A. Background to the Creation of the Office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression
The Office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression is a permanent office that operates independently and has its own budget. It was created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in accordance with its powers and competenc, and operates within the legal framework of the Commission.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is an organ of the Organization of American States (OAS) whose principal function is to promote the observance and protection of human rights and to serve as a consultative body to the OAS. The powers of the Commission are derived mainly from the American Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of the Organization of American States. The IACHR investigates and rules on complaints alleging human rights violations, makes on-site vists, prepares draft treaties and declarations in the field of human rights and reports on the human rights situation in countries of the region.
The Commission has touched upon the specific question of freedom of expression in its decisions on individual petitions concerning censorship and crimes against journalists that have gone unpunished. In special reports, such as that on contempt laws, the Commission has examined the question of threats to and restrictions on the media. The IACHR has also included freedom of expression among the topics examined during on-site visits and covered in general reports. Lastly, the Commission has taken precautionary measures in urgent situations in order to avoid irreparable damage to persons. 
At its 97th Regular Session in October 1997, the Commission, pursuant to the faculties conferred upon it by the Convention and its own Regulations, unanimously decided to create the permanent Office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression (hereinafter “the Office”), which enjoys both structural and functional independence. In doing so, the Commission acted in accordance with the faculties conferred upon it by the Convention and its own Regulations, giving due consideration to recommendations made by many sectors of society in the Member States that feel profound concern for ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression. The decision also grew out of observations made during on-site visits, during which the Commission was witness to the serious problems and threats to the full and effective enjoyment of a freedom that is of vital importance to the development and consolidation of the rule of law. At its 98th Special Session in March 1998, the Commission defined the characteristics and functions of the Office in general and decided to create a voluntary economic assistance fund for it. That same year the Commission announced that it would accept applications for the position of Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression in the Americas. After evaluating and interviewing the candidates, the Commission decided to appoint attorney Santiago Alejandro Canton of Argentina to the post. Mr. Canton assumed his position on 2 November 1998.
By creating the Office, the Commission aims to raise public awareness of the importance of freedom of expression throughout the hemisphere. This is being done in the conviction that this basic right plays a fundamental role in the development and consolidation of democracy and in the protection of all other human rights. The other purposes of the Office are: to make specific recommendations to Member States regarding freedom of expression so that they can better take measures to support it, to draft specific reports and studies, and to quickly respond to any petition or communication reporting violations of freedom of expression in an OAS Member State.
The initiative to create the permanent Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression was fully backed by OAS Member States at the Second Summit of the Americas, where the Heads of State and Government acknowledged the fundamental role freedom of expression plays in the area of human rights and in democracy, and expressed satisfaction with the creation of the new permanent Office. In the April 1998 Declaration of Santiago, the Heads of State and Government said:
We agree that a free press plays a fundamental role in (the area of human rights) and we reaffirm the importance of guaranteeing freedom of expression, information and opinion. We commend the recent appointment of a Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, within the framework of the Organization of American States. 
At the same Summit, the Heads of State and Government made a commitment to support the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. In this regard, the Plan of Action adopted by the Summit called on governments to:
Strengthen the exercise of and respect for all human rights and the consolidation of democracy, including the fundamental right to freedom of expression and thought, through support for the activities of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights in this field, in particular the recently created Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.
B. Plan of Work for the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
The Special Rapporteur has drawn up a plan of work outlining the main activities and priority areas for the Office’s first three years.
The Special Rapporteur will concentrate on: 1) Drafting general and subject-specific reports; 2) creating a hemispheric network for the defense of freedom of expression; 3) making visits to OAS Member States to monitor the situation of freedom of expression; 4) promoting the right to freedom of expression in OAS Member States.
1. General and Subject-Specific Reports
One of the main tasks of the Special Rapporteur will be to periodically prepare a general report on the state of freedom of expression in the hemisphere. The report will assess the situation facing freedom of expression, including the main threats to its full enjoyment and progress that have been identified. The report will mention general and specific violations of freedom of expression in the Member States.
To draft the report, the Office will use information collected by the Special Rapporteur during visits to Member States, provided by governments and governmental bodies, or supplied by any other interested organization or individual.
The Rapporteur will also draft reports on specific questions that he believes merit closer scrutiny.
2. Hemispheric Network for the Defense of Freedom of Expression
The Special Rapporteur has the intention to establish a hemispheric network to help defend freedom of expression. This network would be composed of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the media and journalists. The purpose is to provide for the rapid transmission of information regarding possible violations of freedom expression in any OAS Member State.
The Special Rapporteur believes that such a network will be crucial for the effective protection of freedom of expression throughout the Americas, since one of the main problems currently existing is the lack of timely information on violations.
It should be noted that the violations that do come to light on either the national or international level are usually those that affect well-known individuals or occur in major cities where access to national media is readily available. However, very often victims do not have the means to turn a national or international spotlight on their case, or the violation occurs in an outlying area of the country where access to the media is not readily available.
Publicity is clearly one of the main instruments for the defense of freedom of expression. Obscurity and silence are the closest allies of impunity and are thus accomplices in the silencing of those whose job it is to provide news. A network will allow information to be exchanged quickly and easily among all of the network’s participants. It will undoubtedly help limit the number of violations and contribute to resolving cases in which the right to freedom of expression has been violated.
The purpose of a network is to make both the domestic and international communities aware of problems facing freedom of expression in the hemisphere and of the importance of those problems. The network will quickly inform the Special Rapporteur, who in turn will inform the States, the international community and the media. The Special Rapporteur will also check the source and veracity of all information received from civil society organizations, and make sure that appropriate measures have been taken to verify the truth of the information.
3. Country Visits
The Special Rapporteur will make visits to OAS Member States to ensure that the Office is well informed and up to date on the status of freedom of expression in the various countries. These visits will facilitate dialogue and the creation of the appropriate mechanisms and environment to freely exercise this right. During these visits the Special Rapporteur will meet with government representatives, NGOs and the media, as well as with individuals who take an interest in freedom of expression.
The promotion of freedom of expression, both in itself and as a part of all human rights, constitutes one of the most effective mechanisms to validate and defend that right in the continent. In the Rappoorteur’s opinion, promotion should include activities such as education, training and dissemination.
The Special Rapporteur proposes that a hemispheric conference be organized to promote freedom of expression in the Americas. The main purpose of such a conference would be to set a common agenda for the defense of freedom of expression among Member States, the media, organizations representing civil society and journalists in general.
In recent years, government representatives, independent journalists and NGOs have made their views on freedom of expression known. Different criteria used in examining the question have thus come to light. A hemispheric meeting would provide an opportunity to search for common ground and build a consensus on an agenda that would create true protection of freedom of expression throughout the region. The Rapporteur will seek financing in order to organize this conference.
The Rapporteur will also raise the funds to carry out activities such as dissemination, training and education in the States of the Hemisphere. These activities will have the purpose of increasing awareness and knowledge amongst the diverse sectors of society--particularly those working daily as social communicators and the national institutions devoted to the area of freedom of expression--on the importance of the Inter-American system of human rights protection, the international norms on freedom of expression, the comparative case-law on the subject, and the importance of freedom of expression in the context and development of a democratic society. These dissemination and education activities will consist on panels, seminars and the preparation of handbooks and other kinds of publications.
C. Activities of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
1. Promotion and Dissemination of Information
In his first few months on the job, the Special Rapporteur has attended numerous events to make the Office known and explain what it does.
In November 1998, he participated in the 54th General Assembly of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) in Punta del Este, Uruguay, where he spoke on the goals of the Office and the challenges it faces. He stressed the office’s importance for the protection of human rights in general and of freedom of expression in particular. The Rapporteur also expressed the desire to coordinate with IAPA so that experience and information could be readily shared. During the meeting, the Special Rapporteur also had the opportunity to speak personally to several IAPA representatives about freedom of expression in various countries of the region.
At the end of its meeting, the IAPA issued a resolution expressing its support for the activities being carried out by the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.
During the same meeting, the Special Rapporteur also met with representatives of foundations that work in the field of freedom of expression, such as the Freedom Forum and the McCormick Foundation, and discussed methods of working together in the future. The Freedom Forum has already collaborated with the Office on a seminar convened to promote coordination of activities with civil society and has expressed an interest in broadening cooperation in the future.
In November 1998, upon the invitation of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur attended the 4th Inter-American Seminar on Mass Media and Democratic Society in Cartagena (Colombia) to talk about the Office’s functions and objectives regarding the defense of freedom of expression in the hemisphere.
In December 1998, the Special Rapporteur was invited to participate in a working group on “Investigative Journalism and Corruption” sponsored by Organization Article XIX. The meeting’s objective was to come up with a proposal for legislation that would facilitate journalistic investigation of corruption. The working group seeks support from all rapporteurs for freedom of expression (OAS, UN and OSCE) and invites their collaboration in proposing legislation to facilitate the work of journalists.
In February 1999, the Special Rapporteur was invited to speak about the Office before the Coordinating Committee of Organizations for Freedom of the Press. At the end of the meeting, this group expressed its full support for the Office and said that it would seek ways to actively work with the Special Rapporteur.
The Rapporteur participated in the Commission’s 102 Sessions, during which, among other things, reported on the activities carried out and coordinated future activities with the members of the Commission.
The Special Rapporteur has also been active in disseminating information on the new Office through the media. He has participated in numerous domestic and hemispheric radio and television programs.
The Special Rapporteur has also met with the Permanent Representatives of the OAS member States to inform them of the activities being planned and to establish an open line of communication between the Office and them. In the coming months, the Special Rapporteur will continue to meet with the Permanent Representatives.
2. Country Visits
Just one week after assuming his duties, the Special Rapporteur accompanied the IACHR on its on-site visit to Peru. He participated in numerous meetings with representatives of the Peruvian government, civil society, non-governmental organizations and the media.
At the end of the visit, the Special Rapporteur added his comments on freedom of expression in Peru to the press release issued by the IACHR.
3. Hemispheric Network for the Defense of Freedom of Expression
As has already been stated in this report, one of the Office’s priorities is to establish a hemispheric network for the defense of freedom of expression. It would be a way to channel information on violations of freedom of expression wherever they occur in the region and would essentially be composed of organizations representing civil society and journalists.
To begin this work, the Special Rapporteur, Freedom Forum and the Institute of Press and Society (IPYS) of Peru jointly sponsored a meeting of civil society representatives from various Latin American countries. This represented a major step toward coordinating efforts between civil society organizations and the Office of the Special Rapporteur.
One of the examples of how the hemispheric net should operate is the case of the Peruvian radio broadcaster Johny Pezo, in which the Rapporteur was involved. Mr. Pezo, was forced by the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (MRTA) to broadcast one of their statements. Mister Pezo, who was told he would be killed should he refuse to read the statement, decided to do it. However, he informed the audience that he was reading the statement against his will. Having read the statement he left the radio station and was questioned by the police. The next day he reported to the Police and was detained charged with inciting crime.
Immediately after learning about his detention, the IPYS group in Peru verified the veracity of the news. The group hired a lawyer to defend Johny Pezo, and reported the incident to the international community via internet, including the Rapporteur. The Rapporteur immediately contacted the Peruvian Mission before the OAS in order that his concern for this case was transmitted to the authorities of that country. Finally, Mr. Pezo was released and cleared of accusation.
This example ilustrates how a well-organized hemispheric information network can help to resolve problems of violations of freedom of expression wherever they may occur in the Americas.
 Articles 40 and 41 of the American Convention on Human Rights and Article 18 of the Statute of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.
 See, “Report on the Situation of the Human Rights in Mexico” OEA/Ser.L/V/II.100 Doc. 7 rev. 1, September 24, 1998;”Third Report on the human Rights Situation in Colombia” OEA/Ser.L/V/II.102 Doc.9 rev. 26 February 1999.
 Article 29 of the Regulations of the Commission states, “In urgent cases, when it becomes necessary to avoid irreparable damage to persons, the Commission may request that provisional measures be taken to avoid irreparable damage in cases where the denounced facts are true.
 In general terms the Commission described the duties and mandate of the Office as including 1) The preparation of a report on the general situation of freedom of expression in the hemisphere. Said report will be presented to the Commission for consideration and inclusion in the IACHR Annual Report. 2) The preparation of specific reports by subject matter. 3) Collection of all information needed for the elaboration of said reports. 4) The organization of activities for the promotion of human rights as charged by the Commission, including but not limited to presenting papers at conferences and seminars, instructing civil servants, professionals and students on the work being done by the Commission in its area of expertise and preparing promotional material. 5) The expeditious presentation of information to the Commission on urgent situations that call for the adoption of precautionary measures or of provisional measures that the Commission can request from the Inter-American Court to avoid irreparable harm to human rights from occurring. 6) The provision of information regarding individual cases related to freedom of expression that comes before the Commission.
 Declaration of Santiago, Second Summit of the Americas, April 18-19, 1998, Santiago, Chile.
 Plan of Action, Second Summit of the Americas, April 18-19, 1998, Santiago, Chile.
 The IAPA is an organization bringing together representatives of the main print media of the hemisphere.
 The resolution states:
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (OAS) has created the position of special Rapporteur for freedom of expression and appointed lawyer Santiago Canton to that office
the IAPA has always been interested in the creation of this position of Rapporteur for the maintenance and guarantee of freedom of expression and press freedom in the hemisphere and to remain vigilant lest there be abuse of journalists and newspapers
THE IAPA GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLVES
to congratulate itself on the creation of the position of special rapporteur for freedom of expression within the OAS’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
to express to the OAS its support for the special rapporteur in his work to maintain freedom of expression and press freedom in the hemisphere
to place on record its wish to have an ongoing cooperative relationship with the position of the rapporteur and to call upon the holder of that office to come up with concrete ways in which that collaboration may be brought about.”
 This seminar is held three times per year, in Colombia, Guatemala and Boliviarespectively. Its purpose is to train members of the media in matters of freedom of expression and democracy.
 Article XiX is a London based NGO dedicated to studying freedom of expression in the world.
 This is one of the most important international groups working to defend freedom of expression. It is composed of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the Commonwealth Press Union (CPU), the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), the International Association of Broadcasting (IAB), the International Press Federation (IPF), the International Press Institute (IPI), the North American Broadcasters Association (NABA), the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC).
 Annex E (1).