14 December 2021. UNESCO webinar was held online on the topic ‘Freedom of Expression, Media and Law Enforcement in Latin America – Perspectives for a New Relationship’ (Spanish Libertad de expresión, medios de comunicación y fuerzas del orden público en América Latina-Perspectives para una nueva relación). The event was held with the support of the UNESCO International Programme for the Development of Communication.
The webinar was regional in nature, but more than 100 participants from different countries joined it. The International Police Association Russian Section also became an invited party.
The speakers made their reports within two panels:
- ‘Law enforcement and journalism – Current challenges to preserving freedom of expression and the safety of journalists in Latin America,’ which considered the theoretical aspects of this issue;
- ‘Perspectives for a new relationship between law enforcement and the media,’ which offered practical ways to reach the goals set.
The key issues discussed at the conference were the procedures for maintaining public order by law enforcement, including the police and security services, compliance by law enforcement practices with the rights of citizens to freedom of expression and access to information, as well as ensuring the safety of journalists in the course of their professional duties.
The issue of building trusting relations between the police and journalists was touched upon. The need for greater cooperation in order to better understand each other’s work, as well as the development and implementation of an effective communication strategy with the population were emphasised. It was noted that the fight against crime, the easing of domestic political tension cannot be achieved without the joint efforts of law enforcement agencies that represent the State and journalists as representatives of civil society. The problem of the use of violence by both sides was considered in detail as a result of the juxtaposition of two social groups’ duties, whereas their integration and mutual respect should take place.
The webinar was also attended by heads and representatives of educational institutions, developers of special courses for law enforcement officers, in which they study the basics of civil society and mechanisms of interaction with it. In particular, similar courses are already being conducted by UNESCO.
The moderator of the first panel discussion was Rosa M. González, UNESCO Regional Adviser for Communication and Information for Latin America (Montevideo, Uruguay). Mehdi Benchelah, Senior Project Officer at UNESCO Section for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists (Paris, France), addressed the participants with a welcoming speech.
The moderators of the second panel discussion were Amada Ponce, Executive Director of the Committee for Free Expression ‘C-Libre’ (Honduras), and Adriana León, journalist and Head of the Press Freedom Area at the Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS) (Lima, Peru).
The results of the regional webinar were summed up by Ignacio Cano, Professor of Research Methodology in the Department of Social Sciences at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), and Associate Expert México Evalúa (Mexico).