Libertad de Expresión

6 - Chapter V - Freedom of Expression Cases within the Inter-American System


1.                  Cases before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights


1.                  Case of Baruch Ivcher Bronstein vs. Peru. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereafter “the Commission”) submitted a case on behalf of Mr. Baruch Ivcher Bronstein (hereafter “Mr. Ivcher”) to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (hereafter “the Court”) for violation of Article 13  among  others of the Convention and the principles established in Principles 1, 5, and 6 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression adopted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. On February 6, 2001, the Court issued a judgment to the effect that “the [Peruvian] State arbitrarily withdrew the citizenship of Mr. Ivcher Bronstein, a naturalized Peruvian citizen, majority shareholder, director, and chairman of the board of directors of Channel 2—Frequencia Latina, a Peruvian television channel, for the purpose of removing him from editorial control of said channel and restricting his freedom of expression, which he was exercising through denunciation of serious violations of human rights and corrupt practices.”[1]


2.                  Based on the evidence, expert testimony and the demonstrated facts, the Court concluded that the Peruvian State violated the right to freedom of expression, guaranteed in Article 13(1) and 13(3) of the American Convention on Human Rights, to the detriment of Mr. Ivcher. Furthermore, it ruled that “removal of Mr. Ivcher from control of Channel 2 and exclusion of the journalists of the Contrapunto (Counterpoint) program not only deprived them of their right to transmit news, ideas, and opinions, but also adversely affected the right of all Peruvians to receive information, thereby restricting their freedom to express political opinions and develop fully in a democratic society.”[2]


3.                  Case  “The  Last Temptation of Christ” (Olmedo Bustos et al. vs. Chile). The Inter-American Commission presented a case against the Republic of Chile (hereafter “the State” or “Chile”) in order for the Court to decide whether Chile violated Article 13, among  others, of the Convention. Said violations “would have occurred to the detriment of Chilean society and, in particular, of Mr. Juan Pablo Olmedo Bustos, Mr. Ciro Colombara López, Mr. Claudio Márquez Vidal, Mr. Alex Muñoz Wilson, Mr. Matías Insunza Tagle, and Mr. Hermán Aguirre Fuentes as a result of the judicial censorship imposed on the screening of the film The Last Temptation of Christ, ratified by the Honorable Supreme Court of Chile […].”[3]


4.                  During the public hearing on November 18, 2000, the Commission testified to the Court that “the ban on the showing of the film The Last Temptation of Christ […] violates Article 13 of the Convention, which states that the exercise of the right of thought and expression shall not be subject to prior censorship. Furthermore, the intent of this rule is to protect and encourage access to information and ideas of all kinds and strengthen pluralistic democracy […].”[4]


5.                  Based on the documentary evidence, testimony, expert opinions and the demonstrated facts, the Court concluded that the State violated the right to freedom of thought and expression because “the ban on the showing of the film ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ constituted prior censorship imposed in violation of Article 13 of the Convention.”[5]


2.         Cases declared admissible during the last period of sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the year 2000.


6.                  Case 12.142 Alejandra Matus Acuña, Chile. The Commission ruled the case admissible for alleged violations of Article 13, among others, of the American Convention. The case deals with the confiscation of the book “The Black Book of Chilean Justice,” written by journalist Alejandra Marcela Matus Acuña and published by Editorial Planeta in that country. On the date indicated, all copies of said book were seized on a court order for violation of the State Security Law of Chile. On June 16, 1999, Messrs. Bartolo Ortiz and Carlos Orellana, directors of Editorial Planeta of Chile, were arrested in the same case. They were released and exonerated two days later. Since journalist Matus Acuña was threatened with immediate arrest, the United States granted her political asylum and she has been in that country since June of 1999. As of the date of this report, the books remain confiscated and the case is still open, with the journalist having been declared in contempt of court.


7.                  Case 11.395 Juan José López, Argentina.  Without prejudging the substance of the case, the Commission ruled this case admissible for the alleged violation of the right to freedom of thought and expression guaranteed in Article 13 of the Convention. On September 29, 1994, Lopez, who worked at L.R.A 7—Radio Nacional of Cordoba (hereafter “Radio Nacional”) filed his petition before the Commission because he did not received funds for his journalist pension during the time of his services to the radio station. Lopez was elected an alternate member of the Press Union of Cordoba, and during the exercise of his union functions he was deprived of his work at Radio Nacional without explanation in July 1990.




            3.         Precautionary Measures


8.                  Baruch Ivcher Bronstein et al., Peru. After a public hearing held on November 20 and 21 in San José, Costa Rica, and at the request of the Commission, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on November 21 requested precautionary measures to protect Mr. Ivcher and his family. It requested that the Peruvian government “adopt without delay all measures necessary to protect the physical, emotional and moral integrity of the parties and the right to legal guarantees.” The court requested the same measures for Rosario Lam Torres, Julio Sotelo Casanova, José Arrieta Matos, Emilio Rodríguez Larraín and Fernando Viaña Villa.


9.                  Fabián Salazar Olivares, Peru. On May 26, 2000, the Inter-American Commission requested precautionary measures to protect Mr. Fabián Salazar Olivares, in the context of Case 12.286. According to the information received, agents of the National Intelligence Service entered the office of the newspaper where Mr. Salazar worked and tortured him for the purpose of obtaining some videocassettes. The Commission asked the Peruvian State to adopt measures to protect the life, personal integrity and freedom of Mr. Salazar. On July 14, 2000 the State replied that it could not take the requested precautionary measures because Mr. Salazar had left the country on May 31, 2000.


10.              Genaro Delgado Parker, Peru. On March 10, 2000, the Commission requested precautionary measures to protect Mr. Delgado Parker, who according to the information received had been removed from control of the Global Network television chain and had been deprived of the transmitter equipment for his radio station, Radio 1160.  Since the Peruvian State failed to take precautionary measures by the first deadline, on November 2, 2000, the Commission extended the precautionary measures for six additional months so that ownership of Global Network—Channel 13 could be restored to Mr. Delgado Parker and that steps could be taken to return to Radio 1160 the transmitter and other equipment needed to resume its regular broadcasts immediately. On December 18, 2000, the Peruvian State informed the Commission that it had complied with the precautionary measures.


11.              Carlos Singares Campbell, Panama. On July 7, 2000, the Commission approved precautionary measures to protect Mr. Carlos A. Singares Campbell, editor of the daily El Siglo. According to the information received, Mr. Singares had been arrested on charges of violating the libel laws after publishing a critical news report possibly linking the Attorney General, José Antonio Sossa, to illegal acts. The Commission granted precautionary measures for 30 days and asked the State to set aside the arrest order and guarantee Mr. Singares’ right to integrity, personal freedom and freedom of expression.


12.              Pablo López Ulacio, Venezuela. On February 7, 2000, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights approved precautionary measures to protect journalist Pablo López Ulacio, editor of the weekly La Razón. The Commission said that Mr. López Ulacio “was in grave danger” and requested a halt to deprivation of the journalist’s freedom of expression, and that the measure of prior censorship against him and the weekly La Razón be lifted. According to the information received, the weekly La Razón published, starting in February 1999, a series of investigative reports on corrupt practices involving high officials in the Venezuelan government. The reports allegedly led to death threats to journalist Pablo López and his family members. It is further alleged that the journalist was victim of other forms of harassment including smear campaigns, cancellation of government advertising and criminal charges of libel.


13.              Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser of the daily La Nación, Costa Rica. On March 1, 2000, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asked Costa Rica to adopt precautionary measures to protect the rights of Messrs. Mauricio Herrera Ulloa and Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser of the daily La Nación. According to the information received, the Third Chamber of the Supreme Court upheld journalist Mauricio Herrera Ulloa’s sentence of 120 days in prison and a fine, and ordered his name inscribed in the Judicial Criminal Register because he reported information from European media that questioned the moral integrity of former honorary Ambassador of Costa Rica to the Atomic Energy Commission, Félix Przedborski. In addition, because it published the story, the newspaper La Nación was ordered to pay the legal fees of the plaintiff’s attorney and to “remove the link to the digital version of the newspaper on the Internet, between the surname Przedborski and the impugned articles, and to establish a link between these articles and the resolution of this verdict, the publication of which has been ordered.”


14.              The Commission maintains that the alleged acts could constitute “irreparable damage” to the human rights of the journalist Herrera Ulloa and Mr. Fernán Vargas Rohrmoser of the daily La Nación, and irreparable damage as well to the Costa Rican citizens who have been deprived of access to information regarding the actions of public officials. With regard to Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, on freedom of expression, the Commission has interpreted as “irreparable damage” the taking of measures that limit freedom of expression. The right of respect for freedom of expression is an instrument to permit the free flow of ideas and functions as a strengthening element for the democratic process, as well affording the public a basic tool for informed participation.

[1]Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Case of Baruch Ivcher Bronstein vs. Peru, Judgment of February 6, 2001, page 1.

[2] Id., Section XIV, Violation of Article 13 (Freedom of Expression), page 65.

[3]Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Case of “The Last Temptation of Christ” (Olmedo Bustos et al. vs. Chile), Judgment of February 5, 2001, Introduction to the cause, paragraph 1.

[4] Id., Section VIII, Article 13, Freedom of Thought and Expression, paragraph 61.b.

[5] Id., paragraphs 71-73.