ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES
NTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
4 March 2011
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
REPORT OF THE OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
Dr. Catalina Botero
Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
Approved by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on March 4, 2011
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS i
TABLE OF ACRONYMS AND REFERENCES vi
CHAPTER I 3
GENERAL INFORMATION 3
A.Creation of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and Institutional Support 3
B.Mandate of the Office of the Special Rapporteur 6
C.Principal Activities of the Office of the Special Rapporteur 7
D.Staff of the Office of the Special Rapporteur 24
CHAPTER II 27
EVALUATION OF THE STATE OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IN THE HEMISPHERE 27
troduction and methodology 27
B.Evaluation of the state of freedom of expression in the Member States 28
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). March 30, 2010. CPJ hails convictions in 2007 murder of Brazilian journalist. Available at: /2010/03/cpj-hails-convictions-in-2007-murder-of-brazilian.php; Reporters without Borders. March 29, 2010. Three military policemen get long jail terms for killing journalist in 2007. Available at: /brazil-three-military-policemen-get-along-29-03-2010,36852.html; Knight Center for Journalism. March 29, 2010. Four given prison terms for the murder of journalist in Brazil. Available at: http://knightcenter.utexas.edu/archive/blog/?q=en/node/6796 45
Federal Public Ministry of the State of Mato Grosso do Sul. August 23, 2010. Nota sobre garantias do segredo de justica e da liberdade de imprensa. Available at: http://www.prms.mpf.gov.br/servicos/sala-de-imprensa/noticias/2010/08/mpf-divulga-nota-sobre-garantias-do-segredo-de. Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. August 24, 2010. District attorney in Brazil won't force press to reveal source of leaks about eavesdropping at prison. Available at: http://knightcenter.utexas.edu/blog/district-attorney-brazil-wont-force-press-reveal-source-leaks-about-eavesdropping-prison 46
Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. July 13, 2010. Radialista é agredido por assessor da Federação Catarinense de Futebol. Available at: http://knightcenter.utexas.edu/pt-br/blog/radialista-e-agredido-por-assessor-da-federacao-catarinense-de-futebol. Inter-American Press Association (IAPA). November 5-9, 2010. Information by country: Brazil. Available at: /v4/index.php?page=det_informe&asamblea=26&infoid=772&idioma=us 48
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS)/IFEX. November 15, 2010. Attack against newspaper printing press Available at: /brazil/2010/11/15/correio_mariliensil/es/; Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. November 4, 2010. Jornal Correio Mariliense é vítima de ataque no interior de São Paulo. Available at: http://knightcenter.utexas.edu/pt-br/blog/jornal-correio-mariliense-e-vitima-de-ataque-no-interior-de-sao-paulo 49
Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. May 21, 2010. Journalists denounce campaign of defamation against Brazilian reporter. Available at: http://knightcenter.utexas.edu/blog/?q=pt-br/node/549. Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (ABRAJI) May 10, 2010. Abraji acompanha com apreensão investigações sobre envio de e-mails falsos em nome de jornalista de "O Globo". Available at: .br/?id=90&id_noticia=1186 49
Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. September 18, 2010. Court order bans newspaper from publishing negative news items on a Brazilian senate candidate. Available at: http://knightcenter.utexas.edu/es/blog/orden-judicial-prohibe-periodico-publicar-notas-negativas-sobre-candidato-senador-en-brasil. Mato Grosso Circuit. September 17, 2010. Deu no A Gazeta: ANJ condena censura prévia. Available at: .br/home/materia/45887 50
International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). June 30, 2010. Journalists and protesters assaulted and detained during massive police clampdown at G20. Available at: /canada/2010/06/30/g20_crackdown/es/; Amnesty International. June 27, 2010. Toronto and the G8/G20: Peaceful protest suffers amidst heavy security measures and acts of vandalism. Available at: http://www.amnesty.ca/resource_centre/news/view.php?article=5453&c=Resource+Centre+News&load=arcview; Canadian Journalists for Free Expression/ International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). June 28, 2010. CJFE Dismayed at Reports of Free Expression Violations at G20 Summit Protests. Available at: /canada/2010/06/29/g20_protests/ 55
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). February 12, 2010. On way to Olympic protests, reporters stopped at border. Available at: /2010/02/on-way-to-olympic-protests-reporters-stopped-at-ca.php. Notimex. February 10, 2010. Work of activist against Winter Olympics blocked in Canada. Available at: /noticias/deportes-impiden-canada-labor-activista-olimpicos-10022010-7.html 57
Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica. Third Chamber. Judgment 01798. December 18, 2009. Available at: http://184.108.40.206/SCIJ/busqueda/jurisprudencia/jur_ficha_sentencia.asp?nValor2=462328&nValor1=1&strTipM=T&lResultado 76
CERIGUA. December 17, 2010. More than 20 attacks on journalists reported in 2010. Available at: /la1520/index.php/nota-diaria/48-libertad-de-expresion/618-2010-cierra-con-mas-de-20-agresiones-contra-periodistas-. Knight Center for Journalism. December 1, 2010. Guatemalan journalist threatened after reporting on military arms theft. Available at: http://knightcenter.utexas.edu/blog/guatemalan-journalist-threatened-after-reporting-military-arms-theft 106
Legislative Branch of the Oriental Republic of Uruguay. July 15, 2009. Law 18.515. Media. Available at: http://www.parlamento.gub.uy/leyes/AccesoTextoLey.asp?Ley=18515&Anchor= IACHR. Press Release No. R38/09. June 22, 2009. The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression expresses its satisfaction with the recent decisions on the issue of freedom of expression adopted by the legislative assemblies of Uruguay and Québec, Canada, and by the highest courts of justice in Brazil and Mexico. Available at: /relatoria/showarticle.asp?artID=750&lID=1; Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). June 11, 2009. CPJ hails approval of press law by Uruguayan Congress. Available at: /2009/06/cpj-hails-approval-of-press-law-by-uruguayan-congr.php; Reporters without Borders. July 9, 2009. Decriminalization of press offenses promulgated by Head of State. Available at: /La-despenalizacion-de-los-delitos.html; International Federation of Journalists (FIP in its Spanish acronym)/IFEX. June 24, 2009. IFJ welcomes legislative changes eliminating "press crimes." Available at: /uruguay/2009/06/26/press_crimes_eliminated/ 143
Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ). January 8, 2010. Mexico: Periodista secuestrado fue hallado muerto. Available at: /es/2010/01/mexico-periodista-secuestrado-fue-hallado-muerto.php. 188
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). March 15, 2010. Mexican Reporter shot to death in Guerrero. Available at: /2010/03/mexican-reporter-shot-to-death-in-guerrero.php. UNESCO. March 24, 2010. UNESCO Director-General condemns murder of another journalist in Mexico. Available at: /new/en/media-services/single-view/news/unesco_director_general_condemns_murder_of_another_journalist_in_mexico/back/18256/. International Freedom of Speech Exchange (IFEX). March 16, 2010. Journalist shot to death in Guerrero. Available at: /mexico/2010/03/16/pacheco_solis_killed/. El Universal. March 15, 2010. Reportan Cuarto Periodista Asesinado en 2010. Available at: .mx/notas/666158.html 190
Reporters without Borders. April 11, 2010. Cuestionada de nuevo la pasividad de las autoridades tras el asesinato de un periodista en Michoacán. Available at: /mexico-cuestionada-de-nuevo-la-pasividad-11-04-2010,36977.html. Inter-American Press Association (IAPA). April 15, 2010. SIP pide indagar recientes asesinatos en Colombia, Honduras y México. Available at: /v4/index.php?page=cont_Communications&seccion=detalles&id=4361&idioma=sp. International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). April 14, 2010. More journalists abducted and murdered. Available at: /mexico/2010/04/14/abducted_killed/ 191
Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression – IACHR. July 5, 2010. Press release No. R70/10. Available at: /relatoria/showarticle.asp?artID=805&lID=1; See also CNDH. Press release CGCP/192/10, July 12, 2010. Available at: .mx/comsoc/compre/2010/COM_2010_0192.PDF. UNESCO. July 22, 2010. Director-General condemns murder of two Mexican journalists. Available at: /ci/en/ev.php-URL_ID=30675&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Journalists Killed: Marco Aurelio Martínez Tijerina. Available at: /killed/2010/marco-aurelio-martinez-tijerina.php. International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). July 12, 2010. Radio journalist found dead in Nuevo León; cameraman killed in Chihuahua. Available at: /mexico/2010/07/12/two_journalists_killed/; La Jornada. July 12, 2010. Asesinan a periodista en Monterrey. Available at: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2010/07/12/index.php?section=politica&article=012n2pol 192
IRZA news agency. March 28, 2010. Cuñado del alcalde de Ometepec amenazó de muerte a periodista. Available at: /2010/03/cunado-del-alcalde-de-ometepec-amenazo-de-muerte-a-periodista/. El Diario de Guerrero. Un periodista teme por su vida. Available at: .mx/CGI-BIN/diariodegro/notipales/shownotipal.php?idnote=20069 201
International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). May 26, 2010. Riot police assault journalists during protest. Available at: /mexico/2010/05/26/villahermosa_journalists/ Tabasco Hoy. May 26, 2010. Va CDEH contra funcionarios por ataque a prensa. Available at: .mx/noticia.php?id_nota=193303 205
International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). July 2, 2010. Grenade launched against newspaper building. Available at: /mexico/2010/07/06/zocalo_grenade_attack/; Noticias MVS. June 18, 2010. Atacan diario Zócalo en Coahuila, Available at: /Atacan-diario-Zocalo-en-Coahuila.html 215
International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). April 13, 2010. Realizan en Sinaloa compra masiva de ejemplares de "Proceso"; impiden su circulación normal. Available at: /mexico/2010/04/13/el_proceso/es/. BBC Mundo. April 18, 2010. México: crece la polémica por entrevista a capo del narcotráfico. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/america_latina/2010/04/100408_mexico_revista_proceso_entrevista_cartel_jp.shtml 218
La Jornada. January 3, 2007. Pierde Kamel Nacif demanda contra Lydia Cacho. Available at: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2007/01/03/index.php?section=politica&article=005n2pol 235
La Jornada, January 3, 2007, Kamel Nacif loses lawsuit against Lydia Cacho, available at: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2007/01/03/index.php?section=politica&article=005n2pol 264
Supreme Court of Justice. Judgment of October 7, 2009. Direct injunction 6/2009. CEPET. October 9, 2009. Weekly cleared of charges, but writer still required to pay damages. Available at: /mexico/2009/10/09/wornat_owes_damages/ 267
See Institute for Access to Public Information of the Federal District, “Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data in the Federal District,” document delivered to the Office of the Special Rapporteur during the on-site visit. 273
Chapter III 306
Access to information oN human rights violations 306
A. The right of the victims of human rights violations to access information in State archives on such violations 306
IACHR, Petition before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case 11.324, Narciso González Medina v. Dominican Republic, May 2, 2010, para. 159. 310
CHAPTER IV 319
JUDICIAL BEST PRACTICE WITH RESPECT TO ACCESS TO INFORMATION IN THE AMERICAS 319
B.Judicial best practice with respect to human rights 320
C. National Decisions that Constitute Judicial Best Practice with respect to Access to Information 322
Chapter V 355
PRINCIPLES ON THE REGULATION OF GOVERNMENT ADVERTISING IN THE INTER-AMERICAN SYSTEM FOR THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS 355
A. The case of government advertising 357
B. Guiding principles on government advertising 364
CHAPTER VI 374
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 374
A.Violence against journalists and media outlets 374
B.Criminalization of expression and promoting proportionality in the application of subsequent liability 375
C.Statements of high-level State authorities based on editorial positions 376
D.Prior censorship 376
E.Discriminatory distribution of government advertising 376
F.Progress on access to information 377
G.Allocation of radio frequencies 377
A.AMERICAN CONVENTION ON HUMAN RIGHTS 379
TER-AMERICAN DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION 380
C.JOINT DECLARATIONS 383
D.PRESS RELEASES 390
ACHPR: African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
American Convention: American Convention on Human Rights
American Declaration: American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man
Declaration of Principles: Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression
European Convention: European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
European Court: European Court of Human Rights
IACHR: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
ICCPR: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
ILO: International Labor Organzation
Inter-American Court: Inter-American Court of Human Rights
OAS: Organization of American States
OSCE: Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
Office of the Special Rapporteur: Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
UN: United Nations
UNESCO: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR FOR FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (hereinafter, “Office of the Special Rapporteur”) was created in October of 1997 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter, “IACHR”) during its 97th Period of Sessions. Since its establishment, the Office of the Special Rapporteur has had the support of not only the IACHR, but also Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS), civil society organizations, communications media, journalists, and, particularly, the victims of violations of the right to freedom of expression. Indeed, those who have turned to the inter-American system for the protection of human rights as a mechanism for the protection and guarantee of their right to freedom of expression have found that the Office of the Special Rapporteur offers decisive support for reestablishing the guarantees necessary for exercising their rights and for insuring that the damage from the violation of those rights is repaired.
Since its inception, the Office of the Special Rapporteur has worked for the promotion of the right to freedom of expression through technical assistance in individual cases before the inter-American system for the protection of human rights. With the same objective, and in the framework of the IACHR, the Office of the Special Rapporteur has prepared thematic and country reports, carried out official visits and promotional trips, and participated in dozens of conferences and seminars that have sensitized and trained hundreds of public officials, journalists, and defenders of the right to free expression.
The Annual Report of 2010 follows the basic structure of previous annual reports and fulfills the mandate established by the IACHR for the work of the Office of the Special Rapporteur. The report begins with a general introductory chapter that explains in detail the office’s mandate, the most important achievements of the Office of the Special Rapporteur in its twelve years of operation, and the activities carried out in 2010.
Chapter II presents the now-customary evaluation of the situation of freedom of expression in the hemisphere. In 2010, the Office of the Special Rapporteur received information from multiple sources about situations that could affect the exercise of the right to freedom of expression as well as progress in the effort to guarantee this right. Following the methodology of previous reports, this information was evaluated in light of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression (hereinafter, “Declaration of Principles”), approved by the IACHR in 2000. The Declaration of Principles constitutes an authorized interpretation of Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter, “American Convention”) in the region and an important instrument to help States to resolve problems and promote, guarantee, and respect the right to freedom of expression.
Based on the analysis of the situations reported in the hemisphere, the Office of the Special Rapporteur highlights some challenges facing the States in the region. In particular, Chapter II of this report places emphasis on the murders, attacks, and threats against journalists. States have the obligation to investigate, try, and punish those responsible for these acts, not only to provide reparation to the victims and their families, but also to prevent future occurrences of violence and intimidation. Additionally, the Office of the Special Rapporteur considers it important to call attention to other aspects of freedom of expression in the Americas, such as: the recognition of a number of judicial best practices regarding the right to access to information; the advancement of the right to access to information with respect to information on human rights violations contained in State archives; the importance of reforming some mechanisms – such as government advertising – which could be applied as forms of indirect censorship; the necessity of establishing a standard methodology that allows for adequate monitoring of the situation of the right to freedom of expression; and others.
The intense efforts of the Office of the Special Rapporteur have allowed it to become an expert office charged with promoting and monitoring respect for freedom of expression in the hemisphere. This standing has generated, in turn, a substantial increase in the expectations by the hemispheric community with regard to the work of the Office of the Special Rapporteur. In order to meet this demand, it is necessary to pay attention not only to the institutional and political support of the Office of the Special Rapporteur, but also its financial support, since without this support it cannot function and carry out the activities required by its mandate. The Office of the Special Rapporteur does not directly receive resources from the regular fund of the OAS. For this reason, its sustainability largely depends on the voluntary contributions made by some States and the contributions of foundations and international aid agencies for specific projects. It is important to once more urge the Member States to follow those countries that have responded to the call of the hemispheric summits to support the Office of the Special Rapporteur. The Plan of Action approved by the Heads of State and Government at the Third Summit of the Americas, held in Quebec in April of 2001, establishes that “[t]o strengthen democracy, create prosperity and realize human potential, our Governments will…[c]ontinue to support the work of the inter-American human rights system in the area of freedom of expression through the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR[.]”
The Office of the Special Rapporteur is grateful for the financial contributions received during 2010 from Costa Rica; the United States of America; the United Kingdom; Ireland; Sweden, through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA); Switzerland; and the European Commission. Once more, the Office of the Special Rapporteur invites other States to add to this necessary support.
The Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Catalina Botero Marino, is grateful for the confidence of the IACHR and highlights the work of her predecessors in the consolidation of the Office of the Special Rapporteur. In particular, the Special Rapporteur expresses her gratitude towards her staff for the committed and exemplary work that they have carried out. This annual report is the product of their effort, teamwork, and dedication.
This annual report intends to contribute to the establishment of a better environment for the exercise of freedom of expression in the region, and in this way ensure the strengthening of democracy, wellbeing, and progress for the hemisphere’s inhabitants. Its objective is to collaborate with OAS Member States in raising awareness about the problems that we all wish to resolve and in formulating viable proposals and recommendations based on regional doctrine and jurisprudence. To achieve this aim, it is necessary that the work of the Office of the Special Rapporteur be understood as a useful tool for responding to the challenges we face and for generating a broad and fluid dialogue not only with the Member States, but also with civil society and journalists from all regions.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, by the unanimous decision of its members, created the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression during its 97th period of sessions, held in October 1997. This Special Rapporteurship was created by the Commission as a permanent, independent office that acts within the framework and with the support of the IACHR. Through the Office of the Special Rapporteur, the Commission sought to encourage the defense of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the hemisphere, given the fundamental role this right plays in consolidating and developing the democratic system and in protecting, guaranteeing, and promoting other human rights. During its 98th period of sessions, held in March 1998, the IACHR defined in general terms the characteristics and functions of the Office of the Special Rapporteur and decided to create a voluntary fund to provide it with economic assistance.
The Commission’s initiative to create a permanent Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression found full support among the OAS Member States. Indeed, during the Second Summit of the Americas, the hemisphere’s Heads of State and Government recognized the fundamental role of freedom of thought and expression, and noted their satisfaction over the creation of the Special Rapporteurship. In the Declaration of Santiago, adopted in April 1998, the Heads of State and Government stated the following:
We agree that a free press plays a fundamental role [in protecting human rights] and we reaffirm the importance of guaranteeing freedom of expression, information, and opinion. We commend the recent appointment of a Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, within the framework of the Organization of American States.1
The Heads of State and Government of the Americas likewise expressed their commitment to support the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. On this point, the Summit Plan of Action recommended the following:
To strengthen the exercise of and respect for all human rights and the consolidation of democracy, including the fundamental right to freedom of expression, information and thought, through support for the activities of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in this field, in particular the recently created Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.2
During the Third Summit of the Americas, held in Quebec City, Canada, the Heads of State and Government ratified the mandate of the Office of the Special Rapporteur, adding that their governments would:
Continue to support the work of the inter-American human rights system in the area of freedom of expression through the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, as well as proceed with the dissemination of comparative jurisprudence, and seek to ensure that national legislation on freedom of expression is consistent with international legal obligations.3
The OAS General Assembly has on various occasions expressed its support for the work of the Office of the Special Rapporteur and entrusted it with follow-up or analysis of some of the rights that comprise freedom of expression. Thus, for example, in 2005 the OAS General Assembly approved Resolution 2149 (XXXV-O/05), in which it reaffirms the right to freedom of expression, recognizes the important contributions made in the Office of the Special Rapporteur’s 2004 Annual Report, and urges follow-up on the issues included in that report, such as the evaluation of the situation regarding freedom of expression in the region; indirect violations of freedom of expression; the impact of the concentration in media ownership; and the treatment of hate speech in the American Convention.4 The Office of the Special Rapporteur has analyzed these issues in different annual reports, in the context of its evaluation of the state of freedom of expression in the region and in fulfillment of its task of creating expertise and promoting regional standards in this area.
In 2006, the OAS General Assembly reiterated its support for the Office of the Special Rapporteur in its Resolution 2237 (XXXVI-O/06). In this resolution, the General Assembly reaffirmed the right to freedom of expression, recognized the important contributions made in the Office of the Special Rapporteur’s 2005 Annual Report, and urged follow-up on the issues mentioned in the report. These included, among others, public demonstrations as an exercise of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, as well as freedom of expression and the electoral process.5 As in the previous case, the Office of the Special Rapporteur has followed up on these issues in its annual evaluation of the situation regarding freedom of expression in the region. In the same resolution, the General Assembly called for convening a special meeting of the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs to delve deeper into existing international jurisprudence regarding the subject matter of Article 13 of the American Convention, and to specifically address issues such as public demonstrations and freedom of expression, as well as the development and scope of Article 11 of the American Convention. That meeting was held on October 26-27, 2007.
In 2007, the OAS General Assembly approved Resolution 2287 (XXXVII-O/07), in which it invited the Member States to consider the Office of the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations on the matter of defamation laws. In that resolution, the General Assembly reiterated its request to convene a special meeting in the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs to delve deeper into existing international jurisprudence regarding Article 13 of the American Convention. That meeting was held on February 28-29, 2008.
In 2008, the General Assembly approved Resolution 2434 (XXXVIII-O/08), which reaffirms the right to freedom of expression and requests once again that the IACHR conduct appropriate follow-up on compliance with standards in this area and deepen its study of the issues addressed in its annual reports. The resolution invites the Member States to consider the recommendations of the Office of the Special Rapporteur regarding defamation, namely by repealing or amending laws that criminalize desacato, defamation, slander, and libel, and in this regard, to regulate these conducts exclusively in the area of civil law.
In 2009, in its Resolution 2523 (XXXIX-O/09), the General Assembly underscored the importance of the Office of the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations contained in the 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008 annual reports. It also requested once again that the IACHR follow up on the recommendations included in these reports and in particular invited the Member States to take into consideration the Office of the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, namely by repealing or amending laws that criminalize desacato, defamation, slander, and libel, as well as by regulating this conduct exclusively in the area of civil law.
On the subject of access to information, the General Assembly has made several statements supporting the work of the Office of the Special Rapporteur and urging the adoption of its recommendations. In its Resolution 1932 (XXXIII-O/03) in 2003, reiterated in 2004 in Resolution 2057 (XXXIV-O/04), and in 2005 in Resolution 2121 (XXXV-O/05), the General Assembly asked the Office of the Special Rapporteur to continue reporting on the situation regarding access to public information in the region in its annual reports. In 2006, through Resolution 2252 (XXVI-O-06), among other points, the Office of the Special Rapporteur was instructed to provide support to the Member States that request assistance in the development of legislation and mechanisms on access to information. The IACHR was also asked to conduct a study on the various forms of guaranteeing that all persons have the right to seek, receive, and disseminate public information based on the principle of freedom of expression. As a follow-up to this resolution, the Office of the Special Rapporteur in August 2007 published the Special Study on the Right of Access to Information.6
In the same regard, in 2007 the General Assembly approved Resolution 2288 (XXXVII-O/07), which highlights the importance of the right of access to public information, takes note of the Office of the Special Rapporteur’s reports on the situation regarding access to information in the region, urges the States to adapt their legislation to guarantee this right, and instructs the Office of the Special Rapporteur to offer advisory support to the Member States in this area. It also requests that different bodies within the OAS, including the Office of the Special Rapporteur, prepare a basic document on best practices and the development of common approaches or guidelines to increase access to public information. This document, developed in conjunction with the Inter-American Juridical Committee, the Department of International Legal Affairs, and the Department of State Modernization and Good Governance, as well as with input from delegations of the Member States, was approved in April 2008 by the Committee on Juridical and Political Affairs.
In 2008, the OAS General Assembly also approved Resolution 2418 (XXXVIII-O/08), which highlights the importance of the right of access to public information, urges the States to adapt their legislation to meet standards in this area, and instructs the Office of the Special Rapporteur to offer advisory support, as well as to continue including a report on the situation regarding access to public information in the region in its Annual Report.
In 2009, in its Resolution 2514 (XXXIX-O/09), the General Assembly once again reiterated the importance of the right of access to public information and recognized that the full respect for freedom of expression, access to public information, and the free dissemination of ideas strengthens democracy, contributes to a climate of tolerance of all views, fosters a culture of peace and non-violence, and strengthens democratic governance. It also instructs the Office of the Special Rapporteur to support the Member States of the OAS in the design, execution, and evaluation of their regulations and policies with respect to access to public information and to continue to include in its Annual Report a chapter on the situation regarding access to public information in the region.
In that same resolution, the General Assembly entrusted the Department of International Law, along with the collaboration of the Office of the Special Rapporteur, the Inter-American Juridical Committee and the Department of State Modernization and Governance, as well as the cooperation of Member States and civil society, with drafting a Model Law on Access to Public Information and a guide for its implementation, in keeping with the inter-American standards established on the issue. In order to comply with this mandate, a group of experts was formed - in which the Office of the Special Rapporteur took part - that met three times during the year to discuss, edit and finalize the documents. The final versions of the two instruments were approved by a group of experts in March 2010 and presented to the Committee on Political and Juridical Affairs of the Permanent Council in April of 2010. In May of 2010, the Permanent Council submitted a resolution and the text of the Model Law to the General Assembly, which issued resolution AG/RES 2607 (XL-O/10) in June of 2010. This resolution approved the text of the Model Law7 and reaffirmed the importance of the annual reports of the Office of the Special Rapporteur.
Since its beginnings, the Office of the Special Rapporteur has also had the support of civil society organizations, the media, journalists and, most importantly, individuals who have been victims of violations of the right to freedom of thought and expression along with their family members.
The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is a permanent office with its own operative structure and functional autonomy, which operates within the legal framework of the IACHR.8
The Office of the Special Rapporteur has a general mandate to carry out activities for the protection and promotion of the right to freedom of thought and expression, including the following:
a. Advise the IACHR in evaluating cases and requests for precautionary measures, as well as in preparing reports.
b. Carry out promotional and educational activities on the right to freedom of thought and expression.
c. Advise the IACHR in conducting on-site visits to OAS member countries to expand the general observation of the situation and/or to investigate a particular situation having to do with the right to freedom of thought and expression.
d. Conduct visits to OAS Member Countries.
e. Prepare specific and thematic reports.
f. Promote the adoption of legislative, judicial, administrative, or other types of measures that may be necessary to make effective the exercise of the right to freedom of thought and expression.
g. Coordinate with ombudsman’s offices or national human rights institutions to verify and follow up on conditions involving the exercise of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the Member States.
h. Provide technical advisory support to the OAS bodies.
i. Prepare an annual report on the situation regarding the right to freedom of thought and expression in the Americas, which will be considered by the full Inter-American Commission for its approval and inclusion in its IACHR Annual Report, presented annually to the General Assembly.
j. Gather all the information necessary to prepare the aforementioned reports and activities.
In 1998, the Commission announced a public competition for the post of Special Rapporteur. Once the process was completed, the IACHR decided to designate as Special Rapporteur the Argentine attorney Santiago A. Canton, who assumed the post on November 2, 1998. In March 2002, the IACHR named Argentine attorney Eduardo A. Bertoni as Special Rapporteur. Bertoni occupied this position from May 2002 to December 2005. On March 15, 2006, the IACHR chose Venezuelan attorney Ignacio J. Alvarez as Special Rapporteur. In April 2008, the IACHR announced a competition to select Álvarez’s successor. During the period in which the post was vacant, the Office of the Special Rapporteur was under the responsibility of then-Commission Chairman Paolo Carozza. The competition was closed in June 2008, and the pre-selected candidates to occupy this post were interviewed in July, during the IACHR’s 132nd period of sessions. Following the round of interviews, on July 21, 2008, the IACHR selected Colombian attorney Catalina Botero Marino as Special Rapporteur.9 The new Special Rapporteur assumed the post on October 6, 2008.