UNESCO joins forces with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to advance freedom of expression

16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay and the President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights Human (IACHR), Judge Eduardo Ferrer Mac-Gregor, signed at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris on 2 October 2019 a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen the protection of freedom of expression, press freedom and safety of journalists in the Latin American and the Caribbean region.

“Over the past six years UNESCO has successfully trained thousands of judicial actors in Latin America thanks to our partnerships in the region, including with the Inter-American Court on Human Rights,” said UNESCO Director-General Azoulay. “This agreement is an important new step to further strengthen this cooperation, which is absolutely vital to ensuring freedom of expression and fighting against impunity, at a time when nine out of ten journalist murders across the world still go unpunished.” The agreement will contribute to the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which aims to create a free and safe environment for journalists and media workers around the world. It includes the strengthening of capacities and knowledge of judicial actors on the international and regional legal frameworks governing freedom of expression and press freedom. It will facilitate the development of joint activities, such as seminars, training workshops and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) on freedom of expression issues.

“Access to public Information, freedom of expression and of course the safety of journalists are subjects that the Inter-American Court of Human Rights has developed. We have already been working on the dissemination of these international standards with UNESCO. Today’s agreement formalizes and strengthens even more the strong relationship between our institutions,” said Eduardo Ferrer Mac-Gregor, President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

The MoU follows similar agreements signed with three other major regional courts and organizations in recent years, including the Ibero-American Judicial Summit, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and most recently the ECOWAS Court of Justice, signed in July this year. These agreements are part of a major global effort of UNESCO to put in place specialized training of judicial officials and exchanges in the areas of freedom of expression, access to public information and safety of journalists.

Since 2013, UNESCO has developed a solid set of tools in Latin America, along with on-the-ground workshops for judges, prosecutors, lawyers and civil society, which have helped reinforce international and regional standards of freedom of expression. The online courses have already reached around 12,000 judicial officers in Latin America, and provided crucial training to help defend free speech and end impunity for crimes against journalists.

Following the successful cooperation between UNESCO and many regional partners to implement Massive Open Online Courses, the project was extended to Africa, in cooperation

with the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and led to the training of more than 1,800 judicial officers and civil society representatives.