Freedom of Expression

Press Release R63/17

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Launches Report on National Jurisprudence on Freedom of Expression

May 16, 2017

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (OSR) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) with the support of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are pleased to present latest report titled, National Case Law on Freedom of Expression, an overview of a number of key judicial decisions adopted in the last four years by national supreme courts in Latin America and the Caribbean.

It is encouraged, that this report, produced by the Office of the Special Rapporteur, is used as a tool to advocate for the protection and the promotion of the freedom of expression as well as an instrument of understanding how the Inter-American legal framework works and can be applied at a national level.

National Case Law on Freedom of Expression is part of the efforts of the OSR’s and UNESCO’s efforts to strengthen the capacity of national courts and to consolidate the role of judiciary’s as key players in protecting the rights of freedom of expression and access to public information in LAC.

As part of this overall initiative to reinforce the regions judicial branches, the online course titled, International Legal Framework for Freedom of Expression, Access to Public Information and Protection of Journalists, co-organised and designed by UNESCO, the OSR and the Knight Centre for Journalism in the Americas, at the University of Texas in Austin, was launched on the 8th May. This 3rd edition of the course counts on the participation of 2,200 judges, as well as other registered judicial operators. To date this initiative has trained more than 3,000 people since it began in 2014.

In the report, judicial operators will be able to find a set of judicial case laws highlighted and documented by the Office of the Special Rapporteur in its annual reports for the period 2013 - 2016. The document incorporates jurisprudence from ten countries (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, United States, Mexico, Panama, Dominican Republic and Uruguay). The work of the high courts of Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Uruguay, have contributed profusely in the development of Inter-American jurisprudence, as well as those of various courts in Brazil, which have played a very important role in promoting the Right to freedom of expression.

This report identifies improvements made in the judiciaries, especially in the area of protection such as protected speeches, particularly political discourse and discourse on public officials. In addition, it reports on emerging themes in the continent in recent years, such as the increase of legal hearings related to freedom of expression on the Internet, including privacy and monitoring, on which there is still lots ongoing cases.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the IACHR repeatedly recognize that all national courts, regardless of the levels and hierarchies - play a transcendental role human rights standards. As interpreted by the Court, local justice systems not only operate to guarantee the rights of individuals, but also through their decisions they can expand and strengthen the content of constitutional norms and national laws related to Human Rights by understanding international instruments such as the American Convention on Human Rights.

Other concrete actions carried out by the OSR and UNESCO include the implementation the creation of a Spanish online database of case law on Freedom of Expression, active participation in the Ibero-American Summit of Judges, the organization of meetings of National Judicial Schools, the preparation of a judicial toolkit for training of trainers, a pedagogical guide, as well as national and sub-regional capacity building, among others.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the IACHR with the purpose of stimulating the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.