Freedom of Expression

Press Release R126/21

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression calls on those who hold or aspire to hold elected office in Peru to contribute with their speech to the protection of human rights.

May 17, 2021

Washington, D.C. - Regarding the general elections in Peru, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (SRFOE) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) calls on those who hold or aspire to hold elected office positions to protect public debate and the observance of human rights.

The Office observes with concern the increase of stigmatizing statements by persons of notoriety or who aspire to occupy positions of responsibility in the current electoral process. The Office of the Special rapporteur recognizes the importance of vigorous and uninhibited political debate on matters of public interest and supports that such protection is accentuated in electoral contexts, but also fears that some statements may encourage violence and discrimination or generate an environment of tolerance for human rights violations.

Recognition of political opponents implies avoiding their degradation through discourse, and it is therefore important to take all necessary measures to ensure that people who identify with a particular electoral option are not encouraged to exercise violence against those they consider to be their adversaries in the electoral contest.

Democratic and human rights convictions have the co-responsibility of recognizing that no person should be discriminated against and all should be treated with dignity. There must also be awareness and sensitivity to the fact that there are populations with a special degree of vulnerability whose rights must be guaranteed in accordance with international standards on human rights, and over whom no type of conduct of historical discrimination must be maintained. The discourse of public leadership is a transcendental component for the prevention of violence against this type of population groups with special vulnerability, among which we can mention, among others, women, indigenous peoples, the Afro-descendant population, the LGBTI community, people with disabilities and migrant people.

The Candem principles on freedom of expression and equality state that "States should impose obligations on public servants at all levels, including ministers, to avoid as far as possible making statements that promote discrimination or undermine equality and intercultural understanding {and} should undertake comprehensive efforts to combat negative individual and group stereotypes and discrimination in order to promote intercultural understanding and appreciation".

The Office of the Special Rapporteur reiterates that those who engage in debates of general interest participate in a public space that they are also called upon to take care of. Political leaders, whether during candidacy or in the exercise of public office, have special duties and responsibilities in the exercise of their right to freedom of expression, which imply a higher level of diligence when speaking publicly. As such, they are obliged to a greater duty of care in their expressions, so that it cannot be understood that they instruct, instigate, authorize or support the commission of acts that may endanger or violate the rights of individuals. While the exchange of arguments and public exposure of disagreements enrich the debate, stigmatizing speeches erode the democratic system and have the potential to generate violence or encourage discrimination against various groups of people.

In democratic systems, the State submits itself to social scrutiny and, at the same time, assumes the duty of guaranteeing freedom of expression of all persons who participate in public debate. In this regard, the Rapporteurship has repeatedly pointed out that those who hold positions of public leadership must ensure that their pronouncements do not harm the rights of those who contribute to the debate through the expression and dissemination of their thoughts, such as journalists and the media.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to encourage 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.