On 20 April 2020, the MOOC on freedom of expression, access to public information and the protection of journalists for judicial officers begins
A total of 2.334 Ibero-American Judicial Operators will participate in the 6th edition of the online course, “International Legal Framework on Freedom of Expression, Access to Public Information and the Safety of Journalists” that will take place from April 20 to May 31, 2020.
This will bring the number to more than 15.000 judicial operators, including judges, civil servants of the judicial powers, public prosecutors, public defender's offices, national human rights institutions and bodies of access to public information that will be trained since 2013.
Co-organized by UNESCO Montevideo and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the course is coordinated by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas, Austin, and with the support the Iberoamerican Judicial Summit, the Iberoamerican Network of Judicial Schools, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Universidad de los Andes and the Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists; and was declared of interest by the Iberoamerican Judicial Summit at its 2016 Plenary Assembly.
Not only will be the interaction between these actors be enriching, but the course also takes place in a special time for our planet - in which, humanity is going through a particularly difficult moment that requires effective cooperation from us all. COVID-19 not only puts the global public health systems in an unprecendented crisis but also poses strong challenges to the right to information.
In this sense, freedom of expression, access to public information and quality professional journalism are key to combatting disinformation (the so-called "fake news", false news, hoaxes). The special rapporteurs for freedom of expression of the UN, OAS and OSCE sent out a warning in their recent joint statement.
During this critical time judicial operators around the world will be called to make crucial decisions on many of the challenges layed out in the Special Rapporteurs’ statement. Hence, this 6th edition of the MOOC is loaded with even more significance and comes at a very important time.
With all of this in the mind, and as part of this edition of the course, the organisers have created an extra module to be delivered in the form of a webinar– on the topic of freedom of expression and access to public information in the time of COVID-19. This content will be accessible for all course participants.
Judicial operators are key actors in the protection and promotion of freedom of expression, access to public information and the ensuring of the Safety of journalists - especially in this very special time for humanity.
Lidia Brito, director of the UNESCO Regional Office for Science in Latin America and the Caribbean says:
"also the more detailed and in-depth knowledge of international standards can help in their daily work that can subsequently make an effective contribution to achieve the goals proposed in the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, especially in Goal 16, which is deeply linked to the topics that course addresses - from a theoretical, reflective and practical perspective”.
In addition, Edison Lanza, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, after highlighting that the online course
"is a joint effort of the Office of the Rapporteur and UNESCO". He also notes that "the objective is to cooperate with the Judicial Powers of the region in an ongoing training exercise with the magistrates on the conceptual and practical scope of freedom of expression in each jurisdiction”.
Rosental Calmon Alves, founder and director of the Knight Center of the University of Texas, stresses that
“the course is a technological platform of knowledge that, with digital resources in tune with the epochal paradigm, contributes to offering free training for judges and other judicial operators on the legal framework and international standards that apply on freedom of expression, access to public information and the ensuring the safety of journalists”.
Therefore, it is understood that a culture of impunity incites more cases of violence against journalists, while also working to silence them, promoting self-censorship within the media and discouraging the investigation of sensitive issues such as criminal networks, access to information and corruption. The region’s jurisdictional authorities play a vital role in breaking this perverse vicious circle.
Offered free of charge, the course is based on the certainty that freedom of expression and the right to information are fundamental rights that enable us to exercise other human rights, are key components for the achievement of sustainable development goals and to face emergency situations, like the current pandemic.
Thus, the 2.334 judicial operators enrolled from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Spain, United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Venezuela are welcomed to this 6th edition of the course.