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Victories and Challenges for Media Defense: A Conversation with Media Legal Defense Initiative

How Media Legal Defence Initiative Protects the Rights of Journalists


The Media Legal Defence Initiative (MLDI), based in London, currently works in 40 countries around the world defending journalists, bloggers, and independent media against legal threats, as well as conducting strategic litigation and building the capacity of lawyers.

In this conversation, MLDI’s Peter Noorlander and Nani Jansen are joined by Dirk Voorhoof, professor of law at Ghent and Copenhagen Universities, to discuss key challenges facing journalists today. Among other cases, they examine the wider implications of the pivotal judgment MLDI won at the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in December 2014, which held that imprisonment for libel violates free speech and that criminal law should be used sparingly against journalists.

They also discuss some of MLDI’s other work across Africa, Asia, and Europe, which ranges from representing Azeri journalists before the European Court of Human Rights to working alongside Zambian and Singaporean lawyers in the defense of libel and “false news” cases.


  • Peter Noorlander is MLDI’s chief executive officer. He is a lawyer who has specialized in the fields of media law and human rights. Prior to joining MLDI, he was senior legal advisor for the Open Society Media Program.
  • Nani Jansen, MLDI’s legal director, has acted in freedom of expression cases before national and international courts and human rights tribunal, including the European Court of Human Rights, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the East African Court of Justice, the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
  • Dirk Voorhoof is a professor at Ghent University, a member of the Flemish Regulator for the Media, and a lecturer at Copenhagen University.
  • Darian Pavli (moderator) is a senior attorney with the Open Society Justice Initiative.

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