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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

New MOOC on freedom of expression breaks record and reaches 2,200 judges and justice operators in Latin America



The new edition of the Spanish-language online course, “International Legal Framework on Freedom of Expression, Access to Public Information and Protection of Journalists,” starts on May 8 with 2,200 judges and justice operators from Latin America. The number of participants, including hundreds of judges, is a record, compared with the four previous editions of the course.

In the past three years, this innovative training initiative of the UNESCO and the office of the special rapporteur on freedom of expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had already reached more than 3,000 judges and other justice operators, like prosecutors and court officials from all Latin American countries (except Cuba). With the most recent course, that number will rise to more than 5,000.

Participants this time around come from 19 Latin American countries, plus the U.S. and Spain. The top countries represented are Peru, Mexico, Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and Guatemala.

This course is part of an initiative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in collaboration with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin.

“We want to encourage a broad regional debate on the protection and promotion of freedom of expression in the context of the Judiciary, especially at a time when many courts throughout the region are receiving more and more cases related to the violation of freedom of expression and associated rights,” said Lidia Brito, director of UNESCO’s Regional Office of Science for Latin America and the Caribbean, according to a release from the organization.

According to the statement, the increase in cases related to freedom of expression and specific topics course topics “presents judicial operators with new challenges.”

“The context in which freedom of expression placed in today is very different to that of 70 plus years ago, when it was inscribed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For instance, freedom of expression on the Internet or access to public information are 21st century challenges faced by todays judiciaries. Twenty years ago, only one country in Latin America and the Caribbean had an access to information law, today there are approximately 20 countries and regulatory frameworks to monitor them," said Guilherme Canela, UNESCO Communications and Information Adviser.

The course is composed of six modules that consist of video lessons, reading materials, quizzes, discussion forums and other assigned activities. Additional topics look at jurisprudence.

The MOOC is taught by Edison Lanza, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR; Catalina Botero, dean of the law school at the Universidad de Los Andes and former Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR; and Frank La Rue, Unesco’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information and former UN Special Rapporteur for on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression.

Students who successfully complete course assignments, including quizzes, may download a certificate of completion, which does not have any academic credit, but documents successful participation in this online program.

“Those who exercise jurisdiction must be the principle actors in defending all freedoms, especially freedom of expression and access to information. Therefore, the judiciaries are fundamental pillars of democratic societies and the International Legal Framework for Freedom of Expression, Access to Public Information and the Safety of Journalists course is a necessary tool for understanding international standards on human rights laws,” Judge Alba Alvizuris of Guatemala, who completed the second edition of the course in 2016, told UNESCO.  

The course is supported by the Ibero-American Network for Schools of Judges, the Foundation for Press Freedom, the Latin American Internet Association, the OAS School of Government, Universidad de Los Andres, Ibero-American Judicial Summit and the Government of Sweden



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