Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression


The Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression is one of the special mechanisms overseen by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The Commission created the Rapporteurship during its 97th Session in 1997. See, e.g., IACHR, Press Release No. 13/97, 17 October 1997. The Heads of State and Government of the Americas expressed their approval for the creation of the Special Rapporteur during the Second Summit of the Americas, and ratified the Special Rapporteur’s mandate during the Third Summit. See, e.g., IACHR, Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression. The purpose of the Rapporteurship is to protect and promote the freedom of expression throughout the Organization of American States (OAS) Member States.


In order to elect the Special Rapporteur, the Commission must publicly post the position, which allows individuals who are not members of the Commission to apply. The Commission then accepts comments from OAS Member States and civil society regarding the final candidates, and ultimately reaches a majority vote to elect the new Rapporteur. See Rules of Procedure of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, art. 15. Each Rapporteur serves in an independent capacity and does not represent his or her country of citizenship. In contrast to the thematic rapporteurships, the Rapporteur who holds the office undertakes his or her work on a full-time basis, including during the three times per year that the Commission is in session. Multiple staff members, in Washington D.C., assist the Rapporteur with his or her work.

The Rapporteur has many duties, including conducting country visits to OAS Member States, providing advisory support to OAS bodies, drafting special statements on cases and situations related to the freedom of expression, and preparing publications. The Rapporteur also encourages Member States to adopt initiatives that protect the freedom of expression, and coordinates with national human rights institutions to follow-up on situations involving the freedom of expression. The Rapporteurship also advises the Commission in its processing of individual petitions, cases, and requests for provisional and precautionary measures that involve the right to the freedom of expression. On its website, the Rapporteurship lists the Inter-American decisions and judgments that address freedom of expression, and also has links to case law from other human rights systems.

Country Visits

The Rapporteurship conducts country visits to OAS Member States, with their consent. The Rapporteur is often accompanied by other members of the Commission or members of the Executive Secretariat staff. During country visits, the Rapporteur engages with government officials, academics, and civil society organizations, among others. The Rapporteur uses information gathered from the visit to draft reports and develop recommendations to Member States to assist them in fulfilling their international obligations. The Rapporteurship publishes reports following its country visits on its website.

Receiving Information

Aside from information gathered during country visits, the Rapporteurship often obtains information through promotional activities, including the organization of seminars, workshops, and specialized meetings. The Rapporteurship is often invited to participate in public hearings or regional meetings of international experts on the right to the freedom of expression.

Additionally, the Commission holds thematic hearings to gather information from States and civil society on particular issues. The Rapporteur may participate in these hearings or refer to the information discussed in subsequent reports. View the Commission’s searchable database of public hearings to see those related to the freedom of expression.


The Rapporteurship publishes thematic reports and studies on issues affecting the freedom of expression. The Rapporteurship has a duty to provide the Commission with annual reports of its activities, which the Commission then shares in its own Annual Reports to the OAS General Assembly. The Rapporteurship’s annual reports include best practices, outline the challenges faced that year, discuss jurisprudence related to the freedom of expression, and contain recommendations to Member States.


The Rapporteurship may be contacted by:

  • Mail:

Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
1889 F Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006

  • Telephone: +1 (202) 370-4614

The Rapporteurship does not receive individual complaints or requests for precautionary measures. Such petitions and requests must be addressed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. For additional information, see the petition form or IJRC’s resources on the Inter-American human rights system.