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7 Freedom of Expression

From: The American Convention on Human Rights: Essential Rights

Thomas M. Antkowiak, Alejandra Gonza

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015. All Rights Reserved.date: 01 December 2020

Subject(s):
Access to information — Political expression — Civic expression — Hate speech — Media, freedom — Principle of legality

The Convention was designed to provide vibrant guarantees for the freedom of thought and expression. Among treaties, it contains the only prohibition against prior censorship and features an innovative provision on “indirect” restrictions to expression. Interpreting Article 13, the Court became the first international human rights tribunal to establish the right to access State-held information. The Court has issued several decisions that condemned censorship and disproportionate sanctions on expression, protecting the Article 13 rights of individuals and society at large. In 2008, however, the Court began to allow more constraints on expression and to require more responsibilities of speakers. We argue that the Court must change its recent approach and prohibit criminal sanctions on expression that are used by States to protect honor and reputation. The Tribunal also must develop clear definitions and rules concerning any sanctions on speech, with the goal to promote vigorous public debate.

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