Developed by Columbia Global Freedom of Expression with partners from around the world, Freedom of Expression Without Frontiers offers academic and training resources on the laws, institutions and actors that have founded a global system of freedom of expression and information. Resources include academic literature, toolkits, jurisprudence and legal analyses, multimedia resources, and syllabi designed by professors and trainers from different parts of the world and across different disciplines.
The target audience are professors, trainers and other experts eager to offer courses and approaches that privilege trans-national and global understanding of freedom of expression, transcend a particular jurisdiction, national or cultural standpoint, and help students and others develop a more nuanced and critical understanding of freedom of expression.
Genesis of Freedom of Expression Without Frontiers
Freedom of Expression Without Frontiers grew out of experts meetings held at Columbia University, which brought together law professors, legal practitioners and activists from around the world, engaged in delivering courses and trainings on freedom of expression, and/or comparative media law. Over the course of these meetings, participants pointed to the paucity of academic and teaching materials approaching information, communication and freedom of expression from a global perspective. Other problems identified by experts included the atomization of the freedom of expression field, a heavy reliance on the jurisprudence and policies of a few jurisdictions (namely, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, South Africa, and the European Court) and the absence of South-South comparative work. They also highlighted an increasing rejection of the global project characterized by a “closure of the mind,” strong nationalist currents, and the dismissal of foreign influences and the United Nations. Experts concluded that more content needed to be developed to foster stronger teaching capacities in the subject area. They also suggested establishing a forum for those involved in or interested in teaching global freedom of expression, to discuss approaches, methods, and new techniques, and share syllabi and content.
In 2018, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression developed Freedom of Expression Without Frontiers, a user-friendly portal offering teaching and training materials on global freedom of expression.
The portal was developed with the support from institutions from around the world including:
- School of Law, University of Los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia);
- Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University (Cambridge, US);
- Centre for Communication Governance, National Law University (Delhi, India);
- Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (New York, US);
- Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong);
- Institute for Information Law (IViR), Amsterdam Law School, University of Amsterdam (Amsterdam, the Netherlands);
- Pritzker School of Law, Northwestern University (Chicago, US);
- Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, Northwestern University (Evanston, US);
- Article 19 (London, UK);
- Centre for Law and Democracy (Halifax, Canada).
Columbia University and the Open Society Foundation funded the initiative.
Organisation of the website
The website is organized around nine Teaching and Training Modules. It includes a general introduction to the core concept of a global perspective, and pedagogical resources.
Each of the Modules includes different subject areas, which may be taught separately. Lecture materials can be sorted according to various categories, from core readings to toolkits, and including textbooks, standards, jurisprudence, and multimedia. The portal allows users to select readings, whose list can be downloaded at the end of their web visit.
Priority has been placed on teaching resources, which build a global understanding of freedom of expression, including of its theoretical foundations; the international institutions, standards and legal tests that govern it; and how they have been implemented by national actors; conflicts over the extent and limits of free speech; and the multiple opportunities and challenges brought about by the digital revolution.
The syllabi and materials have been tested in classrooms and trainings around the world, by Columbia Global Freedom of Expression (including in a Massive On-Line Course) and its partners.