Principles on Freedom of Expression

Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression 

Approved by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in October 2000, during the 108th regular period



The need to ensure in the hemisphere the respect and full validity of individual freedoms and fundamental rights of human beings through a rule of law;

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That the consolidation and development of democracy depends on the existence of freedom of expression;


That the right to freedom of expression is essential for the development of knowledge and understanding among peoples. That will lead to true understanding and cooperation among the nations of the hemisphere;


That when the free debate of ideas and opinions is hindered, freedom of expression and the effective development of the democratic process are limited;


That by guaranteeing the right of access to information held by the State, greater transparency of government actions will be achieved by strengthening democratic institutions;


That freedom of expression is a fundamental right recognized in the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Resolution 59 (I) of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Resolution 104 adopted by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational Organization. Science and Culture (UNESCO). The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As in other international instruments and national constitutions;


That the principles of Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights represent the legal framework to which the Member States of the Organization of American States are subject;


Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights states that the right to freedom of expression includes the freedom to seek, receive and disseminate information and ideas without regard to borders and by any means of transmission;


The importance of freedom of expression for the development and protection of human rights. The fundamental role assigned to it by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the full support it had in creating the Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression. As a fundamental instrument for the protection of this right in the hemisphere. At the Summit of the Americas held in Santiago, Chile;


That freedom of the press is essential for the realization of the full and effective exercise of freedom of expression and an indispensable instrument for the functioning of representative democracy, through which citizens exercise their right to receive, disseminate and seek information;


That the principles of the Declaration of Chapultepec constitute a basic document that contemplates the guarantees and defense of freedom of expression, freedom and independence of the press and the right to information;


That freedom of expression is not a concession of States, but a fundamental right;


The need to effectively protect freedom of expression in the Americas, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in support of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, adopts the following Declaration of Principles;

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1.    Freedom of expression, in all its forms and manifestations, is a fundamental and inalienable right, inherent in all people. It is also an indispensable requirement for the very existence of a democratic society.
2.    Everyone has the right to seek, receive and disseminate information and opinions freely in the terms stipulated in Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights. All persons must have equal opportunities to receive, seek and impart information by any means of communication without discrimination, for any reason, including those of race, color, religion, sex, language, political opinions or any other nature, origin national or social, economic position, birth or any other social condition.
3.    Everyone has the right to access information about himself or his property in an expeditious and non-onerous manner, whether it is contained in databases, public or private records and, if necessary, update, rectify and / or or amend it.
4.    Access to information held by the State is a fundamental right of individuals. States are obliged to guarantee the exercise of this right. This principle only admits exceptional limitations that must be previously established by law in case there is a real and imminent danger that threatens national security in democratic societies.
5.    Prior censorship, interference or direct or indirect pressure on any expression, opinion or information disseminated through any means of oral, written, artistic, visual or electronic communication must be prohibited by law. Restrictions on the free movement of ideas and opinions. As well as the arbitrary imposition of information and the creation of obstacles to the free flow of information, violate the right to freedom of expression.
6.    Everyone has the right to communicate their opinions by any means and form. Compulsory registration or the requirement of titles for the exercise of journalistic activity constitute an illegitimate restriction on freedom of expression. Journalistic activity must be governed by ethical behaviors, which in no case may be imposed by the States.
7.    Prior conditions, such as truthfulness, timeliness or impartiality on the part of States, are incompatible with the right to freedom of expression recognized in international instruments.
8.    Every social communicator has the right to reserve their sources of information, notes and personal and professional files.
9.    Murder, kidnapping, intimidation, threat to social communicators. As well as the material destruction of the media, it violates people’s fundamental rights and severely restricts freedom of expression. It is the duty of the states to prevent and investigate these facts, punish their perpetrators and assure the victims of adequate reparation.
10. Privacy laws should not inhibit or restrict the investigation and dissemination of information of public interest. Reputation protection should be guaranteed only through civil penalties, in cases where the offended person is a public official or public or private person who has voluntarily involved in matters of public interest. In addition, in these cases, it must be proved that in the dissemination of the news the communicator intended to inflict damage or full knowledge that false news was being disseminated or was conducted with manifest negligence in the search for the truth or falsity thereof.
11. Public officials are subject to greater scrutiny by society. Laws that criminalize offensive expression directed at public officials generally known as “ contempt laws” undermine freedom of expression and the right to information.
12. Monopolies or oligopolies in the ownership and control of the media must be subject to antitrust laws as they conspire against democracy by restricting the plurality and diversity that ensures the full exercise of citizens’ right to information. In no case should these laws be exclusive to the media. Radio and television assignments should consider democratic criteria that guarantee equal opportunities for all individuals in their access.
13. The use of state power and public finance resources. The granting of tariff prebends. The arbitrary and discriminatory allocation of official publicity and official credits. The granting of radio and television frequencies, among others, with the aim of pressuring and punishing or rewarding and privileging social communicators and the media based on their information lines, threatens freedom of expression and must be expressly prohibited. by the law. The social media have the right to carry out their work independently. Direct or indirect pressures aimed at silencing the informative work of social communicators are incompatible with freedom of expression.
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