OAS member states to vote on possible changes to Special Rapporteurship
IPI welcomes strong statement from Colombian president in support of free expression
By: Scott Griffen, Press Freedom Adviser for Latin America and the Caribbean
VIENNA, March 20, 2013 – Foreign ministers representing the 35 members of the Organisation of American States (OAS) will gather this Friday in Washington for a possible vote on proposed reforms to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) that the International Press Institute (IPI) fears would greatly weaken the OAS Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.
In a series of special reports, IPI concluded that recommendations inserted by the government of Ecuador are specifically designed to prevent the Special Rapporteur, Colombian lawyer Catalina Botero, from carrying out her mandate of safeguarding freedom of the press and of expression in the Western Hemisphere.
Early this month, more than 30 members of the IFEX freedom of exchange network signed a joint declaration urging OAS member states “to reject any proposal contrary to the mission of protecting free expression in the Americas.” IPI later distributed this declaration to diplomatic representations of OAS member states in Europe.
The proposals are expected to be accepted or rejected by majority vote. While Ecuador and its allies – including Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua – will likely provide strong support, the position of other member states is less certain.
However, on Monday Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos spoke out strongly in opposition: “We do not share extreme positions, nor the attempt to weaken the Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression, whose role has been crucial in protecting such an important freedom for the democratic development of our people.”
IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said: “IPI’s members across the world welcome the Colombian president’s firm expression of support for the OAS Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression. We hope that his words will inspire other OAS member states to ensure that the Special Rapporteurship can continue its valuable work in an independent fashion.”