The High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom marks World Press Freedom Day 2023

Friday 19 May 2023

Top row L-R: Lord David Neuberger, Can Yeginsu, Catherine Amirfar, Amal Clooney, Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, Hina Jilani, Dario Milo
Middle row L-R: Baroness Françoise Tulkens, Catherine Anite
Bottom row L-R: The Honourable Irwin Cotler, PC, OC, OQ, Karuna Nundy, Nadim Houry, Justice Manuel José Cepeda Espinosa, Judge Chile Eboe-Osuji, Marietje Schaake, Professor Seong-Phil Hong

High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom Download report

Throughout the week of World Press Freedom Day, held on 3 May 2023, the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom participated in several activities to highlight the grave challenges facing the press globally and to showcase its recommendations to the Media Freedom Coalition, to inspire further action to protect journalists, who risk their lives to defend the truth. 2023 marks both the 30th Anniversary of World Press Freedom Day and the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On 2 May 2023, the High Level Panel also held its 14th meeting at the UN headquarters in New York, United States. 

READ: ‘Freedom of Expression and Media Freedom as a Driver for All Human Rights’, a thought piece published in Just Security co-authored by the leadership of the High Level Panel, Lord David Neuberger, Professor Can Yeginsu, Catherine Amirfar and Director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute Baroness Helena Kennedy KC. The article ties in with the theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day conference - freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights. 

WATCH: On 1 May 2023, the High Level Panel hosted an event with the Government of Estonia and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), ‘Beyond the Crisis: Embedding Safe Refuge for Journalists at Risk’. Watch the recording of the event, featuring His Excellency Margus Tahkna, the Foreign Minister of Estonia, alongside Deputy Chairs of the High Level Panel, Professor Yeginsu (who also authored the report on Providing Safe Refuge to Journalists at Risk) and Ms Amirfar; Miina Linna Lind, Estonia’s Ambassador of Human Rights; Dunja Mijatovic, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights; Jodie Ginsberg, President of the CPJ; H.E. Märt Volmer, Undersecretary for Global Affairs at Estonia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Mohammad Mosaed, Iranian Journalist and 2020 International Press Freedom Awardee.

In November 2020, the High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom published its advisory report to the Media Freedom Coalition of States, setting out a number of recommendations that States could take to address the shortcomings and gaps in the existing international framework. Some States have since given effect to those recommendations, including by establishing and then granting emergency visas for journalists at risk. Key actors in the Coalition and their guests met to discuss what action has been taken, and what further work needs to be done by States to open their doors to those who are risking their lives to keep us informed.

Professor Yeginsu participated in the Media Freedom Coalition’s ministerial session ‘Countering Global Threats to Media Freedom’, to call for further action from coalition member States to implement the recommendations of the High Level Panel, and strive to further protect journalists and the independent media. He spoke alongside his client, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Maria Ressa, the Honorable Melanie Joly, Foreign Minister of Canada and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and United Nations at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

READ: On 3 May 2023, the High Level Panel launched its report ‘On Religious Freedom and Discontent: Report on International Standards and Blasphemy Laws’. The report, now available to read online, is authored by Karuna Nundy, a member of the High Level Panel, and is the result of close collaboration with leading academic institutions from around the world. It examines national laws regulating expression that is characterised as ‘blasphemous’ and assesses the compatibility of those laws with media freedom. The report’s recommendations to States have been endorsed by the full membership of the High Level Panel.  

WATCH: The report was launched on 3 May at an event ‘Media Freedom in the Face of Blasphemy Laws’, now available to watch online, with Columbia University Global Freedom of Expression, and PEN America. The session was moderated by Baroness Kennedy KC, with report author Ms Nundy speaking alongside Hina Jilani, member of the High Level Panel, and Suzanne Nossel, Chief Executive Officer of PEN America.

On 5 May, the High Level Panel co-hosted an event ‘Dismantling the Independent Media through Systemic Restrictions’, alongside Covington’s Kurt Wimmer Media Freedom Pro Bono Initiative and the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The panel session featured Professor Yeginsu; Daniel F. Feldman, Partner at Covington; Karen Kaiser, General Counsel of The Associated Press; Dana Green, Senior Counsel at The New York Times, and Jodie Ginsberg. Discussion centred on systemic restrictions to the media and the nuanced threats now limiting independent journalism, including government-backed ownership changes, regulatory and financial pressure exerted through the threat of criminal sanction, and public denunciations of independent journalists.

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’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’s Secretariat is the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), providing it with operational, technical, and legal assistance. The Chair of the High Level Panel is Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury and its Deputy Chairs are Can Yeginsu and Catherine Amirfar.
  2. Related material:
    1. High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom – Reports
    2. High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom - Opinions to States on Legislation
    3. High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom - Amicus Curiae
    4. High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom marks World Press Freedom Day 2022
  3. 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.
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  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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