This week, July 10th and 11th, the Global Conference for Media Freedom conferred in London. The conference was the first of its kind and was co-hosted by UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Canadian Minister of Foreign. Affairs Chrystia Freeland.
It is part of an international campaign to shine a global spotlight on media freedom while simultaneously looking to increase the cost on those that are attempting to restrict it. The Foreign Secretary said: “Stemming the tide of violence against journalists requires political will, diplomatic pressure and a legal framework to support countries to improve.”
The conference was attended by global leaders, representatives from the media industry, journalists, academics and others who guided discussion in interactive panel discussions. The discussions revolved around four main themes including protection and prosecution (including impunity), national framework and legislations, building trust and countering disinformation, and media sustainability. The first day focused mainly on defining the challenges ahead for media freedom, while the second was about outlining solutions.
The biggest announcement at the conference came when the High Level Panel of Legal Experts convened for the first time. The panel, chaired by Lord Neuberger the former President of the UK Supreme Court, is an independent body which will examine legal and policy initiatives that states can adopt to improve media freedom. Assembled at the request of the UK and Canada, the Foreign Secretary said that the panel: “consists of the best legal minds from across the globe. Together they will develop and promote legal mechanisms to help prevent and reverse media abuses.”
Deputy Chair of the Panel, International human rights lawyer and Special Envoy on Media Freedom for the UK, Amal Clooney said: “The High Level Panel of Legal Experts brings together leading international experts on media freedom, including judges, lawyers and academics, from all over the world. I look forward to working alongside them to develop and advance legal frameworks that can help to protect media freedom around the world.”
The superstar panel of legal experts includes: Irwin Cotler, former Minister of Justice in Canada, Hina Jilani, a lawyer and human rights defender based in Pakistan, Dario Milo, a South African attorney who has worked on numerous free speech cases, Sarah Cleveland, Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights at Columbia Law School, Baroness Helena Kennedy, barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and Director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, Nadim Houry, Executive Director of the Arab Reform Initative in Lebanon, Can Yeğinsu, a barrister from 4 New Square Chambers and is one of the UK’s leading lawyers for human rights cases, Karuna Nundy, Advocate at the Supreme Court of India, Galina Arapova, director and senior media lawyer at Mass Media Defence Centre in Russia, Justice José Cepeda Espinosa, former Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court of Colombia, Professor Kyung-Sin Park, faculty member at Korea University School of Law and co-founder and director of Open Net Korea, Baroness Françoise Tulkens, former Vice-President of the European Court of Human Rights, Catherine Anite, human rights lawyer and the Founding Director of the Freedom of Expression Hub in Uganda. The panel will also be advised by Judge Robert D. Sack, renowned expert on free speech and media law who currently sits as senior judge on the the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.