Freedom of Expression

Press release 129/22

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression presents its 2021 Annual Report

June 7, 2022

Washington D.C. - The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (SRFOE) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presents its 2021 Annual Report, which addresses the most relevant aspects of the situation of the right to freedom of expression during 2021 in the hemisphere, through four thematic areas: (i) Journalism and democracy, (ii) Freedom of expression, rule of law and democratic institutions; (iii) Freedom of expression and the fight against discrimination and exclusion; and (iv) Freedom of expression and the Internet. This report seeks to establish a constructive dialogue with the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) through the dissemination of their best practices, problems identified, and the formulation of recommendations focused on the promotion of the right to freedom of expression.

The Annual Report is made up of three chapters that compile SRFOE's work and present the situation of freedom of expression at the regional level over the past year. Chapter I addresses the general information and main activities of the Office of the Special Rapporteur in 2021, such as the follow-up of individual cases, collaboration in the study of 54 precautionary measures, the holding of 14 public hearings, 71 seminars and workshops, 2 working visits and 20 working meetings. It also highlights the development of expert knowledge through thematic reports, such as the report on "Childhood, freedom of expression and the media" and the "Guide for access to environmental information in the context of extractive industries and mining and hydrocarbons", as well as 26 press releases. Chapter II presents the progress and challenges of freedom of expression in each of the 35 OAS Member States based on the aforementioned thematic areas. Chapter III -and the last chapter of this report- presents a series of 48 recommendations addressed to the States.

Among other aspects, the Annual Report highlights that the numbers of attacks against journalists reported in 2021 show the continuity of an extremely worrisome scenario for the exercise of the informative work in the Americas. Likewise, although there were important advances in investigations into crimes against journalists, impunity still prevails at high levels in the continent.

"The 2021 Annual Report recalls that journalism is the primary and principal manifestation of freedom of expression and that States have a positive obligation to provide a safe working environment for the press, considering the intrinsic relationship it has with democracy," said Pedro Vaca, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR.

In this Annual Report, SRFOE highlights the reports received on the excessive use of public force to limit social demonstrations, the increase of regressive legislation for the right to freedom of expression and access to public information. It also shows signs of deterioration of public debate, especially in electoral contexts, political polarization and social conflict, where stigmatizing speeches of political leaders or public authorities seem to enhance reactions of intolerance or violence in the region.

In addition, the 2021 Annual Report exposes various obstacles faced by vulnerable groups such as women journalists, women who actively participate in political life, or those who denounce gender-based violence; and indigenous peoples, especially those who work in community radio broadcasting. 

With respect to the Internet and freedom of expression, the Annual Report reports on various state initiatives that seek to regulate problems arising from the moderation of content, in which there is a need for an interpretation in accordance with international human rights standards.

Finally, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression highlights the collaboration of the States in providing information in the framework of working visits carried out by the IACHR, as well as that provided in the framework of different consultations during 2021. This Office also highlights the work of civil society organizations and the media for their ongoing support and information provided throughout the process of producing this report. SRFOE recognizes the essential role of journalism and the defense of human rights in contemporary democracies and the courage that the exercise of this work often requires.

Access the Executive Summary here.

Access the complete 2021 Annual Report here.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RELE) is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to encourage the hemispheric defense of human rights.