Freedom of Expression

Press Release R95/16

 

THE OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION OF THE IACHR PRESENTS PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS FOLLOWING TRIP TO CHILE

 

July 18 2016

 

Washington D.C. Ė The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Edison Lanza, conducted an official visit to Chile to evaluate the situation of the right to freedom of expression in that country, from May 31 to June 4, 2016. The Special Rapporteurís visit took place just prior to the opening of the IACHRís 158th Extraordinary Session, held from June 7-9, 2016.

 

During his mission, the Special Rapporteur visited the cities of Santiago and Temuco, where he met with senior officials of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, as well as with the National Human Rights Institute, the Council for Transparency, and the National Television Council. The Special Rapporteur also held meetings with journalists, representatives of media outlets and civil society organizations, academics, students, and leaders of indigenous peoples. He met with the Regional Office for South America of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the country office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Chile. In addition, during the IACHRís 158th Extraordinary Session, the Special Rapporteur participated with the IACHR delegation in meetings with senior government officials, including President Michelle Bachelet.

 

The Office of the Special Rapporteur is grateful for the cooperation of the State and the administration of President Bachelet in the organization of this visit, particularly the support provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Mission of Chile to the OAS, and the National Human Rights Institute for arranging and holding an extensive number of meetings during the mission. Thanks to the efforts of the Chilean State, the Office of the Special Rapporteur was able to receive valuable information from public servants at the highest level regarding the situation of the right to freedom of expression and the measures taken to respect and guarantee this right, as well as the existing problems and challenges faced in this area.

 

The Office of the Special Rapporteur is also grateful to the journalists, representatives of the media and civil society, academics, and Mapuche activists and leaders, who made extraordinary efforts and mobilized to share important information and testimony with this office. The Office of the Special Rapporteur appreciates the information provided by the civil society organizations that work on issues involving freedom of expression and access to information at the meetings that the IACHR held during its 158th Extraordinary Session. At those meetings, the Office of the Special Rapporteur was able to appreciate the active leadership role of Chilean civil society in the defense and promotion of the right to freedom of expression.

 

More than 13 years after the first official visit of the Office of the Special Rapporteur to Chile, progress toward ensuring the right to freedom of expression is notable. Chile is part of a group of countries in the region that enjoy a robust and uninhibited debate. After its return to democracy, the country has gradually taken measures to build a legal framework and institutional culture respectful of the international principles and standards on the right to freedom of expression and access to public information.

 

Nevertheless, it follows from the information received before and during the visit that Chile still has some laws and practices that continue to negatively affect the effective enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and the right to access to information in the country. They can be understood as the legacy of past authoritarian doctrines and the transition process, which no longer hold meaning in the current environment of democratic development. Chile also faces new challenges that must be addressed in accordance with international human rights law in order to protect the practice of journalism and the existence of truly robust, diverse, and inclusive deliberation in society, which are essential requirements for any democracy.

 

Today, the Office of the Special Rapporteur presents its preliminary observations on the visit, which will be developed in greater detail in a country report that will be published at the end of this year.

 

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was created by the IACHR to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system.

 

R95/16