Upcoming CFP Symposium on weaponisation of the law

Call for papers deadline: 9 June 2023

Media Freedom Initiative

One of the most important human rights, which is so often insufficiently appreciated, is the right to freedom of expression and accurate information. Yet across the world, journalists, bloggers and others are facing official and de facto restrictions on freedom of expression and communication. Drawing on the strength and expertise of a substantial group of Research Fellows, in 2017 the Institute of Commonwealth Studies established a project to examine the challenges to freedom of expression across the Commonwealth (a global subsystem of 54 member states), looking at local as well as international factors affecting journalistic freedom. 

The project started with a conference on The Commonwealth and Challenges to Media Freedom held in April 2017.

Key Information

Media Freedom Summary Report

Here you will also find a Media Freedom Summary Report which was commissioned by the Commonwealth Foundation(Opens in new window).

Media Freedom Principles

The project has convened a Working Group on Media and Good Governance which includes representatives from a number of Commonwealth partner organisations, including the Commonwealth Journalists Association, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association, and the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. In March 2018, the Working Group agreed the original Commonwealth principles on freedom of expression and the role of the media in good governance, proposing them for consideration by the Commonwealth Heads of Government at the April 2018 Commonwealth Summit. 

Amended Principles

Read the 2022 Commonwealth Principles on Freedom of Expression and the Role of the Media in Good Governance which was amended by an expert working group and adopted by Law Ministers in Mauritius.

Activities and Research

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Europe’s Stance on Ethiopia

This piece written by Martin Plaut discusses the peace agreement aimed at ending the conflict in Tigray and the debate opened up within the EU about how quickly to normalise relations with Ethiopia.

Read the full piece here on the RUSI website.

De-colonizing Global News-flows: A Historical Perspective

This article by Daya Krishan Thussu discusses the colonial nature of global news media by examining how the US–UK “news duopoly” has deep colonial connections: the news agency Reuters was described as “an empire within the British empire”

Read the full piece here.

Related Reports

Weaponising the Law: Attacks on Media Freedom

Thomson Reuters Foundation have published, in collaboration with the Tow Centre of Digital Journalism at Columbia University, a flagship report entitled 'Weaponising the Law: Attacks on Media Freedom'

The report - funded by the Foundation and authored by renowned press freedom experts Joel Simon, and Carlos Lauría, and legal expert Ona Flores - is the first of its kind to bring together both qualitative and quantitative data to build a cohesive global overview of prevalent trends in 'lawfare' used against journalists.

Earlier this year, nearly 500 members of the Foundation’s extensive network of journalists responded to a survey on their lived experiences of the legal threats facing independent journalism. Their insights, alongside the perspectives of 37 renowned media freedom experts, showed evidence of an unprecedented growth in legal attacks on journalists around the world.

  • Nearly 50% of respondents, representing 106 countries, said that they or their media organisation were facing legal threats. This illustrates the sheer scale of this war on journalism. 
  • Eight key legal threats to journalists around the globe were identified and analysed. These range from defamation and insult allegations being levied to suppress scrutiny, to cybercrime and national security laws such as ‘espionage’ or ‘treason’, which are misused to silence and harass journalists reporting on sensitive topics such as organised crime, corruption, human rights issues and conflict. 
  • The report concludes with a set of 10 recommendations – shaped by the insights of our contributors – for tangible action to curb negative legislative trends, expand legal support and enhance cross-sector collaboration.   

You can download the report in full on here. 

Staff Members

Martin Plaut, Senior Research Fellow

Mr Martin Plaut

Senior Research Fellow
Research keywords: Southern Africa, migration, defence
Recent publication: Understanding Eritrea: Inside Africa’s Most Repressiive

Daya Thussu

Professor Daya Thussu

Senior Research Fellow
Research keywords: Global communication; Media.
Recent publication as editor: BRICS Media: Reshaping the Global Communication Order?

David Page

Dr David Page

Senior Research Fellow
Research keywords: Media policy and law in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka

Rita Payne

Rita Payne

Senior Research Fellow
Research keywords: Media, television, asian affairs


Dr William Crawley

Research keywords: Media policy and law in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka

Media Freedom News

Please click on the Media Freedom Monthly News tab below to read the most up-to-date news items by region.