Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies

President Judge Ricardo Pérez Manrique Discusses Challenges and Opportunities for Freedom of Expression in the 21st Century

April 20, 2022

On Tuesday, April 19, CLAIS hosted Ricardo Pérez Manrique, President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, for an hour-long discussion about freedom of expression and human rights in contemporary Latin America.

The event was part of the 2022 Latin American Policy Leader Speaker Series, which is a semester-long collaboration between CLAIS, the Fox International Fellowship Program, and the Program on Peace and Development. Speaking in Spanish and aided by live English-language interpretation, Pérez Manrique offered his reflections on a variety of pressing issues, from disinformation to regulating social media companies.

The talk began with an introduction by Claudia Valeggia, who is the Chair of CLAIS and a professor of anthropology. Professor Valeggia offered her thanks to all of the event’s participants and attendees before introducing its moderator, Professor Claudia Flores of Yale Law School and the University of Chicago. Professor Flores similarly expressed her appreciation for the Latin American Policy Leader program and emphasized her gratitude to Pérez Manrique for being willing to share his time and knowledge.

Pérez Manrique then launched into a presentation on the Inter-American System of Human Rights (Sistema Interamericano de Derechos Humanos or SIDH). As he explained, this system began in 1948 with the founding of the Organization of American States and expanded throughout the 20th century with new institutions like the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Although these institutions seek to uphold a long list of rights and freedoms, Pérez Manrique emphasized the particular importance of freedom of expression as the “piedra de democracia,” or bedrock of democracy, in Latin America.

Even as the internet has facilitated the exchange of information in the 21st century, recent upticks in violence against journalists poses a new threat to freedom of expression in the region. Pérez Manrique warned audience members of the need for further protections for journalists against assassination attempts as well as everyday forms of harassment, to which women and Indigenous journalists are especially vulnerable.

After Pérez Manrique expressed optimism about the role of international courts in achieving these protections, Professor Flores launched into an extensive Q&A session. Audience members posed questions on a wide range of topics, including the governance of social media companies like Facebook, the effects of covid-19 on the availability of public health information, and the global trend of violence against journalists. Once Pérez Manrique had offered thoughtful responses to these questions, Professor Flores concluded the session and reiterated her thanks to the President Judge and to all of the event’s attendees.

The next event of the Latin American Policy Leader speaker series will feature María-Noel Vaeza, Regional Director of the United Nations Women for the Americas and the Caribbean. Register here to join the virtual conversation on May 4th, and be sure to follow CLAIS Twitter for more news and updates regarding this series.

The series is generously supported by the George Herbert Walker Jr. Lecture Fund in International Studies at the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies.

By Charlie Mayock-Bradley, Yale College Class of 2023