UNESCO launches news resources for judicial actors on international standards on freedom of expression

UNESCO has launched a Global Toolkit for Judicial Actors on International Legal Standards on Freedom of Expression, Access to Information and Safety of Journalists. The Toolkit serves as an essential training resource for judicial actors on international standards and regionals frameworks, jurisprudence and norms pertaining to freedom of expression and related issues.

This new Toolkit builds upon two previous UNESCO publications for the Judiciary, focused on Latin America and Africa, which were produced with a strong engagement of judicial actors, including national judicial training institutions from those regions. The Toolkit provides a global overview of the theoretical and practical understanding of key issues related to the right to freedom of expression, and its contemporary legal challenges, especially in the digital age.

It is our hope that this toolkit will be a useful tool for judges, public prosecutors, judicial training institutes, academics and judicial actors at large, so that respect for freedom of expression, public access to information, and the safety of journalists become an integral part of efforts to guarantee and promote human rights in our societies.

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

The publication of the Toolkit follows a global Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for judicial actors on international standards on freedom of expression, developed in partnership with the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford, which gathered close to 5,000 registered participants from 150 countries around the world.

Through five comprehensive modules, the Toolkit focuses on:

  1. The International Legal Framework on Freedom of Expression;
  2. The Legitimate Restrictions on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression;
  3. The Right to Access Information;
  4. Attacks against Freedom of Expression and the Role of the Judiciary; and
  5. Freedom of Expression on the Internet.

At the end of each module, assessments are proposed to test one’s knowledge and command of the topics under consideration. The Toolkit, which will soon be available in more languages, also includes additional resources specifically geared towards trainers of judicial training institutes, in order to further develop training courses on the right to freedom of expression, access to public information, and safety of journalists.

Two motion-design videos on the legitimate limits to freedom of expression

UNESCO has also produced two motion-design videos on: (1) the Three-Part Test; and (2) the Rabat Plan of Action on the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred, to illustrate some of the key legal tools to take decisions on potential legitimate limits to freedom of expression according to international standards, following suggestions from many of our courses participants who demanded easier ways to visualize these complex concepts.

The Three-Part Test

Subtitles available in: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

The Rabat Plan of Action on the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred

Subtitles available in: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

These resources contribute to the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, adopted by the UN Chief Executives Board in 2012 and further recognized by the UN General Assembly in 2013, and which aims to create a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers. They were supported by the Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists, Open Society Foundations and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan.

Since 2013, UNESCO’s Judges’ Initiative has raised the capacities of judicial actors on international and regional standards on freedom of expression, access to information and the safety of journalists in regions across the world. Over 23,000 judicial actors, including judges, prosecutors, and lawyers, have been trained on these issues, notably through a series of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), on-the-ground training and workshops, and the publications of a number of toolkits and guidelines.

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