Fundamedios and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press will denounce freedom of expression and press freedom violations occurring during the recent protests in the United States at the 177th Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights on Oct. 7, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. ET.
The IACHR is an essential body of the Human Rights Protection System of the Organization of American States, and is in charge of contextualizing and documenting violations of human rights and holding states accountable for their actions and failures to protect their citizens’ rights.
The hearing is open to the public and, due to Covid-19, will be held remotely. Those who are interested in attending virtually can register online.
Law enforcement’s detention of or use of force against members of the press lawfully engaged in newsgathering during protests violates not only international standards of human rights, but also U.S. law — in particular the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to gather and report news, as well as the right to document police activity in public.
The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, of which the Reporters Committee serves on the advisory board, has tracked upwards of 800 reported incidents where journalists have been assaulted, arrested or otherwise targeted while lawfully engaged in news gathering at protests and demonstrations so far this year. Among these incidents are instances where law enforcement has assaulted journalists who were clearly identified as members of the news media with less-lethal munitions like tear gas or rubber bullets. More than 200 of these incidents have been documented and confirmed. Fundamedios has also documented the cases of 25 journalists of Latino origin and how they suffered harassment, attacks or arbitrary detentions during the demonstrations.
The U.S. has historically sought to promote press freedoms in the Western hemisphere and throughout the world. These recent violations of press rights in the U.S. threaten to severely undermine its credibility globally and encourage similar abuses in other countries, particularly those facing authoritarian pressures.
The U.S. has not ratified the American Convention on Human Rights, but as a member of the OAS, it should abide by the standards established by the American Declaration of Human Rights, which is relevant to all member states. Furthermore, the rights to freedom of expression and of the press are fully established as an obligation by all states in international human rights law and doctrine.
In presenting this information, Fundamedios and the Reporters Committee request the IACHR:
- Develop a further investigation by the Rapporteur of Freedom of Expression of the Commission with the purpose of establishing a pattern in the conduct of police and security forces in the U.S. (including local, state and federal authorities) in response to public demonstrations.
- Make an assessment, based on the investigation, of the right to peaceful demonstration in the U.S. according to national and international human rights law and standards to establish:
- whether there has been a pattern of aggressions against journalists who are legitimately covering these public events.
- a set of principles and recommendations for police and security authorities at local, state and federal levels in relationship to the respect of the press during public events of any kind, in particular of demonstrations, and how to guarantee freedom of the press and safety of journalists.
- a mandate that every law enforcement agency engaged in crowd control train each officer that the right to document police activity in public is clearly established and officers violating that right will not receive legal immunity.
The Reporters Committee regularly files friend-of-the-court briefs and its attorneys represent journalists and news organizations pro bono in court cases that involve First Amendment freedoms, the newsgathering rights of journalists and access to public information. Stay up-to-date on our work by signing up for our monthly newsletter and following us on Twitter or Instagram.