Friday, 7 December 2012

Intervention at OAS Permanent Council

Washington DC - December 7, 2012

Everywhere in the Caribbean we now reflect on times when persistent social, economic and political challenges had not as much tested our will and resilience as a people as they currently do.

As an organisation of journalists and other media workers, our members are close witnesses to all of this and prepare the first drafts of history not as passive observers but as active subjects of such change - freedom of expression being our principal asset.

Our interest in ensuring a future built on the foundation of unqualified support for human rights and the conditions that assure essential freedoms is thus not open to negotiation. Our partners within the Latin American and Caribbean Alliance of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange all share this uncompromising position.

We all view the role of the Inter-American Human Rights System as indispensable. However estranged from its processes Caribbean member states sometimes appear, had there not been such a mechanism for mediating questions of con-compliance with accepted norms, we would have had, in 2012, to invent such an institution.

Indeed, there is perhaps space for greater professional Caribbean participation and more direct acknowledgement of the contributions we already make, but there is no excuse for indifference to the requirement of a strong, independent and appropriately resourced infrastructure for monitoring and reporting trends and violations.

We are, in this regard, particularly concerned that Chapter 6 (of the OAS) recommendations will have the impact of significantly weakening the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression by compromising its independence and weakening its resource base.

We in fact propose a more concerted effort to elevate such a function of the inter-American system to a position of greater influence and prominence. Recent actions to repeal criminal defamation in some Caribbean territories and growing recognition of the need for access to information laws provide us with some confidence that this sub-region is ready to reflect collectively, as we often do, on a question of grave relevance to our future as sovereign states.

Development achieved in the absence of freedom and rights is guaranteed not to persist over the long term. This is especially so when we recognise the interdependent relationship between economic, social and cultural rights and the civil and political rights we cherish and are prepared to strenuously defend.

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