Freedom of Expression in the Inter-American System for the Protection of Human Rights
American University - Washington College of Law
Nova Law Review, Vol. 25, p. 411, 2001
Freedom of expression is one of democracy's fundamental values. Its importance takes on special connotations in nations where the separation of powers is fragile. This is particularly true in many Western Hemisphere nations-in transition from long years of dictatorships-that have political systems characterized by weak judicial and legislative branches which fail to provide effective counterweights to an all-powerful executive branch.
Argentine social scientist Guillermo O'Donnell has characterized such systems as "delegative democracies," where a charismatic figure assumes the presidency after relatively free elections, and then governs without the traditional counterweights normally associated with a representative democracy. Inherent in such "delegative democracies" is a risk of backsliding into authoritarianism. Faced with serious problems with no easy solutions, the popular enthusiasm that leads to the election of such charismatic leaders is tempered by subsequent disillusion.
Since judicial and legislative powers in these nations are so weak, freedom of expression-essential to every society-functions as the fundamental counterweight. It allows information to be gathered and disseminated, strengthens civil society, and facilitates individual participation in the democratic process.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 32
Keywords: human rights, freedom of expression, OAS, censorship, democracy
Date posted: March 22, 2009 ; Last revised: March 25, 2009