Freedom of Expression

Press Release R31/11





 Washington, D.C., April 15, 2011. Yesterday the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights presented its 2010 Annual Report to the Organization of American States’ (OAS) Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs. The report includes the 2010 Annual Report of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.

In its conclusions, the Office of the Special Rapporteur underscores that during 2010 there were advances in the investigation, prosecution, and punishment of persons responsible for some of the crimes committed against journalists in previous years. Nevertheless, in spite of these efforts, most of these crimes remain troublingly unpunished. During the year, at least 24 media professionals were murdered in the region, and two more were kidnapped and subsequently killed, for reasons possibly related to the practice of their profession. In most of the cases, there have been no investigations leading to the identification, prosecution and punishment of those responsible or towards adequate reparations for the victims and their families. 

In the Report, the Office of the Special Rapporteur confirms the existence of criminal provisions in some States in the hemisphere that have still not been brought into line with the inter-American standards on the protection of freedom of expression, and that allow for the imposition of disproportionate measures that can have a chilling effect incompatible with the robust debate that must characterize a democratic society. In the same respect, the Office of the Special Rapporteur points to the need to adapt civil law provisions to inter-American standards in order to prevent the disproportionate use of monetary sanctions.

Also of concern to the Office of the Special Rapporteur are the systematic statements made by some senior State authorities seeking to discredit the work of critical media or journalists because of their editorial slant, accusing them of unlawful acts or increasing the risk to their lives or safety. This is particularly serious when, in some of these cases, such statements have been followed by violent acts against journalists or the filing of disproportionate court proceedings or administrative cases threatening to withdraw the operating concessions, permits, or licenses of critical media. 

Chapter 2 of the 2010 Annual Report contains an assessment of the status of the right to freedom of expression in the various countries of the region. The Annual Report includes the report, conclusions, and recommendations from the official visit of the Office of the Special Rapporteur to Mexico in August of 2010 together the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression. The Office of the Special Rapporteur is grateful for the invitation from the State to conduct this visit, and for the diligence and openness with which it facilitated access to federal and state authorities and to non-governmental organizations, journalists, and relatives of murdered journalists. The Office of the Special Rapporteur is especially concerned about the risk to the life and integrity of journalist and the impact on the journalistic profession caused by the strong presence of organized crime in many of the regions where there were attacks against media professionals, as well as the absence of completed investigations in most of these cases. At the same time, the Office of the Special Rapporteur recognizes the recent efforts of the Special Prosecutor’s Office and hopes that these efforts soon begin to produce results. In view of the violent situation described, the Special Report on Mexico places particular emphasis on the attacks against media professionals and the results of the corresponding investigations. The report also highlights some of the recent efforts of the State, such as the establishment of a special mechanism for the protection of media workers at risk and the mechanism that has been developed in the area of transparency and access to information. The report also addresses the progress of the State and the challenges it faces, as well as corresponding recommendations, on access to information; radio broadcasting issues, particularly community broadcasting; and the legal regime for freedom of expression, among other relevant issues such as the regulation of government advertising.

Finally, the 2010 Annual Report includes three chapters analyzing (i) the right to access to information regarding human rights violations, (ii) best practices of national courts with regard to access to information in the Americas, and (iii) the principles that must be taken into account to ensure that government advertising not be used as a mechanism to exert pressure on critical or independent media or journalists.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur’s 2010 Annual Report is available at this link: