BYLAWS OF THE FREEDOM OF OPINION AND EXPRESSION COALITION
Article 1: Objective
Promote and protect the right to freedom of expression and support individuals and groups in practicing this right.
Article 2: Coalition’s Structure
The Coalition consists of representatives of civil society bodies and international organizations dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in general, and the right to freedom of opinion and expression in particular; in addition to representatives of independent media outlets. It is collective movement to strengthen relations and boost coordination among its members to fulfill its objective.
*Civil society bodies are assemblies of citizens and/or individuals seeking to achieve specific interests, provide services, or influence policies that affect the lives of citizens and individuals.
Article 3: Coalition’s Activities
In order to achieve its objective of promoting and protecting the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the Coalition’s endeavors will focus on 2 types of activities: 1) supporting individuals and groups and 2) advocacy. Joint activities may be organized by some or all the Coalition’s members, on behalf of the Coalition, based on the members’ consent.
• Provide support to individuals and groups in the two forms below:
a) Psychological support by pushing for respecting the rights of specific individuals and groups, making statements, calling for solidarity, and providing expert psychological support to those in need.
b) Legal support by referring cases to the Coalition’s members that provide legal services to defend the right to freedom of opinion and expression and represent persons facing investigations and/or charges.
To fulfill subparagraphs (a) and (b) above, a spreadsheet shall be created to document protests and any related violations. The collected data will help identify individuals and groups whose right to freedom of opinion and expression was violated, determine the nature of such violations, explore the type of psychological support needed, and influence the outcome of any future trials.
In order to maximize the efficiency of legal support, the Coalition’s members that provide psychological and legal support may form a task force to unite their efforts and optimize coordination among them; a member organization from the task force may be selected to act as a focal point to coordinate between members, on behalf of the Coalition. The selection process shall follow the same procedures as those adopted to select the chairing organization and for the same term.
• Advocacy; the Coalition may carry out advocacy activities in two forms:
a) Raise awareness about topics related to the right to freedom of opinion and expression and other related rights (the right to assembly, the right to a fair trial, etc.) to promote such rights by sharing relevant content produced by the Coalition’s members. It shall also organize focus group discussions and/or support other coalitions, inter alia.
b) Work with decision makers to urge competent public authorities to respect the right to freedom of opinion and expression and advocate for aligning national legislations with international human rights standards, especially Lebanon’s international commitments, such as the International Covenant on the Political and Civil Rights (Article 19), the universal jurisdiction, and the general comments of the UN Human Rights Committee.
Article 4: Chairing the Coalition
The Coalition consists of Lebanese and non-Lebanese member organizations/bodies which convene periodically through their representatives who are authorized to discuss all the items listed on the agenda, provided that the Coalition is chaired by a different member organization every 3 months.
A different organization is selected to chair the Coalition on a voluntary basis for a renewable term of three months, unless another member organization voices its objection. In this case, the chairing organization shall be selected by drawing lots at the end of every ordinary meeting. A member organization may request to be excluded from the draw if its administrative and/or financial capabilities are limited.
Chairing the Coalition entails coordinating the agreed activities of the Coalition and its members and assigning the various tasks among members, each according to their specialization (i.e. scope of work/objective). To achieve this, ad hoc committees may be created to achieve specific objectives through resolutions issued by the Coalition.
The chairing organization shall undertake the following duties:
• Convene ordinary and extraordinary meetings upon a member’s request.
• Organize, chair, develop the agenda for, and document all ordinary and extraordinary meetings.
• Prepare the paperwork required for the activities and other endeavors previewed for its term.
• Update the Coalition’s website and social media content. To do so, the chairing organization may be assisted by other member organizations.
For the purpose of documenting and storing the Coalition’s information, a cloud-based data center shall be created and made accessible to all member organizations to store data and documents relating to the Coalition’s endeavors and activities.
While the main communication channel will be through email, other means of communication may be used, such as the Signal private messaging application.
Article 5: Ordinary Meetings
The Coalition shall convene every two months to discuss the agenda prepared by the chairing organization.
The chairing organization shall document meeting by drafting minutes, which shall be shared with the members at the end of each meeting to be approved and signed off as final. The meeting minutes should include the Coalition’s decisions for the upcoming month.
Before concluding the final meeting of the chairing organization’s term, a draw is held to select the chairing organization for the following term. The Coalition shall be chaired by SMEX exceptionally for the first six months following the enforcement of the present bylaws, to follow through with the establishment of the Coalition (prepare the policy drafts, website, etc.).
Meetings may be conducted either virtually or personally, depending on the circumstances.
Article 6: Extraordinary (Emergency) Meetings
An extraordinary meeting may be convened even when the quorum is not met.
An emergency is any situation where violence is exerted against an individual or a group for practicing their right to freedom of opinion and expression; or any situation involving incitement on violence, hate speech, or discrimination to an extent that gravely violates human rights and potentially leads to violence; or any situation involving an imminent threat that will or may lead to violence for the same reason.
The same regulatory provisions governing ordinary meetings shall apply to extraordinary meetings.
Article 7: Agenda
The chairing organization shall develop the agenda for the ordinary and extraordinary meetings and share it with the members’ representatives three days prior to each meeting. The chairing organization shall add the items requested by other organizations and submit the final, updated version of the agenda to the representatives twenty-four hours at most before the meeting takes place.
When issuing joint statements, the chairing organization shall share the draft statement with the other organizations to provide feedback and/or approve of the content. Regarding regular statements, the deadline provided to the organizations’ representatives is one week from the date of sharing the draft statement, or any other deadline determined by the chairing organization in consultation with the organization that originally drafted the statement. Regarding urgent statements where an emergency situation needs to be addressed, the deadline given to the organizations’ representatives is twenty-four hours from the date of sharing the draft statement, or any other deadline determined by the chairing organization in consultation with the organization that originally drafted the statement.
Article 8: Resolutions
a) In Ordinary Meetings: When a resolution needs to be passed, the Coalition shall initially seek to pass it unanimously (i.e. with the consent of all member organizations’ representatives). In case unanimity is not achieved, the blocking vote shall be invoked – i.e. if one-third of representatives present at the meeting object, the draft resolution will not be passed.
b) In Extraordinary Meetings: When a resolution needs to be passed in an extraordinary meeting, the Coalition shall initially seek unanimity among the attending representatives. In case of unanimity, the resolution is presented to the Coalition’s members who may voice their objection within twenty-four hours.
Article 9: Onboarding New Members
When a civil society body applies to join the Coalition, after submitting documents to prove that it meets all the requirements below, the application is reviewed as part of the ordinary meeting agenda of the Coalition, for the member organizations to vote for/against the applicant’s membership.
Membership Conditions: Civil society bodies may join the Coalition if they fulfill the requirements below:
a) A documented track record in defending human rights, especially the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
b) The lack of any obvious political affiliations.
c) The lack of any suspicions of corruption; corruption is suspected when there is an ongoing investigation into charges of corruption, past investigations that proved the charge of corruption, ongoing trials on corruption charges, conviction by a competent court of corruption, the presence of suspicions of corruption among the general population which were not investigated and which were not proven false by the concerned entity, or when there are red flags about a visible offence/suspected corruption.
d) Commit to the implementation of a human resource policy containing provisions that are consistent with international human rights standards, such as equality and non-discrimination among employees and the protection of employees against all forms of harassment.
e) Adherence to the Membership Charter annexed to the present bylaws.
f) The organization applying for membership shall be recommended by 2 member organizations.
Article 10: Membership
The fourteen founding organizations of the Coalition shall become members thereof immediately once the present bylaws enter into force.
When new civil society bodies apply for membership, they shall be considered full members upon the approval of the Coalition’s members, and after due perusal and approval of the application during an ordinary meeting.
A member organization may exit the Coalition by notifying the chairing organization of its intention to do so. The chairing organization shall inform the other members of the matter at the soonest and include it on the agenda of the upcoming ordinary or, if necessary, extraordinary meeting.
Article 11: Confidentiality and Privacy
Article 12: Human Resource Policy
Any organization wishing to join the Coalition must have a human resource policy that is consistent with the principles annexed hereto. The said policy should particularly highlight the organization’s respect of human rights, adoption of a non-discrimination policy among its employees, and abstention from recruitment on the basis of race, religion, skin color, sexual orientation, or gender. The human resource policy must also include provisions on banning and punishing harassment, sexual harassment, be it physical or psychological, in addition to procedures to ensure the protection of victims in the workplace.
Article 13: Communication Strategy
The Coalition will seek to anchor its visibility and presence through traditional and digital media outlets to achieve its objective, by complying with the following principles and with the communication strategy annexed to the present bylaws:
• Language: The Coalition will use legal terminology and language across its publications, be it statements or commentaries. To that end, a glossary of key terms that the Coalition may use will be developed with the corresponding definition of each term (e.g. conviction, claim, lawsuit…)
• Topics that can be posted in the Coalition’s name: The Coalition may publish all sorts of data, information, and publications related to the freedom of opinion and expression, including research, studies, reports, reviews, graphs, etc.
• Website: A website dedicated to the Coalition shall be developed, displaying its name and logo, to publish any content produced by the Coalition or any of its members and relating to the right to freedom of opinion and expression, without prejudice to each member’s intellectual property rights.
• Presence on Social Media: Accounts/pages dedicated to the Coalition shall be created on the appropriate social media platforms, to publish any content produced by the Coalition or any of its members relating to the right to freedom of opinion and expression.