Invitation to “The International Conference on confronting threats to freedom of opinion and expression and access to information


DOHA 24 JULY-25 JULY 2017




Day One
Registration of participants
9.00 –10.00
Opening session
  • Dr. Ali Bin Samikh Al Marri , President of National Human Rights Committee ( HNRC )
  • Mr. Mohammad Ali Al-Nusur, Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • Mr.Younes M’ Jahed, Senior Vice-President of International Federation of Journalists ( IFJ )
  • Mr. John Yearwood, President of  International Press Institute ( IPI )
  • Mr.Giacomo Mezzone , European Broadcasting Union (EBU)
Coffee Break

10.30 – 12:30
Freedom of Expression:  Facing Up to the Threat
Chair: Jim Boumelha, International Federation of Journalists
  • Imen Ladjimi, Article 19
  • Tim Dawson, National Union of Journalists, UK and Ireland
  • Elena Chernievska, Office of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Representative on Freedom of the Media
  • Daoud Kuttab, Community Media Network, Jordan
  • Dominique Pradalie, Senior journalist, formerly of France Television

14:00 – 15:30
Work session (1):    
Legal and regulatory ecology
Work session (2):    
For a pluralistic, independent and free media
Chair: …….

  • Luckson Chipare ,Media Institute South Africa
  • Rodney Dixon, Temple Gaedens Chamber, UK
  • Prof. Curtis F. J. Doebler, University of Makeni, USA
  • Jim Killock, Open rights, UK
Chair: Seamus Dooley, Acting General Secretary NUJ Ireland
  • Larry Goldbetter ,National Writers Union, USA
  • Kathy Kiely, Nationa Press Club Journalism Institute, Washington
  • Melody Patry ,Index on Censorship
  • Dr. Mostefa Souag, Acting Director General of Al jazeera
  • Mr. Jaber Bin Shafaa, Doha Center for Media Freedom
Coffee Break
16:00 – 17:30
Work session (3):  
Protecting journalists on the frontline
Panel Session (4):
Facing up to rights and wrongs
Chair:  Marius Lukosiunas, UNESCO
  • Dr Carmen Draghici ,City Univessity, London  
  • Zuliana Lainez ,Federation of Journalists of Latin America
  • John Yearwood, International Press Institute
  • Al Sadiq Al-Rezaigi, Sudanese Journalists Union
  • Haydee Dijkstal, Lawyer at International Criminal Court
Chair: Moubia Belafia, france 24
  • Prof. Chris Frost ,Liverpool James Moores University
  • Prof. J. Fernandez ,Curtis University, Western Australia
  • Mr.Tom Law, Ethical Journalism Initiative
  • Prof. Khaled Hroub, Northwestern University, Qatar

Day Two
Tuesday 25 July
9.00 – 11:00
  • James Tager, PEN America
  • Yolanda Qintana, Platforma de defensa de la libertad de informacion PDLI, Spain
  • Barbie Zelizer, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania;
  • James Cusick, Editor Open Media,UK
  • Beth Costa,
Coffee Break
11:30 – 12.00
Report back from work sessions
12:00 – 13:00
International Conference on
“Freedom of Expression: Facing Up to the Threat”
24- 25 July 2017
Ritz Carlton Hotel
Doha, Qatar
Freedom of opinion and expression, and its corollaries press freedom and freedom of
information, are considered as cornerstones for the promotion of international peace and
security for every democratic and free society. They are also considered as indispensable for
the development of individuals and the consolidation of the principles of transparency and
accountability, which in turn are essential for the promotion and protection of all human rights.
They also constitute the fundamental basis for the full enjoyment of a wide range of other
human rights, including the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the
right to participate in public affairs.
Exchanging information and opinions freely is essential for the development of societies.
Pluralistic, uncensored, unobstructed and free media that are able to comment on public issues
and inform public opinion without censorship or restraint are indispensable in any society. The
public also has the right, in return, to receive what the media produces.
Many United Nations bodies have repeatedly stressed that freedom of opinion and expression
are the cornerstones of a democratic society and prerequisites for progress and development.
Free media help build inclusive societies and democracy of knowledge, and promote
intercultural dialogue, peace and good governance. UN bodies also call on States to pay
particular attention to the promotion of independent and pluralistic media, and emphasize that
the rights that people have offline must also be protected online, particularly with regards to
freedom of expression.
International and regional human rights mechanisms also make it clear that freedom of
opinion and expression are the basis for participation in public affairs, accountability,
sustainable development, human development and the exercise of all other rights. The right to
freedom of expression enables vibrant, multi-faceted public interest debates giving voice to
different perspectives and viewpoints, while ensuring a respectful and enabling environment
for dialogue and discussion, stimulating exchange and examination of opinions and developing
critical thinking.
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as article 19 of the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), both assert the right of everyone to hold
opinions, without interference, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all
kinds, regardless of frontiers and by any means, including any technical mode.
The ICCPR, which is of pivotal importance to human rights law, provides the main legal standard
for the vast majority of the principles and guarantees relating to freedom of opinion and
expression. It provides that any form of effort to coerce the holding or not holding of any
opinion and to punish, harass, or intimidate individuals due to their opinions is prohibited.
Freedom of opinion may not be restricted even in time of public emergency.
According to the ICCPR, no restrictions may be placed on the exercise of the right to freedom of
expression other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a
democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order, the
protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights, freedoms and reputations
of others.
The restrictions on freedom of expression should be clearly defined, and moreover, should
reflect an urgent need and should be the least restrictive of freedoms of expression. They
should be justified on the basis of the interests to be protected and applied in the narrowest
possible manner. There should also be no excessive restrictions on access to information.
Otherwise, States must prohibit by law any propaganda for war or any advocacy of national,
racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.
States imposing restrictions on freedom of expression shall be responsible for their compliance
with the above-mentioned requirements and other conditions guaranteed by international
human rights law.
Although the constitutions of the major countries of the world and, many national legislations,
call for freedom of opinion and expression, this is not always clearly reflected on the ground. In
recent years, freedom of expression has been further restricted in many countries in different
regions of the world, and journalists have been increasingly subjected to abuses, including
searches, confiscation, expulsion, threats, abduction, arbitrary detention, forced
disappearances, extrajudicial killings, imprisonment and torture. These measures and other acts
violate not only the right of journalists to freedom of expression and freedom of the press, but
also the public’s right to know.
Some countries justify their restrictions on freedom of expression with reference, for instance,
to the ‘war on terror’, or the outbreak of armed conflict or political disagreements. In doing so
they violate the principles guaranteed in international human rights law, which is considered in
some cases as a backlash against respect for human rights in those States, and have been
condemned by many human rights commissions and organizations.
While modern technologies, including digital broadcasting, mobile phones, the Internet and
social networks, enable an environment that supports freedom of expression and the right to
access and exchange information, they also constitute major challenges to governments’ ability
to impose restrictions on freedom of expression and exchange of information.
However, these technologies are also used by some States and non-State actors to broadcast
false news and information to mislead the public in a way that violates human rights by
impacting on their right to know, receive and share information. They are also used to incite to
hatred, discrimination, racism and violence, and even as platforms for supporting terrorism.
These technologies have also created other challenges, such as cybercrime and new patterns of
transnational crime.
The challenges to freedom of expression and exchange/access to information that have
accompanied the rapid spread of modern technologies can be addressed. These challenges
have been the subject of many studies, declarations and reports prepared by the United
Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, the OSCE representative on
freedom of information, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the InterAmerican
Commission on Human Rights and Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and
access to information of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as well as in
numerous initiatives by international, regional and national civil society organizations.
However, some States have used these challenges as an excuse and cover for justifying
imposing restrictions in violation of the requirements of international human rights law, the
right to freedom of expression and the right to access and exchange information. This has been
criticized by United Nations human rights bodies as well as many international and regional
human rights commissions and organizations.
In an effort to address these challenges the National Human Rights Committee of the State
of Qatar in cooperation with the International Federation for the Protection of Journalists
and the International Press Institute are pleased to invite you to an international conference
on “Freedom of Expression: Facing Up to the Threat ” in Doha from 24 to 25 July 2017.
The Conference will discuss how to:
• Address the enforcement of international human rights law, instruments and
procedures with regards to freedom of opinion and expression and access to information;
• Address the problems and challenges to international human rights law in connection
with modern communication technology;
• Protect and support journalists and promote pluralistic, independent and free media;
• Enhance the protection of journalists in hostile zones and conflict areas and end
impunity for crimes against journalists;
• Raise up to ethical challenges, in particular threats posed by the resurgence of racism
as well as cultural and religious conflicts, and rekindle a positive ethic for the profession.


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