Freedom of Expression

Desacato and Criminal Defamation

“Freedom of Expression and Defense of Honor and Intimacy” by Javier Sierra, Project Director of the Work Committee on Freedom of the Press

Special Meeting of the Permanent Council on the OS regarding the Right to Freedom of Thought and Expression and the Importance of Communications Media. (Only in Spanish)
Date: April 24, 2009

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A Hemispheric Agenda for the Defense of Freedom of Expression (2009)A Hemispheric Agenda for the Defense of Freedom of Expression (2009)
This publication, in addition to summarizing the inter-American standards for freedom of expression, recognizes the regional advances achieved in the Americas with respect to the full guarantee of the right to freedom of expression, describes the main difficulties and challenges currently facing the right to freedom of expression in the region, and presents a series of concrete, viable and feasible recommendations that the Office of the Special Rapporteur considers necessary to face these challenges.

The Inter-American Legal Framework Regarding the Right to Freedom of ExpressionThe Inter-American Legal Framework Regarding the Right to Freedom of Expression
The objective of this publication is to present inter-American jurisprudence that defines the scope and content of this right in a systematic and updated way. Among the most important topics it highlights: the importance, function, and characteristics of the right to freedom of expression, as well as the types of speech protected; the prohibition of censorship and indirect restrictions; the protection of journalists and social communications media; the exercise of freedom of expression by public officials; and freedom of expression in the area of electoral processes.

Since its inception, the Office of the Special Rapporteur has devoted particular attention to laws on “desacato” (contempt) and criminal defamation in the Hemisphere, which use criminal law to persecute expressins that – in the majority of cases – undoubtedly are of public interest. The present report, completed in 2004, presents the inter-American standards on the subject at that moment, and analyzes the ways in which various countries in the region initiated processes to reform their laws in order to make their legal order compatible with inter-American standards.
This report follows up on the reports of 2000 and 1998 regarding this topic.
10. Privacy laws should not inhibit or restrict investigation and dissemination of information of public interest. 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. In addition, in these cases, it must be proven that in disseminating the news, the social communicator had the specific intent to inflict harm, was fully aware that false news was disseminated, or acted with gross negligence in efforts to determine the truth or falsity of such news.
11. Public officials are subject to greater scrutiny by society. Laws that penalize offensive expressions directed at public officials, generally known as "desacato laws," restrict freedom of expression and the right to information.
“The Office of the Special Rapporteur issues joint declarations with the other rapporteurships for freedom of expression, including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Representative on Freedom of the Media from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Rapporteur for the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights”.