A Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by an international body to examine and report back on a specific situation, in this case the right to freedom of expression. Civil society organisations such as PEN are able to engage with the Special Rapporteurs to draw attention to particular freedom of expression issues.
This position is honorary and the expert is not United Nations staff, nor paid for their work. The current Special Rapporteur on the Right to Freedom of Expression is Frank La Rue of Guatemala.
The post was created in 1993, and the Rapporteur’s mandate includes:
- Gathering all relevant information on violations of the right to freedom of expression, discrimination, threats, persecution or intimidation directed at persons seeking to exercise this right (particularly journalists or other professionals in the field of information);
- Seeking, receiving and responding to credible and reliable information from Governments, non-governmental organizations and any other parties who have knowledge of these cases; and
- Making recommendations and providing suggestions on how to better promote and protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression in all its manifestations.
In the discharge of his mandate the Special Rapporteur can transmit urgent appeals to Member States and undertake fact-finding country visits, alongside preparing annual reports.
The Special Rapporteur’s office receives all alerts issued by PEN relating to attacks on writers and journalists in the practice of their profession for his information and action as he considers appropriate.
The Annual Reports of the UN Special Rapporteur can be found here.
How PEN Centres can engage with the UN Special Rapporteur
Both individuals and organisations can submit evidence on violations of the right to freedom of expression to the Special Rapporteur. When he receives substantiated evidence of a particular case, he can either make an urgent appeal or, in non-urgent cases, write an allegation letter (to the Government concerned, requesting more information on a particular violation).
For further information on making an individual complaint, and guidelines on what it should include, visit the Special Rapporteur’s site.
The current Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Expression and Access to Information is Faith Pansy Tlakula of South Africa.
The post was created in 2004, and the Rapporteur’s mandate includes:
- analysing national media legislation, policies and practice within Member States, monitoring their compliance with freedom of expression and access to information standards, and advising Member States accordingly;
- undertaking fact-finding missions to Member States from where reports of systemic violations of the right to freedom of expression and denial of access to information have reached the attention of the Special Rapporteur and making appropriate recommendations to the African Commission;
- making public interventions where violations of the right to freedom of expression and access to information have been brought to her attention, by issuing public statements, press releases, and sending appeals to Member States asking for clarifications;
- keeping a proper record of violations of the right to freedom of expression and denial of access to information and publish this in her reports submitted to the African Commission; and
- submitting reports at each Ordinary Session of the African Commission on the status of the enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and access to information in Africa.
The reports of the Special Rapporteur can be accessed here.
How PEN Centres can engage with the Special Rapporteur
The Special Rapporteur’s mandate includes collecting and recording violations of the right to freedom of expression in Africa. PEN Centres can assist in the fulfilment of this mandate by submitting information and highlighting urgent cases to the Special Rapporteur. Contact details of the Office of the Special Rapporteur can be found here.
The current Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression is Catalina Botero Marino of Colombia.
The post was created in 1998, and the Rapporteur’s mandate includes:
- Advising the IACHR in evaluating cases and requests for precautionary measures, preparing reports, and conducting on-site visits to OAS member countries to deepen the general observation of the situation and/or to investigate a particular situation having to do with the right to freedom of thought and expression.
- Conducting visits to OAS Member States.
- Promoting the adoption of legislative, judicial, administrative, or other types of measures that may be necessary to make effective the exercise of the right to freedom of thought and expression.
- Coordinating with ombudsmen’s offices or national human rights institutions to verify and follow up on conditions involving the exercise of the right to freedom of thought and expression in the Member States.
- Preparing specific and thematic reports, as well as an annual report on the situation regarding the right to freedom of thought and expression in the Americas, which will be considered by the full Inter-American Commission for its approval and inclusion in its Annual Report to the General Assembly.
The Special Rapporteur’s annual reports can be accessed here.
How PEN Centres can engage with the Special Rapporteur
The Special Rapporteur’s mandate includes collecting and recording violations of the right to freedom of expression in the OAS. PEN Centres can assist in the fulfilment of this mandate by submitting information and highlighting urgent cases to the Special Rapporteur. Click here for contact details of the Office of the Special Rapporteur.
The function of the Representative is to observe relevant media developments in OSCE States to provide early warning on violations of freedom of expression. The Representative’s second main task is to assist participating States by advocating and promoting full compliance with OSCE principles and commitments regarding freedom of expression and free media.
Dunja Mijatović of Bosnia and Herzegovina is the current OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.
The OSCE Representative’s mandate includes:
- Assuming an early warning function and co-operating closely with the Participating States, the Permanent Council, the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the High Commissioner on National Minorities and, where appropriate, other OSCE bodies, as well as with national and international media associations.
- Rapid response to serious non-compliance with OSCE principles and commitments by participating States. In case of serious problems caused, for instance, by obstruction of media activities and unfavorable working conditions for journalists, the Representative seeks direct contacts with the participating State and other parties involved, assesses the facts and contributes to the resolution of the issue.
- Collecting and receiving information on the situation of the media from all bona fide sources. Participating States and other interested parties (e.g. organizations or institutions, media and their representatives, relevant NGOs) may forward their requests, suggestions and comments related to strengthening and further developing compliance with OSCE principles and commitments, including alleged instances of intolerance by participating States (hate speech).
The Representative routinely consults with the Chairman-in-Office and reports on a regular basis to the Permanent Council, recommending further action where appropriate.
Reports of the Special Representative can be found here.
How PEN Centres can engage with the OSCE Representative
The OSCE Representative collects information from interested parties relating to freedom of the media. PEN Centres may engage with the Representative by submitting information for her consideration and drawing her attention to urgent cases.
Contact details for the office of the Special Representative can be found here.