Freedom of Expression

Press Release R78/18

New registration record in the course "International Legal Framework of Freedom of Expression, Access to Public Information and Protection of Journalists"

April 4, 2018

In 2018, more than 2,400 justice operators in the region, considered key actors in the guarantee and promotion of freedom of expression in democratic societies, were part of this UNESCO initiative.

Washington D.C. - UNESCO, together with the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, offers the online course International Legal Framework of Freedom of Expression, Access to Public Information and Protection of Journalists, starting on April 2 until May 13, 2018.

This initiative, which is free and online, encourages an ongoing training, dialogue, and connection among magistrates, judges, prosecutors and members of the Attorney General Offices, Public Defenders, and the Judiciary, from 21 Ibero-American countries. Participants share similar challenges in issues such as the role of the Judiciary in protecting and guaranteeing the rights to freedom of expression, access to public information, and the safety of journalists, even coming from different countries.

In May, at the end of this edition, more than 8,000 judges, prosecutors, advocates, justice operators, attorney generals, public defenders, national human rights institutions, and access to public information entities, will have shared for six weeks filled with debates with other Ibero-American colleagues.

In this line of thought, Guilherme Canela, Communications and Information Counselor of the UNESCO Office in Montevideo, highlights the importance of the fourth edition of this MOOC for justice operators throughout Ibero-America. "This is the main highlight of this initiative: In a context of challenges for the protection of the rights to freedom of expression, access to public information, and the safety of journalists, we have the support of international organizations and an informal network of 8,000 justice operators committed to the compliance of international standards in the national context, for UNESCO it’s a pleasure to participate in this initiative". This network of justice operators, created through the course, is a structure without geographical limits whose purpose is to promote freedom of expression, access to information, and the protection of journalists, so that the trinomial of democracy, development, and human rights can be fulfilled.

In line with this, Edison Lanza, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said, "We are facing an extraordinary joint effort of the Office of the Special Rapporteur and UNESCO to incorporate international standards on the content and scope of freedom of expression to the permanent training of judges. The number of judges who have participated in this course over three years says something, and their evaluations speak for themselves on the success of this approach. It is also the most effective way to ensure a fluid dialogue between the national justice systems and States international obligations in cases involving the protection of freedom of expression."

Declared of interest by the Ibero-American Judicial Summit, the course is in tune with contemporary models of online knowledge sharing platforms and follows the methodology of the training program of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas of the University of Texas, in Austin. The content also explores issues such as the guiding principles of the exercise of freedom of expression on the Internet, the importance of plurality of the media, access to information on human rights violations, and the right to the truth. It also deals with the role of freedom of expression in the face of rights such as honor, reputation, image, and privacy.

The 2018 edition course participant, Carlos Eduardo Oliveira Días, judge in Brazil and former counselor of the National Council of Justice, focuses his attention on the content of the course. "In times like these when the flow of information is intense and extensive, it is necessary pay special attention to some structuring elements of communication. The first of these is the guarantee of access to information, which must be guaranteed to every citizen by the State. On the other hand, and precisely for that reason, the corresponding freedom of expression must be guaranteed to the press, eliminating any type of prior censorship or measures of direct and indirect coercion to the exercise of independent journalism. My expectation regarding the course relates my understanding that it is fundamental that legal operators - such as judges, members of the Attorney General’s Office, public defenders, and lawyers - have full knowledge of the normative paradigms and logical principles that govern freedom of the press. I hope to be able to acquire that experience and the necessary knowledge to guarantee that important fundamental right."

Within this approach, which includes the importance of guaranteeing fundamental rights such as freedom of the press, the fact stands out that in the Latin American and Caribbean region 125 journalists have been killed from 2012 to 2016, according to the "World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development: 2017/2018 Global Report". This UNESCO publication, together with prominent international partners, gives us a contemporary view on freedom of the press and the safety of journalists. The report emphasizes that impunity in the murders of journalists prevails in the region: only 15% of cases are classified as solved.

Therefore, it is understood that a culture of impunity incites more cases of violence against journalists, while also contributing to silencing them, encouraging self-censorship within the media, and discouraging the investigation of sensitive issues such as criminal networks, access to information, and corruption. To break this perverse vicious circle, we have the indispensable role of the judiciary authorities of the region.

Likewise, María Magdalena Salazar Soro, head Judge of the 2nd Magistrate's court of Huaraz of Peru, and participant of the 2018 edition of the course discloses that: "In the professional field where I work, within the Public Institution of the Judiciary of Peru, there is some resistance to intercommunication with investigative journalists, because they check and disseminate the facts of bad practices within the institution. I hope that we will soon become aware of what freedom of expression of journalists really means, so that excesses against them because of their opinions, which seek to eradicate irregularities within the area of Justice, do not continue to occur."

In the previous editions, the course had the participation of 5 thousand justice operators in Ibero-America. It has the support of the Ibero-American Network of Judicial Schools, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Latin American Internet Association, the OAS School of Governance, the University of the Andes, the Ibero-American Judicial Summit, and of the Government of Sweden.

With this, we welcome the 2422 justice operators of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Spain, the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Venezuela. All these participants join this initiative with the intention of sharing knowledge and ideas regarding freedom of expression, access to public information, and the protection of journalists throughout the Ibero-American region.