Enabling free speech online by legal defence: the need for skilled lawyers to secure the free flow of information online

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Enabling free speech online by legal defence: the need for skilled lawyers to secure the free flow of information online
Presenter(s) Nani Jansen Reventlow, Jonathan McCully, Nighat Dad, Jessica Dheere, Marcin de Kaminski
Title(s) Fellow, legal officer, executive director, co-director, policy specialist
Organization(s) Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, Media Legal Defence Initiative, Digital Rights Foundation, SMEX, Sida
Project(s) Digital rights training
Country(ies) World
Social media @interwebzNani
2017 theme Training & Best Practices

Critical speech can get people into trouble, journalists, bloggers and ordinary citizens alike. When such trouble involves legal charges being filed, a good lawyer is needed. Increasingly, those lawyers need not only be skilled in their profession as such. With countries worldwide adopting so-called “cybercrime” laws and using them to suppress expression online, lawyers need to understand the right to free speech in all its aspects: online and offline. This knowledge is not always readily available: not in the curricula at law school for young lawyers or in those for continued professional education of already established lawyers. Yet, ensuring that lawyers are equipped with the proper skill set to defend online speech cases is crucial. It can not only make the difference between liberty and imprisonment for an individual, the precedent individual cases set have far-reaching impact on the cases that are file against other in the future and the freedom of the (online) media landscape as such.

This session aims to facilitate a conversation on how more effective training of lawyers can take place. What should be on the curriculum? Which lawyers should be trained and how? How can we involve donors in the process?

The session will start off by having the panelists share best practices in training, as well as speak about some of the challenges they are facing:

- Jonathan McCully, legal officer at the Media Legal Defence Initiative, will speak on MLDI’s experience training lawyers in East and Southern Africa;

- Nighat Dad, executive director of the Digital Rights Foundation, will speak on the challenges posed by Pakistan’s new Cybercrime Law and the need for training lawyers to defend cases brought under it;

- Jessica Dheere, co-director of SMEX, will speak on the opportunities and challenges for training in the Arab region;

- Marcin de Kaminski, policy specialist on Freedom of Expression and ICT at Sida, will give a funder's perspective on training.

The conversation will then be opened to the wider audience. The presenter has extensive experience training lawyers in media law/freedom of expression in Europe, Africa and Asia, and will focus the conversation to the main topics outlined above.

Format Workshop
Target Groups Journalists, advocacy/policy professionals, academia, front line activists, lawyers, donors
Length 1 hour
Skill Level Intermediate
Language English


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