Freedom of Expression

Press Release 136/06


Washington, D.C., April 20, 2006. The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its satisfaction with legislative advances under way in the federal government of Mexico aimed at ensuring that journalists can preserve the confidentiality of their sources and at removing the crimes of defamation, slander, and libel, from the Federal Criminal Code.  

According to the information received, on April 18, 2006, the Mexican Senate approved a series of amendments to the Federal Criminal Code and to the Federal Code of Criminal Procedure which have the effect of recognizing the right of journalists to keep confidential “the names or the recordings, telephone records, notes, documentary and digital files, and anything that directly or indirectly may lead to the identification of those persons who, because of their journalistic work, may provide confidential information, on which they base any publication or communication.”  Such a reform, approved in the Senate, is awaiting presidential enactment in order to enter into force.

These provisions are compatible with inter-American standards on freedom of expression. In this respect, Principle 8 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the IACHR states: “Every social communicator has the right to keep his/her source of information, notes, personal and professional archives confidential.”

Furthermore, the Office learned that on April 18, 2006, the Chamber of Deputies of the Federal Congress approved a series of amendments to the Federal Criminal Code and to the Federal Civil Code repealing the criminal law provisions governing defamation, slander, and libel, in the federal legislation, and adopting, instead, civil sanctions to protect the right to honor and reputation. It was reported that the project approved is to be forwarded to the Senate, where legislative debate will continue.

Those provisions are also compatibles with international developments in this area.  Principle 10 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression provides in part: “The protection of a person’s reputation should only be guaranteed through civil sanctions in those cases in which the person offended is a public official, a public person or a private person who has voluntarily become involved in matters of public interest.”

Ignacio Álvarez, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, stated that he values these legislative steps, noting that “they will represent a substantive gain for protection of the freedom of expression in Mexico, and an example for the hemisphere.”  He emphasized that “both the right to protect journalistic sources and elimination of criminal sanctions with respect to offenses to honor and reputation are very important gains for proper observance of the right to freedom of expression. The right to honor and reputation must be protected through civil sanctions and by means of the right to rectification.”  

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