Ahead of the US-led Summit for Democracy on 9 and 10 December, ARTICLE 19 took part in Global Democracy Coalition Forum — civil society contributions to the debates — hosting two key panel discussions.
The events, ‘Crackdowns and Attacks on Freedom of Expression as a Precursor to Authoritarianism’ and ‘Technology and Freedom of Expression: Challenges and Opportunities of Regulation and Rule of Law’, look at the relationship between attacks against journalists, women, LGBTI+ communities and indigenous people and a broader decline in human rights; at the crisis of ‘information disorder’ and how technology can still enable freedom of expression as we recognise the dream of social media and digital communications heralding a new era of citizen engagement and democratic promise has now been shattered.
Staffan Lindberg, director of Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem), University of Gothenburg, Sweden, photojournalist and founder of Bangladesh’s Pathshala Media Institute Shahidul Alam and Director of ARTICLE 19 South America Denise Dora discussed attacks on free speech and the warning signs they send about moves towards authoritarianism. The debate, which was moderated by ARTICLE 19 Executive Director Quinn McKew, looked at the role the media plays in resisting autocracy, and in supporting it, as well as at the dangers of self-censorship.
Courtney Radsch, ARTICLE 19’s senior US and technology advisor, moderated the panel discussion on technology and free expression, joined by Barbora Bukovská, Senior Director for Law and Policy at ARTICLE 19, Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies and Vivian Schiller, Executive Director of Aspen Digital. They highlighted the need for a profound shift in thought and action, arguing that governments must stop making political gestures and tackle the root problems and make strong political and financial commitments to ensure the information ecosystem is re-built with a human rights framework at its core, and where efforts to reduce harms and foster transparency are balanced with the protection of freedom of expression.