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On February 7, 2022, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) launched the Training Manual for Judges on International Standards on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, a comprehensive toolkit for supporting judges to take into account international human rights standards on freedom of expression in their decisions, has been launched. The toolkit was prepared by the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) in collaboration with International Media Support (IMS), UNESCO and the Judicial Institute of Jordan, and piloted at a training of judges in Amman, Jordan in September/October 2021.The toolkit is divided into six main modules, namely: International and National Guarantees of Freedom of Expression, The Legitimate Scope of Criminal and Civil Law Restrictions on the Right to Freedom of Expression, Legal Resolution of Attacks on Freedom of Expression, The Right to Access Public Information, Media Regulation to Promote Free, Independent and Diverse Media, and Regulating Freedom of Expression in the Digital Era. It also has a number of annexes addressing common questions and answers, and containing exercises to support the training and additional resources.
The 126-page toolkit contains six modules, covering International and National Guarantees of Freedom of Expression, The Legitimate Scope of Criminal and Civil Law Restrictions on the Right to Freedom of Expression, Legal Resolution of Attacks on Freedom of Expression, The Right to Access Public Information, Media Regulation to Promote Free, Independent and Diverse Media, and Regulating Freedom of Expression in the Digital Era.
The key objective of the toolkit is to promote freedom of expression by helping judges integrate international standards on this fundamental human right into their domestic decisions. It builds on work in this area by UNESCO in Latin America and Africa but is specifically tailored to freedom of expression issues that are commonly found in the Arab World.
The launch of the tool followed a recent Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) conducted by UNESCO and the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford.
Close to 5,000 judicial actors, including judges, prosecutors, lawyers and representatives of judicial training academies, as well as civil society representatives from around the world were trained on international standards and regional jurisprudence on freedom of expression. The highest numbers of participants joined the MOOC from the Philippines, Kenya, United States, Brazil, India, Thailand, Zimbabwe and Zambia.The 5-week course, from 10 May until 07 June 2021, was unique in its global scope on freedom of expression issues, and particularly targeted judges and members of the judiciary, given their essential role in the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression. The course strengthened the knowledge and capacities of judicial actors on regional and international human rights standards through five Modules, including, (1) the general principles and scope of freedom of expression; (2) the limitations on the right to freedom of expression; (3) the right of access to information; (4) the question of the safety of journalists; and, (5) challenges created by the digital world .Notably, the course raised awareness of judicial actors on the legal protection and rights of journalists under international law, particularly addressing the threats, attacks and killings of journalists, the specific nature of threats against women journalists, as well as the importance to protect the secrecy of sources for journalists.
Since 2013, UNESCO’s Judges’ Initiative has trained judicial actors and representatives of civil society on the international and regional standards on freedom of expression, access to information and the safety of journalists in Latin America, Africa and the Arab region. Following the global MOOC on freedom of expression, a total number of 23,000 judicial actors and civil society representatives from 150 countries have been trained on these fundamental issues. While the first global MOOC was in English, subsequent editions will be rolled-out in additional languages in the future. The course received support from the Multi Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists.
In continuity with these efforts to raise awareness on issues related to freedom of expression, UNESCO has also developed an explainer video on the role of the judiciary in ending impunity for crimes against journalists, available in 6 UN languages: English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Chinese.
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- Featured Photo Courtesy of: https://en.unesco.org/news/toolkit-judges-freedom-expression
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