Freedom of expression attacked during 42nd OAS General Assembly

By Liliana Honorato

The 42nd General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) ended on Tuesday, June 5, in Cochabamba, Bolivia, by welcoming the polemic recommendation to reform the Inter American System of Human Rights, presented by Venezuela and Ecuador, that amounts to nothing more than an attack on freedom of expression, said the Los Angeles Times. The OAS decided to put off application of the reforms for six to nine months to discuss the decision with parties involved, reported the news agency EFE.

In addition to stripping the Commission of its independence, the recommendation to overhaul the Inter American Human Rights Commission would require the Commission “revise its criterion and procedures" before publishing reports that indicate that a certain country needs to "improve in human rights." The recommendations also demand that all American countries modify statutes regulating the Commission so that governments are consulted before the Commission issues any precautionary measures.

The Commission was repeatedly criticized during the Assembly by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and Bolivian President Evo Morales, reported the Colombian radio broadcaster Radio Santa Fe. Correa, along with Venezuelan and Nicaraguan representatives and members of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, accused the OAS, especially the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, of “acting as an instrument of the U.S. government for damaging leftist governments,” according to the Peruvian newspaper La República.

The OAS made the controversial decision to accept the recommendations despite the fact that many organizations, such as the Global Network for Free Expression, warned that the approval of the reforms would mean “a harsh hit for freedom of expression and of the press in the hemisphere” and that it would put “journalists and other citizens at risk,” just as the Committee to Protect Journalist said in a statement during the end of May. The Inter American Press Association also rejected the reforms, which the group said would “neutralize and weaken" the work of the Commission and the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.