Freedom of Expression

Press release R264/22

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, RELE calls on the States of the region to promote, protect and guarantee women's right to freedom of expression

November 25, 2022

Washington D.C. - In the framework of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (SRFOE) of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) warns about the persistence of structural obstacles and discriminatory practices that limit the exercise of women's right to freedom of expression and exclude them from public debate. The Special Rapporteur’s Office calls on the States of the Americas to adopt positive measures in order to create the necessary conditions for women to express their ideas and opinions fully, freely and safely, without fear of being the target of gender-based attacks and restrictions.

In a regional context characterized by an escalation of violence against the press, the Rapporteur’s Office notes with concern that women journalists continue to face challenges differentiated by their status as women. On several occasions, this Office has pointed out that attacks, threats and intimidation -both online and offline- take on a particular tone when it comes to women journalists and are generally misogynistic in nature and sexualized in content. This pattern of violence extends to women human rights defenders, activists, artists, academics, and all those who actively participate in public and political life.

Likewise, The SRFOE expresses its concern for the reports received on the criminalization of women who denounce human rights violations, including violations of women's rights; who investigate and report on issues of high public interest, such as corruption, drug trafficking, organized crime and governmental irregularities; and who exercise the defense of human rights, particularly in contexts of democratic regression.

Acts of violence and intimidation, as well as illegitimate restrictions against women for exercising their right to freedom of expression, lead to self-censorship and "is a direct attack against their visibility and full participation in public life", as the IACHR and its Special Rapporteur have already stated. According to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, one of the main consequences of silencing is that "the public loses relevant voices and points of view and, in particular, women's voices and points of view, which, in turn, leads to an increase in the gender gap (...) and attacks pluralism as an essential element of freedom of expression and democracy".

The SRFOE recalls that, as noted in the Joint Declaration of Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression and Gender Justice, States have a duty under international law "to proactively remove structural and systemic obstacles to equality, as well as discriminatory laws, policies and practices that prevent women from fully enjoying all human rights, including the right to freedom of opinion and expression". It also stresses that "when women denounce sexual and gender-based violence, States must ensure that such expression enjoys special protection, since restricting such expression may hinder the eradication of violence against women."

In light of the foregoing considerations, this Office calls upon the States of the region to address the special risks and particular factors that inhibit or hinder the exercise of the right to freedom of expression of women as part of their obligation to respect, protect and guarantee the exercise of this right. Likewise, the Rapporteur’s Office recalls that although the obligations to prevent, protect and investigate are an international responsibility of the States, there are other actors of utmost relevance for the eradication of gender-based violence and discrimination. In this sense, as indicated in the report "Women Journalists and Newsrooms", the media play a decisive role in ensuring the protection of women journalists against gender-based risks. Therefore, The SRFOE emphasizes that it is essential that States work together with the private sector, civil society, academia, and other relevant actors to address the challenges of freedom of expression and gender.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (SRFOE) is an office created by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to encourage the hemispheric defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression, considering its fundamental role in the consolidation and development of the democratic system.