Letter to OAS supports Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, opposes proposals to limit human rights system

A group of 16 organizations that belong to the Global Network for Free Expression (IFEX) sent a letter to the Organization of American States (OAS) calling for the strengthening of the regional human rights system, which includes the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, the Inter American Human Rights Court, and the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.

The letter was sent in anticipation of the 42nd OAS General Assembly, June 3-5 in the city of Cochabamba in Bolivia, where different proposals will be discussed to change the Inter American human rights system, according to the Venezuelan newspaper El Universal. The proposals caused concern among diverse human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch, which said that these changes would weaken the Human Rights Commission, reported the news agency AFP. On May 10, the OAS General Secretary, José Miguel Insulza, said that the human rights defense mission doesn't fit with Latin America's reality anymore and therefore, the Commission should be updated, according to the newspaper La Nación.

In 2011, the Venezuelan government said that it would withdraw from the Inter American human rights system, and the Ecuadorian, Peruvian, and Brazilian governments expressed their disapproval of decisions made by the Commission, according to the news agency AFP.

The organizations that advocate for press freedom highlighted in the letter the efforts of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression to decriminalize libel in the region, report impunity in crimes against journalists, and provide protection measures for threatened reporters. The letter was a way for the signing organizations to express concern about the changes that were proposed after a work group led by Ecuador and Venezuela presented recommendations that would limit the financial support of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression as well as the Commission's ability to protect human rights victims and to report governmental abuses.

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.

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