Peters advises European organizations on press-rights guidelines

Friday, May 25, 2018

Jonathan Peters, assistant professor of journalism at Grady College and affiliate assistant professor at UGA’s School of Law, attended meetings in Warsaw, Poland, last semester where he served as an adviser developing legal guidelines for press rights at public assemblies.

Peters started working in summer 2017 as an adviser to the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

OSCE and ODIHR asked Peters to help them analyze protections for members of the press covering public assemblies. He was recommended for the position by his former law school adviser, David Goldberger, a First Amendment scholar who serves on the OSCE/ODIHR ​Panel of Experts on the Freedom of Assembly, which ​develops and revises assembly guidelines in consultation with the Council of Europe and others.

“​I​t​’s​ a critical time to do this work,” Peters said. “State police ​have been detaining and arresting journalists without cause for their assembly coverage, and ordinary citizens ​have been assaulting journalists as they report at assemblies. ​States have the duty to facilitate peaceful assemblies and press access to them​, ​and the press must be free to publish truthful information about matters of public concern. These commitments​ ​rest at the core of any functioning democratic system.”

Peters added that regulation of press rights varies greatly across Europe. “The guidelines that we worked on will establish best practices​ and ​set​ a minimum baseline for press rights​ at assemblies, ​creating a threshold that national authorities will meet in their own regulations.”

Peters produced a 35-page report for OSCE/ODIHR that outlined European protections for the press at assemblies and ultimately made recommendations regarding how existing guidelines should be revised to clarify and strengthen those protections. He was asked to attend meetings in Warsaw to present his report, answer questions, and contribute to discussions.

“The best part of the trip were the people I met,” Peters said. “Press rights was just one item on the agenda, so I learned from the panel members as they considered a number of other issues that are outside of my expertise. I was impressed by their deliberative process and the thoughtful, high-level exchanges they had.”

In addition to the work on the report, Peters connected with professionals from other countries, including a law professor from the University of East Anglia and a former UN lawyer who handled rule-of-law matters in the Congo. Fellow Grady College professor Bart Wojdynski also arranged for Peters to meet up with his cousin, who lives in Warsaw, to talk about the city’s history and current political climate.

“I’m ready to go back,” Peters said.

Date: May 23, 2018 
Author:  Anna Alyssa McKoy,  anna.mckoy25@uga.edu