On March 22, the Organization of American States (OAS) held its 44th Special Session of the General Assembly to approve recommendations presented by the Permanent Council for strengthening the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Last week, Freedom House signed on to a declaration by almost 100 policy figures and former heads of state that urged the OAS to sustain the commission’s mandate to protect fundamental freedoms in Latin America. Freedom House trustee Diana Villiers Negroponte shares her views on the significance of the final resolution, agreed upon after 12 hours of deliberation by OAS foreign ministers, and what it means for the future of the IACHR as an independent watchdog in the region.
One year ago, U.S. lawmakers discovered what happens when you mess with the internet, as Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, and millions of ordinary users helped “black out” the net on January 18 to protest SOPA and PIPA—two controversial pieces of legislation that were designed to fight online piracy, but threatened instead to censor the internet and disrupt the way it functions. Since that day, there has been a rise in new laws around the world that restrict free speech online and prompt arrests of internet users, a key trend identified in Freedom House’s 2012 Freedom on the Netreport.
Freedom House condemns attempts to re-criminalize defamation of high level public figures in Panama as well as the conviction of two journalists on libel charges, and strongly urges the government to adhere to international standards by decriminalizing all forms of libel and defamation.