Freedom of Expression

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JHH Weiler, Co-Editor in Chief, in Conversation with Professor Wojciech Sadurski

One of the more ‘elegant’ ways of restricting freedom of political speech and academic freedom is to use libel and defamation laws. It has increasingly become the weapon of choice of various political actors and regimes. Nobody would gainsay that academics may libel others and that politicians can be libelled and have the right to have their names and reputations vindicated.  But, in my view, the proper forum for such is a civil court in an action between individuals. Even then, excessive legal costs and outlandish damages (the UK is notorious for such) may produce an unwarranted chilling effect. It becomes particularly alarming and at times pernicious when a libel or defamation allegation for statements made in the arena of political contestation is transferred from a private civil action to a public criminal one. To be subject to the opprobrium resulting from a criminal conviction as well as criminal sanctions raises the stakes by several registers and the chilling effect risks becoming a freezing effect. The fact that countries with impeccable democratic…

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Academic Freedom Under Pressure

  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…

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Turkey’s Military Operation in Syria: A Freedom of Expression Perspective

There is no doubt that Turkey’s use of force in Syria and the unfolding consequences thereof should generate much legal debate and analysis. The legal issues are broad. They cover primary norms under international law on the use of force, international humanitarian law, international human rights law and international refugee law. In addition, the relationship between the Turkish…

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Human Rights Regulation in the Tech Sector? The European Court of Justice’s Facebook Decision and California’s AB5 Gig Economy Bill

BigTech may well be the new BigPharma where local, national, or regional human rights-based litigation and human rights-based regulation is concerned.  While the recent exchanges between US presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg signal a looming antitrust showdown, recent regional judicial and local legislative developments concretely demonstrate the human rights-based trajectory of…

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

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…

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