27.07.2017 - UNESCO Montevideo

CIMA publishes a guide for judges on legal frameworks for freedom of expression

To guarantee the right to freedom of expression and end the impunity of attacks against journalists in Latin America: that is the objective of the new publication “International Standards for Freedom of Expression: A Basic Guide for Judicial Workers in Latin America,” released today by the Center for International Media Assistance with the support of UNESCO and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. The author of the report, Silvia Chocarro, is an expert on the topics of freedom of expression and the safety of journalists.

According to UNESCO, 192 journalists have been killed in the last 10 years in Latin America. And 90 percent of those cases remain unsolved, making impunity one of the greatest obstacles to the safety of journalists in the region. Other significant threats to freedom of expression in the region include government surveillance, criminal laws against defamation and libel, restrictions on public access to information, restrictions on speech under the rubric of national security, and the blocking of websites for third-party content.

“One way to end these abuses is to ensure that justice is implemented,” said Edison Lanza, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. “For that, it is vital that international and inter-American legal frameworks are well known and, above all, applied… That is why this guide is such an important tool for workers in the judicial sector.”

The publication covers themes such as violence against journalists, access to information, and the challenges of the Internet. The guide is part of a broader initiative to train judges in Latin America on these issues.

“We started in the year 2014 with an online course for Mexican judges done in collaboration with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. It was so successful that we expanded the course to the entire region. Currently, more than 5,000 people have participated and several Latin American law schools have vowed to include freedom of expression in their curricula,” said Lidia Brito, the director of UNESCO’s office in Montevideo, where the project is coordinated.

Four years later, however, there was still something missing: a basic guide that could both complement the online course and serve as an introduction to the issues for other workers in the judicial sector. In stepped CIMA, an organization dedicated to researching and supporting the development of sustainable, independent, and plural media around the world. As Senior Director Mark Nelson explained, CIMA did not hesitate to support the initiative “because we saw a clear need for a basic reference guide for those who carry out justice in cases where freedom of expression has been attacked.”

For her part, author Silvia Chocarro expressed confidence that the guide would help to ensure that “everyone can express themselves without fear of retaliation and have access to the information they need to make decisions that affect their society and their future.”

As the prologue affirms, the guide aims to “achieve something that seemed impossible: to clearly and concisely summarize more than 70 years of international jurisprudence on the topic of freedom of expression and to create a roadmap for judicial workers so that they can make decisions that are consistent with international standards.”

“Estándares internacionales de libertad de expresión. Guía básica para operadores de justicia en América Latina” can be accessed at www.cima.ned.org and will soon be available in print.


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