Libertad de Expresión

6 - Chapter V - Final Considerations and Recommendations


            Consolidation of democracy in the hemisphere is closely related to freedom of expression.  When freedom of expression is limited, the development of democracy is interrupted, since the free debate of ideas and opinion among citizens is impeded.  There is no doubt that freedom of expression has advanced in recent decades, hand in hand with the growth of democratic openness.  However, this development has not prevented authoritarian tendencies from persisting in various countries, which continue to seek ways to limit the right to freedom of expression of the citizens of the Americas.


            The mechanisms used to limit freedom of expression are many and varied.  The range of options runs from murder of journalists to more sophisticated means such as the constant harassment of journalists through lawsuits, restrictive legislation, or steps taken by those in power, who place unnecessary obstacles in the way of freedom of expression.  All violations of freedom of expression are serious, and the Rapporteur, in cooperation with governments and organizations in civil society that defend freedom of expression, is interested in finding ways to better defend this right in all the countries of the hemisphere.


            Of all the ways in which freedom of expression is violated, murders and physical attacks are the cases that are of the greatest concern to the Rapporteur.  The Americas is the most dangerous region of the world in which to practice the profession of journalism.  In the past decade, there have been approximately 150 cases of murdered journalists, and many cases of physical attacks and threats.  The governments of the region are responsible for making sure that these crimes against journalists do not be unpunished.  The best way for states to strengthen freedom of expression is by guaranteeing an effective, wide-ranging, objective, and independent investigation into all cases of murders, attacks, and threats.


            The Rapporteur recommends that the Member States carry out an effective, serious and impartial judicial investigation, according to the rules of due process, in cases regarding attacks or killings of journalists in order to clarify the facts and sanction the material and intellectual perpetrators.


            Aside from the gravity of murders and acts of physical aggression against journalists, the Rapporteur is especially concerned over the use of other arrangements to control freedom of expression, which may be less direct than murder and physical aggression, but which are capable of causing greater damage to the strengthening of democracy.  Examples include attempts to restrict freedom of expression by passing laws that are incompatible with Article 13 of the Inter-American Convention, such as provisions on contempt and compulsory membership in a professional association, or cases in which the government, through its intelligence services, seeks information for the purpose of harassing or denigrating journalists.  Democratic institutions must be the primary guarantee of the defense of freedom of expression.  When they are used as an instrument to limit that freedom, then it remains defenseless in the face of abuse on the part of authorities.

            The Rapporteur recommends that the Members States adjust their  domestic legislation on freedom of expression to the standards established by the American Convention on Human Rights, particularly in the area of compulsory membership pf associations and contempt.


            Lastly, the Rapporteur wishes to acknowledge the assistance of the States that have collaborated with him as well as that provided by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and its Executive Secretariat.


            The Rapporteur also wishes to acknowledge the work of independent journalists who every day carry out one of the most important tasks in a democratic society, that is, assisting citizens in the exercise of their rights and fulfillment of their obligations by providing them with the necessary information.