Miami (June 1, 2012) -- The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) asked Organization of American States (OAS) member countries to support the struggle for human rights and freedom of expression in the Western Hemisphere by rejecting a set of recommendations that seek to neutralize and weaken the work of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.
The OAS will hold its 42nd General Assembly from June 3-5 in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where it will decide on proposals to reform the Inter-American Human Rights System, elaborated in January by an inter-governmental working group. A proposal by the OAS General Secretary, José Miguel Insulza, to reform the IACHR Statute could also be approved. This proposal would give the General Assembly powers to redefine the functions of the Commission and its corresponding rapporteurs’ offices in the processing of cases and drafting of reports. It would also allow the States themselves to define the terms of how they should be monitored for their human rights violations.
IAPA President, Milton Coleman, senior editor of The Washington Post, Washington, DC, said “Regardless of the legitimate issues that will be discussed, we are concerned about any effort to put forward reform proposals that seek to restrict the independence and effectiveness of the Commission and its Rapporteur’s Office.” He also said that these institutions had been playing a critical role in maintaining and expanding the people’s rights to information, freedom of press and free speech.
Coleman added “We are hopeful that OAS member States will value freedom of expression and press as fundamental principles that contribute to the common good and to democracy,” as established in the Inter-American Democratic Charter and the Pact of San José, Costa Rica.
Other recommendations by the OAS working group, establishing that the Office of the Rapporteur could not seek funding outside of the realm of governments in the Americas, that its annual report could not make reference to individual countries, but rather it should generalize its statements; and that the Rapporteur’s Office must be governed by a code of conduct supervised by governments, will also be discussed in Cochabamba.
The Chair of the IAPA Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gustavo Mohme, regretted that a human rights issue had been politicized. “The existence of a better environment to analyze recommendations that would make the Inter American System more efficient is imperative so that they are not used to limit the monitoring, denunciation, and remedies necessary to protect citizens’ human rights and freedom of expression.”
“To restrict the autonomy and functions of the IACHR and its Rapporteur’s Office,” added Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, “Is to take away citizens’ hopes that they can count on the necessary institutional order to defend their rights and feel protected.”
During its April Assembly in Cadiz, Spain, the IAPA issued a resolution on this issue on behalf of its more than 1,300 members. (http://bit.ly/JRZuj2)
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to www.sipiapa.org.