual human rights issues and deep concerns about the implications of restrictions on scholars and universities for democracy and the rule of law across societies. They further prompt questions about the definition, scope and place of the notion of “academic freedom” in international law. Read the rest of this entry…

 

The Assange case and the UK’s global defence of media freedom

Published on April 15, 2019        Author: 

Human rights advocates often point to the lack of consistency and coherence between states’ stated commitments, on the one hand, and their actions, on the other. Even then, the tensions surrounding the UK’s recent approach to the goal of protecting media freedom globally and its projection seem striking.

Within less than a week, the UK government has gone from showcasing its new campaign to defend media freedom – specifically the appointment of the Foreign Secretary’s Special Envoy and a panel of legal experts “to support countries to repeal outdated and draconian laws and strengthen legal mechanisms to protect journalists”, as well as an international conference to be held in London on 10 and 11 July, co-hosted with the Canadian government (on 5 April) – to facing a chorus of warnings from wide range of human rights organisations, authorities and activists  – including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Knight First Amendment Institute, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, and Pentagon Papers whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg – that the UK’s possible extradition of Julian Assange to the United States to face, at the moment, a single charge of conspiracy “to commit computer intrusion” would pose a threat the lawful and legitimate activity of journalists, especially their communications with their sources, setting a “dangerous precedent” for the future prosecution of “legacy” news media organisations.

Read the rest of this entry…

 
Tags:
Comments Off on The Assange case and the UK’s global defence of media freedom

Beyond the Mantra, Towards the Granular: The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression’s Report on the Private Sector in the Digital Age

Published on July 5, 2016        Author: 

I. Introduction

“To what extent should the private sector be responsible for the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression?” This is the question at the heart of the latest report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Professor David Kaye (“Special Rapporteur”), which he presented at the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council, which ended last week. The current report does not purport to offer comprehensive answers, but instead maps out the myriad of ways in which the private sector impacts upon freedom of expression in the digital age, the “regulatory ecosystem on the Internet”, and the legal and policy issues that deserve particular attention. Surprisingly, UN human rights bodies only began really grappling with the challenges of the Internet five years ago. In this period, there have been reports of the Special Rapporteur and his predecessor on encryption and anonymity tools, mass surveillance, and the Internet as well as a series of Human Rights Council and General Assembly resolutions on human rights on the Internet and the right to privacy in the digital age. Such texts have made the statement that “the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular freedom of expression” into a mantra. Against this backdrop, the current report is pioneering for several reasons.

II. Breaking new ground

First and foremost, the report is comprehensive in its mapping of the digital environment and related freedom of expression challenges. As the delegation of the Netherlands recognised, it is the “first full overview of all private actors in ICT whose actions impact freedom of expression and opinion”. The report disaggregates the “vast” and “overlapping” range of roles played by private sector actors in “organising, accessing, populating and regulating the Internet” and distinguishes certain pressing legal and policy issues, concerning content regulation, surveillance and digital security, transparency and remedies. In doing so, it identifies the array of private actors including telecommunications and Internet service providers, web hosting services, hardware firms, search engines and social media platforms, media companies, companies producing surveillance technologies and multi-stakeholder processes. It also, importantly, draws on examples from many countries around the world, including Sweden, Russia, Uruguay, Brazil, China, India, South Africa, Tanzania, the UK and the US.   Read the rest of this entry…