June 15, 2017
Dear Friends,

This week we are featuring two defamation cases from China pertaining to heroic figures' personality interest, which China's Supreme People's Court stated epitomize attempts made in recent years to denigrate national heroes and to undermine what these figures stood for in society.  

Additionally, we have a first instance ruling from Germany on political satire, and two right to information decisions. A U.K. Appeals Chamber found that  advocacy correspondence between the heir to the British throne and government ministers does not deserve special protection and the European Court of Human Rights ruled on the right to access University sponsored research.

Enjoy reading the case analyses and we welcome your feedback!
Dr. Callamard’s latest publication is now on-line, part of an edited volume of Social Research on "The Invasive Other" premised on the very interesting and topical notion that people, plants, pathogens, or ideas are often described in similar ways, and patrolled and controlled through similar technologies, logics, and policies, and that these overlaps have real consequences. The focus of her contribution is on the control of invasive ideas over time, but particularly in this digital era. The full issue of Social Research may be found here. Copy of Dr. Callamard’s contribution here.
Columbia Global Freedom of Expression is pleased to announce the release of our Implementation Report for 2015 and 2016. It documents our achievements in advancing understanding of the international and national norms and institutions that best protect the free flow of information and expression since the Initiative’s founding in 2015.
IFEX Strategy Conference took place on 12-13 June, with some 200 participants representing the diverse freedom of expression movement from around the world. Columbia Global Freedom of Expression was represented by Dr. Callamard and Bach Avezdjanov. Agnes Callamard moderated to two sessions: Field Notes on Resistance and Online Abuse
Bach Avezdjanov presented on the panel CONFRONT: Mis/disinformation & Attacks on the Facts. The aim of the panel was to discuss strategies or campaigns that have been effective in defending these rights and resisting these threats. He presented our database and selected cases from Russia and Kazakhstan highlighting how misinformation has been addressed in countries where "truth" is heavily regulated.
Knight First Amendment Center demands that President Trump unblock his twitter followers.
Lawyers for Twitter users who mocked or criticized the president argue that blocking them is unconstitutional because he discusses policy in his posts.
Internet & Jurisdiction is pleased to announce the release of framing papers addressing three of the most salient topics related to jurisdiction on the internet: access to user data, content takedown, and domain suspensions. joined 17 other non-governmental organisations from across the globe as amicus in a voluntary intervention filed before France’s highest court raising serious concerns about a ruling of France’s data protection authority on the “right to be forgotten”.



Alice Weidel v. Extra 3
Decision Date: May 11, 2017
The Landgericht Hamburg, a court of first instance, held that there was no violation of the personality rights of a right-wing politician who was called a “Nazi slut” during a satirical television show. In its decision, the Landgericht Hamburg recognised that the statement amounted to a form of political satire. It went on to acknowledge that a viewer would not interpret the term “Nazi slut” literally and would, instead, recognize it as an exaggeration typical of satire. The Landgericht Hamburg denied the politician’s claim and ordered that she pay 50,000 EUR in legal costs. She has stated that she intends to appeal the decision.


Gillberg v. Sweden
Decision Date: April 3, 2012
The European Court of Human Rights' Grand Chamber held that a public employee is not protected under Article 10 of the Convention when he refuses to make research material available in cases where (i) such material belongs to a university, (ii) a university is ready to disclose it, and (iii) the employee does not owe any statutory duty of secrecy towards research participants. The Applicant, a university professor leading a project on specific disorders in children, had been convicted for misusing his office after refusing to hand over documents to outside researchers on the grounds that he had promised absolute confidentiality to the patients and their parents.  While the Court did not rule out that a negative right to freedom of expression (a right not to impart information) might be protected under Article 10 of the Convention under certain circumstances, in the present case, the Court ruled that the research material was owned the University and that finding for the Applicant would run counter to the university’s property rights and also impinge upon the outside researchers’ rights to access the public documents. The Court also rejected the Applicant's argument that his situation was similar to a journalist protecting sources or to a lawyer-client privilege, finding instead that since the Applicant had not been mandated by the research participants as their doctor, he had no duty of professional secrecy towards them.  

United Kingdom

Rob Evans v. Information Commissioner
Decision Date: September 18, 2012
The Upper Tribunal of the Administrative Appeals Chamber reversed the Information Commissioner's decision and held that advocacy correspondence between the heir to the British throne and government ministers does not deserve special protection. Rob Evans, journalist with U.K. newspaper, The Guardian, filed information requests for correspondence between Prince Charles and several U.K. government ministers. The Tribunal reasoned that "advocacy correspondence", namely correspondence in which interests of charitable enterprises are promoted, concerns matters affecting public policy and the public purse and therefore there is a strong public interest in its disclosure that in this case outweighed the interest in confidentiality.



The following two judgments are related to an article entitled, “Inconsistencies in the Details of 'Five Heroes of Wolf's Teeth Mountain'" that expressed doubt about the historic deeds of five Chinese revolutionary warriors and was published by “Yanhuang Chunqiu”, a liberal Chinese-language magazine. In the first case, Huang v. Mei, the Court struck down a defamation claim brought by the author and editor of the article against a blogger who criticized their publication. In the second case, Ge v. Hong, the Court upheld a defamation claim against the author and editor which was brought by sons of two of the deceased warriors for ruining their reputation and damaging the social public interest.

Huang v. Mei
Decision Date: December 22, 2015
The No. 2 Intermediate People's Court of Beijing Municipality upheld a lower court ruling that a blog post, which heavily criticized a magazine for publishing an article questioning the historic actions of five Chinese soldiers, was not defamatory. The author  and editor of the impugned article, “Inconsistencies in the Details of 'Five Heroes of Wolf's Teeth Mountain'" which was published by Yanhuang Chunqiu", a liberal Chinese-language magazine, brought defamation proceeding against Mei Xinyu after he posted a blog defending the heroic images of the five famous Chinese revolutionaries and castigating the magazine. The Court stated that citizens have, by law, a right to protection of reputation and personality and that any damage to those rights must be assessed by considering the context of the impugned speech, its backdrop, the resulting damage and the causation between the action and damage. In this case the Court reasoned that Mei’s post had to be seen in the light of the esteem with which the public held the heroic figures and that it reflected public sentiment and the core values of socialism. The Court further stated that although Mei's post contained some inappropriate words against the magazine, they did not target the author or editor directly and that the general public would make their own judgement on who was right or wrong.

 Ge v. Hong
Decision Date: August 15,2016
The Second Intermediate People's Court of Beijing Municipality upheld the judgment of the lower court that articles written by Hong, questioning the historic deeds of the five Heroes of Wolf's Teeth Mountain, defamed the dead Chinese revolutionary warriors. Ge Changsheng and Song Fubao, sons of two of the five warriors, brought the defamation claims against Hong in relation to an article on the news website "Caijing" and the other in the magazine "Yanhuang Chunqiu." The Court acknowledged Hong's constitutional right to academic freedom and freedom of speech but said these rights are predicated on the assumption that they don't encroach upon the legal rights of others, the social public interest or the interests of the state. The Court affirmed that Hongs constitutional right of free speech did not allow him to damage the reputations of the five warriors or the social public interest. It also rejected the Hong's argument that the lower court had erred in applying the public interest principle as the case only concerned the interest of the warriors' descendants, vested interests and the Chinese Communist Party's interest. The Appellate Court reasoned that the Chinese Communist Party was acting in the interests of the state and therefore the public interest, rejecting Hong’s suggestion that the party's interest was different from the public interest. The Court ordered Hong to stop his infringing activities and apologize publicly to the Plaintiffs.

KYRGYZSTAN: On June 9, 2017, a regional Bishkek court ordered a nation-wide blocking of FerganaNews, an independent news site. FerganaNews was not notified about the court hearing or its decision, and found out about the blocking through its readers in Kyrgyzstan. The grounds for the blocking are related to a criminal case that was initiated on June 9th against a FerganNews journalist, Ulugbek Babakulov, for incitement of ethnic hatred. The charges stem from an article in which the journalist analyzed online hate speech aimed against an ethnic minority in Kyrgyzstan.
RUSSIA: On June 9, 2017, a volunteer for Aleksei Navalny’s office in Tula was arrested for seven days for publicly displaying Nazi symbols. The arrest was related to dissemination of a video, “Greetings! I am a Russian occupier.” A scene in the video included a Nazi symbol. The video did not advocate Nazi ideology, but criticized it. However, the relevant criminal law provision penalizes any display of Nazi symbols, regardless of the purpose.

Other Noteworthy

Turks Click Away, but Wikipedia Is Gone: Wikipedia is just one of 127,000 websites blocked in Turkey, estimated Professor Akdeniz, who has led legal challenges against the Wikipedia ban and other web restrictions.
The Kids are Alt-Right: Kids Are Quoting Trump To Bully Their Classmates And Teachers Don’t Know What To Do About It. In the first comprehensive review of post-election bullying, BuzzFeed News has confirmed more than 50 incidents, across 26 states, in which a K-12 student invoked Trump’s name or message in an apparent effort to harass a classmate during the past school year.
Santa Fe Reporter Writer (SFR) Indicted Following Inaugural Protest CoverageGregg Leslie, legal defense director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, told SFR that the US Attorney’s office has not said why it dropped charges against some journalists while pursuing charges against Cantú and a photographer who was livestreaming the event. 
The Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford University announced today that it has launched the Global Digital Policy Incubator (GDPi). GDPi’s mission is to help develop governance norms for the global digital ecosystem that reinforce democratic values, universal human rights and the rule of law. It will serve as a multi-stakeholder collaboration hub at Stanford for technologists, governments, civil society and the private sector actors. GDPi will identify and incubate global policy and governance innovations that enhance freedom, security and trust in the digital realm.
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Columbia Global Freedom of Expression seeks to advance understanding of the international and national norms and institutions that best protect the free flow of information and expression in an inter-connected global community with major common challenges to address. 

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