October 6, 1998

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has named Argentine attorney Santiago A. Canton as special rapporteur for freedom of expression. The creation of the new position received the backing of the hemisphere’s presidents and prime ministers at the April 1998 Summit of the Americas in Santiago, Chile.

The Commission made the appointment during its 100th regular session, taking place in Washington, D.C. Canton was the unanimous choice among several qualified candidates, according to the Commission.

"Santiago Canton has demonstrated a great ability both in the legal arena and in the field of public information, as well as a genuine concern for human rights, making him the ideal choice for such an important position," said Venezuelan jurist Carlos Ayala Corao, the Commission’s president.

The rapporteur will be charged with monitoring, promoting and protecting freedom of expression in the Americas. Among other things, he will prepare annual status for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and for the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS). He will have complete independence to carry out his duties and will monitor and analyze accusations, threats or abuses related to freedom of expression.

The Commission decided to create the position of special rapporteur in response to the growing number of serious violations of press freedom in many OAS member countries.

"Without a doubt, one of the challenges we must resolve in the strengthening of democracy in the region is how to create a climate for freedom of expression," Canton said after his appointment was announced. "With hundreds of journalists killed, many more persecuted and the absence of an adequate response to this problem, it is clear that much remains to be done in this area."

Santiago Canton earned his law degree from the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1985. He has a master’s degree in international law from American University and has also studied at the Academy of International Law, based in The Hague, Holland. He served for five years as director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Washington, D.C.-based National Democratic Institute. In that position, he designed and led democratic development programs throughout the hemisphere, and participated in numerous radio and television programs in the Americas. In January 1998, he was named by OAS Secretary General CÚsar Gaviria to head the Department of Public Information. The date on which he will assume the new post will be announced soon.