Right to Information

Right to Information and Transparency

The resources on this Module explore the nature and extent of the right to information.The readings include standards on the right to access government held information, open court and open parliament.

10 items found, showing 1 - 10

Open Parliament

Author: UNESCO
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“The surge of access to information (ATI) laws reached 126 worldwide by the end of 2019. This Report explores recent developments in regard to the laws and their implementation, covering evolving international standards, models for implementation bodies, and new digital challenges and opportunities. In order to understand the drivers of change, the Report examines trendsetting activities within UNESCO, the Sustainable Development Agenda, the Universal Periodic Review, the Open Government Partnership, and the standard-setting work of regional intergovernmental organizations and national oversight bodies. The research also draws on unique UNESCO surveys and analysis of Voluntary National Reports presented at the United Nation’s High-level Political Forum. The research shows how Sustainable Development Goal 16.10 offers a new opportunity for advancing ATI.”

UNESCO. “Access to Information: A New Promise for Sustainable Development”. 2019. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000371485.

Author: OSCE
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“Artificial intelligence (AI) – a broad concept used in policy discussions to refer to many different types of technology – greatly influences and impacts the way people seek, receive, impart and access information and how they exercise their right to freedom of expression in the digital ecosystem. If implemented responsibly, AI can benefit societies, but there is a genuine risk that its deployment by States and private companies, such as internet intermediaries, could have a deteriorating effect on human rights… [This Paper] maps the key challenges to freedom of expression presented by AI across the OSCE region, in light of international and regional standards on human rights and AI. It identifies a number of overarching problems that AI poses to freedom of expression and human rights in general, in particular: (a.) The limited understanding of the implications for freedom of expression caused by AI, in particular machine learning; (b.) Lack of respect for freedom of expression in content moderation and curation; (c.) State and non-State actors circumventing due process and rule of law in AI-powered content moderation; (d.) Lack of transparency regarding the entire process of AI design, deployment and implementation; (e.) Lack of accountability and independent oversight over AI systems; and, (f.) Lack of effective remedies for violation of the right to freedom of expression in relation to AI. This Paper observes that these problems became more pronounced in the first months of 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic incentivized States and the private sector to use AI even more, as part of measures introduced in response to the pandemic. A tendency to revert to technocratic solutions, including AI-powered tools, without adequate societal debate or democratic scrutiny was witnessed. Using four specific case studies (“security threats”; “hate speech”; media pluralism and diversity online; and the impact of AI-powered State surveillance on freedom of expression), this Paper shows how these problems manifest themselves. This Paper concludes that there is a need to further raise awareness, and improve understanding, of the impact of AI related to decision-making policies and practices on freedom of expression, next to having a more systematic overview of regional approaches and methodologies in the OSCE region. It provides a number of preliminary recommendations to OSCE participating States and internet intermediaries, to help ensure that freedom of expression and information are better protected when AI is deployed.”

OSCE. “Artificial Intelligence and Freedom of Expression”. 2020. https://www.osce.org/files/f/documents/9/f/456319_0.pdf

Author: Susan Benesch
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“Private social media companies regulate much more speech than any government does, and their platforms are being used to bring about serious harm. Yet companies govern largely on their own, and in secret. To correct this, advocates have proposed that companies follow international human-rights law. That law–by far the world’s best-known rules for governing speech–could improve regulation itself, and would also allow for better transparency and oversight on behalf of billions of people who use social media. This paper argues that for this to work, the law must first be interpreted to clarify how (and whether) each of its provisions are suited to this new purpose. For example, the law provides that speech may be restricted to protect national security, as one of only five permissible bases for limiting speech. Governments, for which international law was written, may regulate on that basis, but not private companies which have no national security to protect. To fill some of the gap, the paper explains and interprets the most relevant provisions of international human-rights law–Articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which pertain to freedom of expression–for use by social media companies, in novel detail.”

Benesch, Susan. “But Facebook’s Not a Country: How to Interpret Human Rights Law for Social Media Companies.” Yale Journal on Regulation Online Bulletin 38 (2020): 86-111.

Author: Oxford Law Faculty
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“This webinar, organized by the Bonavero Institute, UNESCO, and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford), discusses the challenges for freedom of expression, access to information, privacy and related rights posed by measures adopted by governments around the world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel is made up of Justice Edward Amoako Asante (President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice), Judge Darian Pavli (Judge at the European Court of Human Rights), Mr. Joan Barata (UNESCO expert; Center for Internet and Society and Cyber Policy Center, Stanford University) and Ms. Jennifer Robinson (prominent lawyer with expertise in media law, public law and international law) as speakers, and is chaired by Professor Kate O’ Regan (Director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights).”

Oxford Law Faculty. “COVID-19 and Freedom of Expression”. 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHEAyjF9r1Q.

Author: Access Now
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“The International and national laws recognize that extraordinary circumstances require extraordinary measures. This means that certain fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of expression and opinion and the right to seek and impart information, may be restricted to address the current health crisis as long as governments apply basic democratic principles and a series of safeguards, and the interference is lawful, limited in time, and not arbitrary. Governments, companies, NGOs, and individuals alike have a responsibility to do their part to mitigate the consequences of the COVID-19 health crisis and to show solidarity and respect for each other. In this paper, we provide recommendations for protecting freedom of expression and opinion and the right to impart and receive information to enable governments​ to fight the COVID-19 health crisis in a rights-respecting manner. There will be an aftermath to the COVID-19 outbreak and the measures governments put in place right now will determine what it will look like. The recommendations outlined below will help ensure that the rule of law, and the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, as well as the right to receive and to impart information, are protected throughout this crisis and in the future. Under no circumstances should any government allow people’s fundamental rights to fall victim to this pandemic.” 

Access Now. “Fighting Misinformation and Defending Free Expression during COVID-19: Recommendations for States”. 2020. https://www.accessnow.org/cms/assets/uploads/2020/04/Fighting-misinformation-and-defending-free-expression-during-COVID-19-recommendations-for-states-1.pdf

Author: Jack M. Balkin
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Balkin argues that the conception of free speech which characterized the 20th century is inadequate to protect free speech and expression in the 21st century due to the transition from a dualistic model of speech regulation with two players to a pluralist model of speech regulation with multiple players. In this essay, he frames free speech as operationalizing as a triangle, with States and the European Union at one end, internet-infrastructure companies at another, and different kinds of speakers at the third end. He analyses the three problems which this triangle creates: 1) new-school speech regulation which produces collateral censorship and digital prior restraint, 2) the absence of due process and transparency in the manner in which privatized bureaucracies govern end-users, resulting in abuse and arbitrariness, and 3) the vulnerability of end-users to digital surveillance and manipulation. He discusses the ways in which States should or should not regulate the digital ecosystem in order to align with the values of freedom of speech and proposes reforms which can be implemented by Governments in consonance with the Constitutional guarantees of free speech and the press as long as they are properly-designed. These reforms are: 1) structural regulation with the aims of promoting competition and preventing discrimination by basic internet services and payment systems, 2) guaranteeing curatorial due process, and 3) the treatment of social media companies as information fiduciaries towards their end-users, who are responsible for upholding duties of trustworthiness and good faith.

Balkin, Jack M. “Free Speech is a Triangle.” Columbia Law Review 118, no. 7 (2018): 2011-2056.

Author: The Transatlantic Working Group
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“The Transatlantic High Level Working Group on Content Moderation Online and Freedom of Expression was formed to identify and encourage adoption of scalable solutions to reduce hate speech, violent extremism, and viral deception online, while protecting freedom of expression and a vibrant global internet. This report recommends a flexible regulatory framework that seeks to contribute to trust, transparency, and accountability. It is based upon: (1) transparency rules for platform activities, operations, and products; (2) an accountability regime holding platforms to their promises and transparency obligations; (3) a three-tier disclosure structure to enable the regulator, vetted researchers, and the public to judge performance; (4) independent redress mechanisms such as social media councils and e-courts to mitigate the impact of moderation on freedom of expression; and (5) an ABC framework for dealing with disinformation that addresses actors and behavior before content.”

The Transatlantic Working Group. “Freedom and Accountability: A Transatlantic Framework for Moderating Speech Online”. 2020. https://cdn.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Freedom_and_Accountability_TWG_Final_Report.pdf.   

Author: Tao Huang
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“This Article will start from the premises and proposals of [extant scholarship]. Through developing, modifying, and supplementing [these] theories, as well as taking into account the new speech conditions in the Internet Age, this Article aims to develop systematically, though not completely, the theoretical basis and practical implications of the freedom of speech as a right to know. The relationship between the two rights is not unidirectional: not only could the freedom of speech form the basis for the right to know, but also the right to know could enrich the doctrine of the freedom of speech. The characteristics of the right to know could make the freedom of speech more direct, more practical, and more enforceable. We should accordingly interpret the freedom of speech as a right to know. This Article’s thesis does not necessarily require the right to know to be expressly written into the Constitution (although this is one reasonable approach), nor does it contend that freedom of speech is the only basis for the right to know. Rather, this Article reformulates the theory of free speech through the module of the right to know. Having done that, the right to know will, in effect, be constitutionalized because it will become a part of the freedom of speech. What’s more important is the impact on our current free speech jurisprudence: using information as both a shield and a sword, this new and reformulated right will better respond to the age we are in where speech is information, information is power, and the liberty of speech is the freedom and control of information.”

Huang, Tao. “Freedom of Speech as a Right to Know”. University of Cincinnati Law Review 89, no. 1 (2020): 106-139.

Author: Julia Haas, Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media
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“This paper addresses how the use of artificial intelligence (AI) affects freedom of expression and media freedom. While AI can improve communication and information access in numerous ways, including through legacy media, this paper focuses on the main concerns when AI is not deployed in a human rights-friendly manner…This paper also addresses how biases both in datasets and of human developers may risk perpetuating existing inequality, how AI affects legacy media and how the COVID-19 pandemic aggravates the above-mentioned concerns. Providing policy recommendations, this paper concludes that states and the private sector need to guarantee that the design and deployment of AI are grounded in human rights, with transparency and accountability being ensured at all stages.”

Julia Haas. “Global Conference for Media Freedom: Freedom of the Media and Artificial Intelligence”. 2020. https://www.international.gc.ca/campaign-campagne/assets/pdfs/media_freedom-liberte_presse-2020/policy_paper-documents_orientation-ai-ia-en.pdf

Author: UNESCO
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"With [a] global mandate to protect 'the free flow of ideas by word and image', UNESCO acts worldwide to advance fundamental freedoms, and to ensure that obligations are fulfilled and rights are exercised. [UNESCO works] to increase the knowledge and capacities of judiciary members on international and regional standards on freedom of expression and the safety of journalists. As a result, since 2013, more than 18,000 judicial operators and civil society representatives in Latin America, Africa and the Arab region have been trained on these issues. This toolkit on international standards for freedom of expression builds on these efforts, aiming to give a global scope to this endeavour. By reinforcing the knowledge and capacities of the judiciary, the toolkit effectively contributes to the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, adopted by the UN Chief Executives Board in 2012 and recognised by the UN General Assembly in 2013. The Plan of Action aims to create "a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers in both conflict and non-conflict situations, with a view to strengthening peace, democracy and development worldwide". [It is hoped] that this toolkit will be a useful tool for judges, public prosecutors, judicial training institutes, academics and judicial actors at large, so that respect for freedom of expression, public access to information, and the safety of journalists become an integral part of efforts to guarantee and promote human rights in our societies."

UNESCO. “Global Toolkit for Judicial Actors: International Legal Standards on Freedom of Expression, Access to Information and Safety of Journalists”. 2021. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000378755.