Global Freedom of Expression

2018 Justice for Free Expression Conference


“There was a lot of very fresh and impressive content there throughout – with interesting case studies from all regions”

Bill Orme – Founding Partner at International Media Development Advisers

On April 25-26, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression hosted its third Justice for Freedom of Expression Conference. The biennial event brought together experts, academics, legal practitioners and activists from some 30 countries to highlight the changing environment for free speech and press freedom through a focus on jurisprudence, laws and policies from around the world. It was an opportunity to discuss the challenges to free speech doctrines and jurisprudence, in a context characterized by the rise in populism and intolerance, the shrinking of civil society and of democratic space, and an increasingly disruptive digital world. To this day, the Conference remains the only forum focusing on global jurisprudence related to freedom of expression. This year’s Conference was unique in that it was preceded by the launch of the 2018 Corporate Accountability Index, prepared by Ranking Digital Rights, and included a panel co-organized with the School of Law of the University of Los Andes, in Bogota, Colombia.

Conference Program

The 2018 Justice for Free Expression Conference opened with an Update from the Global Freedom of Expression Community about its members’ latest initiatives and work to strengthen a global understanding of freedom of expression. During the panel, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression presented its new Teaching Portal, planned for launch in late 2018.

The first panel focused on Global Milestones and Challenges. Experts presented and debated freedom of expression developments in law and jurisprudence of the last 24 months in their regions of focus.

The panel on Private Actors and Human Rights Online sought to highlight the human rights implications of a privatized and commodified internet, and the recent legal, political and self-regulatory, as well as technical developments.

The panel co-organised with the University of Los Andes focused on the Sustainable Development Goal 16 that aims to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” Six panelists debated the role of the Judiciary and of the Media in meeting SDG 16, the policies that must be in place to achieve them, as well as the challenges to foster rule of law, freedom of expression and access to information in the present international environment.

For the fourth panel titled Around the World in 7 decisions,  legal scholars illustrated the past 18 months through the lens of one particularly important decision from their jurisdictions.  Countries covered included South Africa, India, Tunisia, Kenya, Pakistan, Brazil and the European Court for Human Rights.

The following panel on Framing Radicalization and Radical Speech examined how Governments, courts and societies around the world were approaching and defining the concept of “radicalization” and “radicalized” individuals, including in the context of cases testing the limits of freedom of expression.

The final panel of the Conference focused on the Regulation of Lies and “Fake News” in Elections and addressed the various ways in which Governments and Courts were responding to “lies” and “Fake News”, and the extent to which controlling fake news online was simply a matter of extending off-line laws to the digital arena.


Click here to see the agenda


The richness of the discussions at the Conference was made possible by our great community of experts, academics, legal practitioners and activists. Over 50 speakers and some 100 attendees shared their knowledge and perspectives, debated current and future issues, and collaborated on existing and new initiatives over the two days of the event. Further, the speaker selection achieved gender balance and regional diversity, with some 30 countries represented.

Click here to see each participant’s photo and their bio

Panel Videos

Welcome and Introduction


 Agnès Callamard, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, Director
Lee C. Bollinger, Columbia University, President

Update from the Global Freedom of Expression Community

Updates from

Hawley Johnson, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, US (Chair)
Kyu Youm, University of Oregon, US
Monroe Price, Price Moot Court, UK
George Freeman, Media Law Resource Center, US
Karin Deutsch Karlekar, PEN America, US
Jonathan McCully, MLDI, UK
Sofia Jaramillo Otoya, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, US

Global Milestones and Challenges

Panel Participants

Agnès Callamard, Columbia Global Freedom of Expression, US (Chair)
Rebecca MacKinnon, Director, Ranking Digital Rights, US
Toby Mendel, Center for Law and Democracy, Canada
Vidushi Marda, ARTICLE 19, India
Jameel Jaffer, Knight First Amendment Center, US
Edison Lanza, Office of the Special Rapporteur, IACmHR
Andrey Rikhter, Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media, OSCE

Private Actors and Human Rights On-Line

Panel Participants

Rebecca MacKinnon, Ranking Digital Rights, US (Chair)
Chinmayi Arun, National Law University, India
Bertrand de la Chapelle, Internet & Jurisdiction, France
Ona Flores, Office of the Special Rapporteur, IACmHR
Christopher Bavitz, Berkman Klein Center, Harvard, US
Peter Stern, Facebook, US
Yaman Akdeniz, Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey

SDG 16 Seeking Protection & Justice for Freedom of Expression & Information

Panel Participants

Catalina Botero, School of Law Universidad de los Andes (Chair)
Alejandro Álvarez, Executive Office of the UN Secretary General
Bill Orme, Global Forum for Media Development
Guilherme Canela, UNESCO Montevideo Office
Irene Khan, International Development Law Organization
Lucy Turner, Global Alliance for SDG16
Michael Camilleri, Inter-American Dialogue

Around the World in 7 decisions

Panel Participants

Doreen Weisenhaus, Northwestern University, US (Chair)
Dario Milo, Partner, Webber Wentzel, South Africa
Karuna Nundy, Advocate, India
Richard Danbury, De Montfort University, UK
Issaaf Ben Khalifa, UN OHCHR, Tunisia
Umer Gilani, The Law and Policy Chambers, Pakistan
Tais Gasparian, RBMDF – Advogados, Brazil

Framing Radicalisation and Radical Speech

Panel Participants

Sandra Coliver, Open Society, US (Chair)
Alexander Verkhovsky, Sova Center, Russia
Faiza Patel, NYU, Brennan Center, USA
Adam Weiss, European Roma Rights Center, Hungary
Joelle Fiss, Freelance, Switzerland
Bernard Harcourt, Columbia University, US
Yasmine Ahmed, Rights Watch, UK

Regulating Lies and “Fake News” in Elections

Panel Participants

Suzanne Nossel, PEN America, US (Chair)
James Weinstein, Arizona State University, US
Marianne Diaz, Derechos Digitales, Chile
Tarlach McGonagle, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
Jonathan Corpus Ong, University of Massachusetts – Amherst, US
Mishi Choudhary, Software Freedom Law Center, India
Alex Warofka, Facebook, US