New edition of course on freedom of expression begins with more than 2,000 judicial operators from Ibero-America

A new edition of the free online course on International Legal Framework of freedom of expression, access to public information and protection of journalists began on April 1 with 2,126 judicial operators from Ibero-America.

The initiative, which seeks to train magistrates, judges and other judicial operators, was created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). It is coordinated by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin.

The objective is to have ongoing training for these judicial operators, as well as to create channels of dialogue and connection between them, according to a UNESCO press release.

“Participants share similar challenges such as the role of the Judiciary in protecting and guaranteeing the rights to freedom of expression, access to public information and security of journalists, even if they come from different nations,” UNESCO said.

On this occasion, there are representatives from 20 Ibero-American countries, with the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico. The countries with the most participants are Mexico, Peru, Ecuador and Argentina.

At the end of this new edition of the course, almost 10,000 judges, prosecutors, defenders and officials of the Judiciary, public prosecution, public defenders, national human rights institutions and access to public information entities will have been trained through this initiative.

“The uniqueness of this initiative is that, in a context of challenges for the protection of the rights to freedom of expression, access to public information and the safety of journalists, we have the support of international organizations and an informal network of 10,000 judicial officers committed to the application of international standards in the national contexts. It is a pleasure for UNESCO to take part,” said Guilherme Canela, Communication and Information Regional Adviser of the UNESCO Office in Montevideo, according to the organization’s press release.

For UNESCO, this informal network created through these courses “presents a structure without geographical limits whose purpose is to promote freedom of expression, access to information and the protection of journalists, so that the trinomial of democracy, development and human rights reach its maximum expression.”

The course has the same structure as the massive open online courses (MOOC) taught by the Knight Center. As in previous editions, this course consists of six modules taught through video classes, readings, questionnaires, discussion forums and other assigned activities.

The instructors are Catalina Botero, dean of the Faculty of Law of the University of Los Andes (Colombia) and former Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR, and Edison Lanza, current Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR.

Participants who meet the requirements of the course may request a certificate of participation that can be downloaded from the platform where the course is taught. No formal academic credit is linked to this certificate.

“We are very honored to have the opportunity to once again offer this pioneering and unique course for judges and judicial operators in Ibero-America. I thank the partners: UNESCO, IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship without which this program would not exist,” said Professor Rosental Alves, director and founder of the Knight Center.

“At the Knight Center we are convinced of the importance of freedom of expression as a pillar of a democratic society. Being part of these courses since the initiative began in 2014 is for us a source of pride and drive to continue with our mission of work,” Alves added.

The course has the support of the Ibero-American Judicial Summit, the Ibero-American Network of Judicial Schools, the Foundation for Press Freedom, the Latin American Internet Association, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the OAS School of Government, the Government of Sweden and the University of the Andes.

This is the fifth edition of the course at the Latin American level, but two other editions have been given at the regional level. UNESCO and the Office of the Special Rapporteur, in collaboration with the Knight Center, offered a pilot version of this course aimed exclusively at Mexican judicial operators in November 2014. In September 2015, a similar course designed exclusively for judicial operators and journalists in the Mexican state of Coahuila was offered. This was the first course of this kind directed at the state level in the world. At the end of 2015, an edition was offered at a Latin American level, followed by editions in 2016, 2017 and 2018 during the first semesters of each year.

In total, more than 7,600 judges and other judicial operators, such as prosecutors and court officials in Latin America (except Cuba) have participated in the six previous editions of these courses.