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Advanced EIHRL LLM Candidates draft report For the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

Prof. Mark Leiser and a team of thirteen law students from Leiden University’s Advanced LLM programmes in European and International Human Rights Law as well as in Law and Digital Technologies together drafted a report for the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

Mark Leiser

The Adv. EIHRL LLM contributors were Niamh Coghlan, Carola Gioco, Lindsay McCosh, Flavia Mencarini, Melanie Moulder, Ona Lorda Roure and Uditi Saha. Remarkably, the team only had one week, which fell within an exam period, to formulate the report.

The report’s purpose is to inform the Special Rapporteur’s annual thematic report presented to the Human Rights Council at its 47th session in June 2021. It mainly focuses on the challenges raised by disinformation and misinformation. It analyses the measures taken by different nations from Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Americas, as well as digital tech companies, and the impact of such measures on the freedom of expression. Finally, it presents specific recommendations for the Special Rapporteur on how to protect and promote the right to freedom of opinion and expression while simultaneously combatting disinformation. 

In terms of organising the project, the students split into sub-groups to address specific research questions, which were chosen by the students themselves. This allowed them to focus on areas of particular interest. The fact that thirteen students were involved in researching and drafting the overall report was helpful in terms of sharing the workload, although it was challenging to ensure consistency. Throughout the writing process, Prof. Mark Leiser provided the students guidance and insight into how the issue of disinformation can impact human rights. 

The students confirmed that it was an incredible opportunity to carry out the research and learn more about the regulation of disinformation. Moreover, the exchange with students participating in the Advanced Law and Digital Technologies LLM was a valuable experience. Prof. Rick Lawson rightfully said: 'You made the UN happy, and us very proud.'

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