Jonathan Peters, a media law professor with appointments in the School of Law and the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, was among 34 scholars, policy leaders, and United Nations officials who participated in an expert workshop last week at the University of Cambridge on the right to peaceful assembly.
The workshop’s purpose was to support the U.N. Human Rights Committee by informing its drafting of General Comment No. 37 on Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article 21 guarantees the right of peaceful assembly, and the General Comment will provide an authoritative interpretation of that right as well as substantive guidance to ensure its practical enjoyment.
One significant open question is whether General Comment No. 37 will recognize the Internet as a space where assemblies occur—on social media platforms and through other information and communication technologies. Participants exchanged ideas about whether and how Article 21 could be interpreted to protect virtual assemblies.
Peters, whose research explores digital media and the law, discussed the state action doctrine in U.S. law and how it distinguishes public and private action, along with the history and evolution of the public forum doctrine and its application to physical and virtual spaces.
Other workshop participants came from the U.N. Human Rights Committee, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the European Center for Not-for-Profit Law, the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Amnesty International, Article 19, and numerous universities.