UNESCO and Superior Council of Judicial Power in Morocco foster dialogue with judges in Arab States
Over 40 judges and other experts from 10 countries all over the Arab States met in Rabat on 7 and 9 June for the first regional training of judges in the region on freedom of expression, access to information, and safety of journalists. These participants added a new dimension to the UNESCO Judges‘ initiative, which has trained over 23,000 judges since 2013.
During the three days of the conference on Bringing Together the Judges: The role of judges in enhancing the freedom of expression in the Arab States region, organized by UNESCO and the Superior Council of the Judicial Power in Morocco, judges shared experience from their respective countries on freedom of expression and protection of journalists, discussed challenges to freedom of expression for judicial actors and made recommendations on the way forward.
On the occasion of the conference, UNESCO Assistant Director-General, Tawfik Jelassi signed an agreement with the Superior Council of the Judicial Power in Morocco, represented by President Delegate, M‘hammed Abdennabaoui. This letter of intent facilitates further cooperation between UNESCO and the Superior Council in the field of freedom of expression and the protection of journalists.
In his opening remarks, M‘hammed Abdennabaoui, President Delegate of the Superior Council, stressed that the Council welcomes all serious initiatives for study and training in this field for judges and journalists alike.
The proceedings of the conference were held under Chatham House rules where international standards on freedom of expression and its limitations under international law, as described in Article 19 and 20 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, were discussed as well as jurisprudence of the Africal Court of Human and Peoples‘ Rights, and the European Court of Human Rights.
Specific cases were presented and a thorough discussion took place on the challenges judicial actors face when deliberating cases on freedom of expression and how the protection of journalism has been interpreted under international instruments.
Special discussion was held on the challenges posed by hate speech and disinformation, defamation and libel issues online. UNESCO presented its two recent video explainers on the Three-Part Test on limiting the freedom of expression according to the ICCPR and on the Rabat Plan of Action and its six part threshold when judging hate speech.
UNESCO presented to all of the participants a new Arabic translation of the Global Toolkit for Judicial Actors on freedom of expression and safety of journalism, as well as presenting another recent material for training and capacity building of judged and other judicial actors, including prosecutors and law enforcement.
The conference was supported by the UNESCO Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists (MDP), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and, Government of Denmark and Open Society Foundations.
UNESCO Judges Initiative
The training of Judges on freedom of expression in Rabat, Morocco, was part of UNESCO Judges Initiative which aims to reinforce the capacities of judicial actors to promote freedom of expression and safety of journalists.
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 over 150 countries around 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.
International legal standards on freedom of expression, access to information and safety of journalists