ABSTRACT OF THE SESSION

International Press Institute (IPI) Senior Press Freedom Adviser Steven M. Ellis will present information related to the IPI’s current project “Strengthening Journalists’ Rights, Protections and Skills: Understanding Defamation Laws versus Press Freedom”. The project seeks to examine the effects that defamation, insult and blasphemy laws in the 28 EU member countries and five candidate countries have on the practices of journalism and the exercise of press freedom.

IPI will soon be issuing a study detailing defamation law in EU member and candidate states, examining the extent to which these laws comport with international standards and offering recommendations for potential changes. Ellis will explain to participants the purpose, history and methodology behind the forthcoming study and share details regarding planned follow-up workshops and trainings. Using specific examples from relevant countries, Ellis will also detail potential pitfalls that journalists face under national criminal and civil laws on defamation, insult and blasphemy. Participants will be given examples of types of conduct that may lead to liability, potential defences to liability, potential consequences that a finding of civil or criminal liability may carry and examples of recent legal developments. Finally, he will provide a broad overview of relevant international free expression standards in order to foster awareness among journalists of their rights in cases where national laws have not yet caught up to those standards.

SPEAKER’S BIO

Steven EllisSteven M. Ellis has served as a senior press freedom adviser focusing on Europe and North America for the Vienna, Austria-based International Press Institute (IPI) – the world’s oldest global press freedom organization, representing editors, media executives and leading journalists – since 2011. He monitors and addresses threats to media freedom and journalists’ safety; analyzes proposed legislative and regulatory changes, and organises related campaigns; and organises and leads fact-finding and advocacy missions to promote media freedom. Before joining IPI he was a reporter for daily legal newspaper The Metropolitan News-Enterprise in Los Angeles covering state and federal appeals courts. He is a licensed attorney in Illinois and in Michigan, where he practiced law after serving as a legal clerk in the Office of Executive Counsel to the Governor of Michigan. He also previously worked in public and government relations.