Freedom of Expression

Principal Functions

Strategic Litigation on Freedom of Expression within the Inter-American System

One of the most important functions of the Office of the Special Rapporteur is to advise the IACHR in the evaluation of individual petitions and prepare the corresponding reports. The due consideration of individual petitions not only provides justice in the individual case, but also helps call attention to generalized situations that affect freedom of thought and expression, and generates important case law that can be applied in the inter-American human rights system itself as well as by national authorities.

Precautionary Measures

The Office of the Special Rapporteur works with the IACHR Protection Group to provide recommendations on the adoption of precautionary measures in the area of freedom of expression. The precautionary measures are adopted out of a need to avert grave, imminent, and irremediable harm to persons subject to the jurisdiction of a Member State or to the object of a petition pending before the Inter-American Commission.

Public Hearings

The Office of the Special Rapporteur participates actively in the hearings on freedom of expression, preparing the necessary reports and handling the corresponding interventions and follow-up.

Official Visits

On-site visits to countries of the region are one of the main tools the Office of the Special Rapporteur uses to gather information about the situation regarding freedom of expression in a particular country, to advance international standards on the exercise of this right, and to promote the use of the inter-American human rights system. The Office’s agendas on such visits include meetings with government authorities, members of the legislature, and representatives of the justice system, as well as nongovernmental organizations, social communicators, academics, and users of the Inter-American system, among others.

Seminars and Workshops with Strategic Actors in the Region

Seminars are another critical tool the Office of the Special Rapporteur uses to carry out its work of promoting the right to freedom of expression. The Office of the Special Rapporteur has organized seminars throughout the hemisphere, in many cases with the cooperation of universities, government institutions, and nongovernmental organizations. Hundreds of journalists, lawyers, university students and professors, and public officials, among others, have attended the training sessions. These sessions are offered by staff members of the Office of the Special Rapporteur not only in national capitals but also in less accessible regions.

Annual Report and Development of Expertise

One of the main tasks of the Office of the Special Rapporteur is the preparation of the Annual Report on the state of freedom of expression in the hemisphere. Every year, this report analyzes the situation regarding this right in the OAS Member States, which includes noting the principal threats to ensuring the exercise of the right to freedom of expression and the advances that have been made in this area. Besides its annual reports, the Office of the Special Rapporteur periodically produces specific reports on particular countries. In addition, the Office of the Special Rapporteur prepares thematic reports that have opened up important channels for discussion in the hemisphere and led to the implementation of important legislative and administrative reforms.

Special Statements and Declarations

Through the daily monitoring of the state of freedom of expression in the region—conducted by means of an extensive network of contacts and sources—the Office of the Special Rapporteur issues statements such as press releases, reports, and opinions on specific cases or situations that are relevant to its mandate.  In addition, since its creation the Office of the Special Rapporteur has participated in the drafting of joint declarations with the other regional rapporteurs for freedom of expression. These joint statements are generally signed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information, and the Organization of American States Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. When the issues are regional in nature, the declarations are signed by the Rapporteurs for the UN and the OAS.