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High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom call for media freedom during Third Global Conference

Thursday 17 February 2022

Left to right: Baroness Helena Kennedy QC; Catherine Amirfar and Professor Can Yeginsu; Catherine Anite

Two years on from its establishment, it is clear that the work of The High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom is beginning to have an impact on state practice in the Media Freedom Coalition (MFC). However, the High Level Panel notes that much more work needs to be done and calls for greater promotion of media freedom and protection of journalists by the MFC – a partnership of countries working together to advocate for media freedom and safety of journalists and hold to account those who harm journalists for doing their job.

Deputy Chair of the High Level Panel, Catherine Amirfar, delivered an intervention on behalf of the High Level Panel at the recently held Third Global Conference on Media Freedom 2022.The statement called on the MFC to use ‘its convening power to change the status quo and reverse the deepening democratic recession.’ The Deputy Chair noted that ‘the Panel has identified a concrete body of specific recommendations, representing a range of easily enforceable advice up to long-term aspirational targets, all aimed at working towards sustainable and concrete change.’ She added: ’While some of the Panel’s recommendations may require multilateral action over the course of years, others can be accomplished by individual member States acting on their own or in alliance in a relatively short time frame.’ Various states made reference to their efforts to give effect to the High Level Panel’s work and recommendations.

The MFC met at The Third Global Conference on Media Freedom 2022, which was held last week, on 9-10 February, in Tallinn, Estonia and was hosted by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Estonian Institute of Human Rights.

The High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom participated in the Conference in its capacity as the independent advisory body of the MFC. The High Level Panel’s remit is to provide legal advice and recommendations to the MFC and its partners for the purposes of promoting and protecting a vibrant, free and independent media. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute acts as Secretariat to the Panel in these endeavours.

The High Level Panel, chaired by Lord Neuberger, met on 8 February 2022 and was then represented at the Conference by its Deputy Chairs, Can Yeginsu and Catherine Amirfar, and its members Baroness Kennedy QC, Catherine Anite and Nadim Houry. The Panel engaged in several bilateral meetings with states as well as in the open and closed meetings and events at the Conference.

On the first day of the conference, the United Kingdom and the current co-chairs of the MFC, Canada and the Netherlands, co-hosted the closed MFC Ministerial Meeting. Following this meeting, the MFC States issued a Joint Ministerial Communiqué, renewing each state’s commitments to the Global Pledge on Media Freedom. In the Communiqué, the member states welcomed ‘the ongoing work of the independent High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom to provide advice to governments to ensure the protection of media freedom in legislation.’ 

HLP image 1

Ministerial Meeting, with Panel representatives Catherine Amirfar (pictured far left in red) and Baroness Helena Kennedy QC (pictured centre 2nd row in black and blue).

   

Also on 9 February, Deputy Chair of the High Level Panel, Can Yeginsu, participated in the roundtable discussion, ‘Is the Global Media Freedom Coalition Working?’. The event presented the findings of an independent academic evaluation of the MFC, reviewing its progress since its inception in 2019. One of the principal recommendations in the report was for MFC States to adopt more of the recommendations in the High Level Panel’s four advisory reports. Dr Mary Myers, lead author of the independent report and a professor at the University of East Anglia, said ‘The High Level Panel has produced fantastic reports and recommendations on how more can be done […] but the actions of the Media Freedom Coalition have not been as rapid, bold or as visible as originally intended.’

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On 10 February, the Secretary-General of the Estonian Foreign Ministry moderated a pledging event for States to present their commitments to improving media freedom and the safety of journalists. Commitments and pledges were taken in various forms, including financial, advocacy and policy actions, and included references to the ongoing work of States to give effect to the High Level Panel’s recommendations. The intervention by the Deputy Chair, Can Yeginsu, spoke to the urgent need for solidarity, concrete action, and engagement with the High Level Panel’s work and recommendations.

HLP image 3

   

Panel members also participated in other events during the Conference, with Baroness Helena Kennedy QC participating in the ‘Disinformation and Freedom of Expression’ Panel and Catherine Anite speaking on the Panel ‘Interlinkages between Media Freedom and Internet Freedom | Advanced Technology’. Nadim Houry delivered a remote intervention on the ‘Protection of Journalists’ Panel, where he highlighted the recommendations made in the High Level Panel’s report,Advice on Promoting More Effective Investigations into Abuses against Journalists’.

With support from the IBAHRI Secretariat, the High Level Panel will follow up on the positive steps taken at the Conference to advise MFC States on how to give effect to the recommendations of the Panel’s advisory reports and to continue the move to the Second Phase of its work.

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

  1. The High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom is the independent advisory body of the Media Freedom Coalition. The High Level Panel was established in July 2019 at the request of the Coalition’s inaugural Co-Chairs, Canada and the United Kingdom, and is composed of leading experts in the field of international law.

    ​​​​​​The High Level Panel’s remit is to provide legal advice and recommendations to the Coalition and its partners, including international organisations, for the purposes of promoting and protecting a vibrant, free, and independent media. The High Level Panel also provides individual States with legal advice in the form of legal opinions on draft legislation or legislation already in force, where media freedoms are engaged, as well as amicus curiae opinions at the request of a constitutional court or an international court in a media freedom case of general public importance.

    The High Level Panel’s Secretariat is the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, providing it with operational, technical, and legal assistance. The work of the High Level Panel is supported by the Global Media Defence Fund, administered by UNESCO. The Chair of the High Level Panel is the Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury and its Deputy Chairs are Mr Can Yeginsu and Ms Catherine Amirfar.
     
  2. Click here to see more on the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom’s activity at the Global Conference for Media Freedom, 9-10 February 2022, in Tallinn, Estonia.
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  4. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
     
  5. Find the IBAHRI (@IBAHRI) on social media here:
  6. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

    The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.
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For further information, please contact: the IBA Human Rights Institute at IBAHRI@int-bar.org
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Website page link for this news release:
Short link: 
https://tinyurl.com/ytf83m93
Full link: https://www.ibanet.org/High-Level-Panel-of-Legal-Experts-on-Media-Freedom-call-for-media-freedom-during-Third-Global-Conference