Libertad de Expresión

4 - Chapter III - Final Thoughts and Recommendations


      The violations of freedom of expression in the hemisphere vary from virtually absolute censorship in Cuba to simple administrative or bureaucratic obstacles to finding information.


      The Office of the Rapporteur is most disturbed by the murders of journalists, mainly because of the terrible loss of human life and the demoralizing effect that such acts have on all society.


      The murders of journalists notwithstanding, the main obstacle to full enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression is the legislation used by authorities to silence their critics.  In some cases, these laws have to be amended; elsewhere, principles have to be introduced that guarantee the right to freedom of expression.  The law, observance of the law, and freedom of expression are pillars of a democratic society.  Weakness in any one of them, as is true in some States in this hemisphere, poses a constant threat to the stability of democratic government in the hemisphere.


      The Special Rapporteur recommends to the member States that they adapt their domestic laws to conform to the parameters established in the American Convention on Human Rights and to ensure full compliance with the terms of Article IV of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.


      The Special Rapporteur again recommends that the member States repeal their contempt [desacato] laws, as they restrict the public debate that is essential to the functioning of a democratic society and are contrary to the American Convention on Human Rights.


      The Rapporteur urges the States  to incorporate into their laws the dual system of protection with respect to public and private persons, one practical consequence of which is the acceptance of the doctrine of “actual malice” and the resulting amendment of libel and slander laws.  He also reminds States that publishing information provided by third parties cannot be restricted by the threat of holding the publisher responsible for repeating claims made by another.


      The Special Rapporteur is recommending to the member States that access to information and habeas data be guaranteed for all citizens, both in fact and in law, as both are essential to freedom of expression and the democratic system of government.


      The Special Rapporteur also recommends the elimination of any qualifications that could imply prior censorship of the right of freedom of expression, such as demanding that information be true.


      The Special Rapporteur is recommending that the States introduce and put into practices effective policies and measures that allow women equal access to education and make it easier for women to report acts of violence and have the responsible parties prosecuted.  The States should also conduct promotional and educational campaigns about women’s rights and the mechanisms available to ensure their protection.[1]  The Rapporteur is urging the states to put into practice mechanisms that will give women equal representation in political life.


      The Special Rapporteur believes that the Internet is an instrument with the capacity to fortify the democratic system, assist the economic development of the region’s countries, and strengthen full enjoyment of freedom of expression.  The Special Rapporteur thus urges the member States to refrain from implementing any sort of regulation that would violate the terms of the American Convention.


      Finally, the Rapporteur would like to thank the various States that have collaborated with the Office of the Rapporteur this year, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and its Executive Secretariat for their abiding support.


      Similarly, the Special Rapporteur wishes to thank the independent journalists who day after day perform one of the functions most crucial to a democratic society, which is to report information to the public so that they might exercise their rights and fulfill their obligations as informed citizens.




[1] “[T]he legacy of the old laws and openly approved social practices continues to allow widespread intrafamily violence to exist.”  “Although the laws do not explicitly advocate violence, the failure to react, the indifference, the inefficient and conflicting policies and procedures of social institutions all continue to mirror that structure of domination and subordination that engenders and legitimizes intrafamily violence against women.”  Sagot Montserrat, 1995.  “Gender Socialization, Violence and Femicide.”  Revista reflexiones, in “La ruta crítica que siguen las mujeres afectadas por la violencia intrafamiliary” Pan American Health Organization, Research Protocol p. 6, Washington, D.C.