Freedom of Expression


Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression presents a new fellowship program: 

Fundamental freedoms in the digital space


September 25, 2020

Washington D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR is pleased to announce the launch of the Fundamental Freedoms in the Digital Space fellowship. The program is an opportunity for young professionals in the region to gain experience and skills in the defense of freedom of expression, the right to information, and privacy in digital spaces; at the same time, it will strengthen the Office’s monitoring capacities regarding the new challenges identified on the Internet.

The fellowship has been endowed with an initial fund of US$250 thousand dollars provided by the Ford Foundation, as a result of a proposal presented by the Office in the framework of its efforts to expand the monitoring of fundamental rights online. This fund --which we hope to increase with other contributions and donations-- will allow four professionals, over the course of two years, to join the monitoring, promotion, and technical assistance work carried out by the Office of the Special Rapporteur related to the new challenges presented by the digital technologies in the exercise of the rights monitored by the Office.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur has highlighted that the Internet has become an indispensable medium for the exercise of human rights. At the same time, it has been documenting a growing number of challenges related to the circulation of information of public interest, different forms of online harassment regarding those who exercise these freedoms, as well as the use of surveillance technologies to invade or interfere with the individual privacy space, essential for the exercise of these rights.

The office has developed thematic reports on the role of the Internet in exercising freedom of expression and other fundamental rights, it has also followed up on these situations through various actions (visits to OAS countries; requests for information on particular situations; of precautionary measures; promotion of cases; and press releases). However, the pandemic unleashed by the Covid-19 virus showed the need to intensify the monitoring of these challenges.

In this sense, the Special Rapporteur Edison Lanza has presented to the IACHR two specific actions in this regard: a. create a fellowship on freedoms and the digital space to increase the expert knowledge on digital rights in the region and b. expressly expand the mandate of the Office of the Special Rapporteur to issues related to the right to privacy in the digital space.

This fellowship is a first step in the strengthening of regional capacities, of the Office itself, in order to be able to constantly contribute to the monitoring of the situation, systematize good practices, and develop interpretations in accordance with the inter-American legal framework on freedom of expression and the right to privacy in the digital age.

In the coming weeks, the Office of the Special Rapporteur will present the basis of the program through a public call. Along with the monthly stipend, the fellowship consists of air tickets from their place of origin to Washington, D.C., in order to join the team of the Office of the Special Rapporteur. This is subject to OAS policies for the protection of personnel and return to the office.