IAPA: University students call for greater support of inter-American human rights
Miami (March 30, 2012)— Law and journalism students, brought together by the
Inter American Press Association (IAPA), concurred that contempt laws, criminal
sanctions levied against journalists, and lack of access to public information
conspire against freedom of the press and democracy.
These conclusions were reached during the hemispheric conference “The Inter-
American Human Rights System and Freedom of Expression” held earlier this
week in Washington, D.C. at the campus of American University, Washington
College of Law (WCL).
In collaboration with American University, Stanford University and the Inter-
American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the IAPA brought together
more than 70 law and journalism students representative of 15 universities from
11 countries in the Americas. The objective for participating students included the
examination of the inter-American system's successes, reversals and challenges,
as well as the review of litigation and conciliation cases, and the comparison of
defamation and access to public information norms.
The Conference's goal was to make future leaders aware of the supra-national
and inter-governmental mechanisms that can be used to defend and promote
freedom of expression among the people of the Americas.
Below are some of the main conclusions drawn by participating students after
debating the topics that international experts presented during the event:
Academics, judges and public prosecutors should be given more training
on the international human rights system.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) should have
more rigorous criteria concerning the admissibility of denunciations.
Students also urged that more cases reach “amicable solutions” and that
together with the Inter-American Court, the Commission should solve
more freedom of expression and of the press cases to create judicial
For the system to operate effectively and equitably, all countries, including
the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean nations should ratify the
American Convention on Human Rights.
The budget and operational capacity recommendations that the
Permanent Council of the Organization of American States has made to
the IACHR concerning the Office of Special Rapporteur for Freedom of
Expression put in danger that office's autonomy and effectiveness.
Contempt laws should be eliminated and defamation should no longer be
a criminal offense when public officials are involved. Also, there should be
limits on civil responsibility.
Journalists should have special protection due to their social role. Crimes
against journalists should not be subject to statutes of limitations. The
need to create systems of protection was also underscored.
Norms on transparency and access to public information are difficult to
apply and rarely complied with. The creation of autonomous organisms to
control the implementation of these norms and create awareness among
the public was emphasized to avert the reluctance of governments to
divulge public information and to educate citizens on how to request this
kind of data.
In addition to the work at American University, students had an opportunity to
visit the headquarters of the Organization of American States (OAS), have a
dialogue with Santiago Canton and Catalina Botero, IACHR Executive Secretary
and Special Rapporteur, respectively, and to attend a negotiation session
between IACHR commissioners and Peruvian government and civil society
The conference was sponsored by the following institutions: James McClatchy
Fund of the San Francisco Foundation, Scripps Howard News Service and The
Scripps Howard Foundation, Central Valley Foundation, The William and Flora
Hewlett Foundation, James B. McClatchy Chair of Stanford University, and the
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
The IAPA was represented by the following officers and executives: Milton
Coleman, IAPA president and Senior Editor of The Washington Post; Gustavo
Mohme, Chair of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information and
Editor of La República, Peru; Edward Seaton, former IAPA President and Editor
of The Manhattan Mercury, Kansas; Miguel H. Otero, Chair of the Chapultepec
Committee and Editor of El Nacional, Venezuela; Julio E. Muñoz, Executive
Director; Ricardo Trotti, Press Freedom Director; Viviana Bianchi, Director of
Development, and Melba Jiménez of the Impunity Project.
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 http://www.sipiapa.org