UNESCO and University of Oxford conclude a Massive Open Online Course for judicial actors on international standards on freedom

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.

We hope that this training course will facilitate the work of judicial actors around the world in taking key decisions on issues related to freedom of expression, as well as prosecuting crimes and attacks against freedom of expression. UNESCO will continue to support judicial stakeholders in this important endeavour to protect and promote freedom of expression, access to public information and the safety of journalists.

Tawfik Jelassi, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information

It was a privilege for the Bonavero Institute to partner with UNESCO on this important MOOC project. The team learned a lot from the experience, and we are particularly delighted that the course attracted such a diverse global audience. We hope to build on our valued partnership with UNESCO in the months ahead to fuse effective human rights education and outreach with academic rigour.

Kate O’Regan, Director of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford

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.

“As a prosecutor I really found helpful all the information that can assist me in handling such a case if it would come to court. Understanding the different laws and principles would really assist in how to handle the case and also assist the investigators handling the matter. It’s good to know what is expected of us as per the international standards”, declared a participant of the MOOC.

The MOOC was led by high-level experts in the field of human rights and freedom of expression, including guest speakers such as the UN Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression, judges from the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as well as a representative of the International Association of Prosecutors.

“All the modules will be useful in my work as a judge. I was able to get a wider perspective on how to tackle problems involving freedom of expression in the event a case will be filed in my court”, concluded another participant of the MOOC from the Philippines.

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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