Between democratic backsliding, disinformation, and the limits of tolerance
In December, the Russian human rights organisation Memorial will be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. To mark the occasion, the Academy of International Affairs NRW has invited the co-founder and Executive Director of Memorial International Dr. h.c. Elena Zhemkova to Bonn. The former President of the European Court of Human Rights, Prof. Dr. Róbert Spanó, will discuss the topic of freedom of expression with her. The Minister for Federal and European Affairs, Nathanael Liminski, will deliver the greeting.
In Russia and a number of other countries, we are currently witnessing freedom of expression coming under increasing pressure as autocratic regimes gain strength worldwide. The European Court of Human Rights announced on 14 June 2022 that the current legislation in Russia on non-governmental organisations was not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Memorial International and the Memorial Human Rights Centre had sued together with many Russian NGOs that were forced to dissolve as a result of the “Agents Law”. As President Putin had signed legislation a few days earlier stating that Russia will no longer implement the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights handed down after 15 March 2022, there are currently no consequences. Russia had announced its withdrawal from the Council of Europe that day.
Memorial is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its commitment to human rights and the strengthening of civil society. The prize citation states “The Peace Prize laureates represent civil society in their home countries. They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens.”
Even in democratic societies, freedom of expression has become a contested issue and is even used by populists as a weapon against liberal social orders. This shows a paradoxical interplay of social media with its almost unlimited digital reach for everyone and the perceived shrinking of freedom rights among a growing part of the population.
• Welcome address
Dr. Mayssoun Zein Al Din – Executive Director of the Academy
Nathanael Liminski – Minister for Federal and European Affairs, International Affairs and Media and Head of the State Chancellery of North Rhine-Westphalia
Prof. Dr. Róbert Spanó – former President of the European Court of Human Rights
Dr. h. c. Elena Zhemkova – co-founder and Executive Director of Memorial International
Dr. h. c. Elena Zhemkova, Prof. Dr. Róbert Spanó,
Dr. Mayssoun Zein Al Din (Moderation)
• Get together
Photo: istock, Vesnaandjic