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Overbroad provisions of draft OAS anti-racism convention would unduly limit free expression, says ARTICLE 19

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The following is an 11 April 2007 ARTICLE 19 press release:

ARTICLE 19 Analysis of draft OAS Anti-Racism Convention

ARTICLE 19 today released a Memorandum analysing the Preliminary Draft Inter-American Convention Against Racism and all Forms of Discrimination and Intolerance. While warmly welcoming this initiative to address the serious problems of racism in the Americas, the Memorandum also points to the vastly overbroad regime for dealing with racist speech in the draft Convention.

The Organization of American States (OAS) has started work on this draft convention in part to fulfil commitments made during the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. The Brazilian government prepared the Preliminary Draft and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has appointed a Working Group to consider that draft and to prepare an official OAS draft.

Although the draft provides strong and welcome protection against discrimination, the hate speech provisions are seriously overbroad and, if adopted, would unduly limit freedom of expression. The draft contains a patchwork of overlapping and potentially conflicting rules on hate speech which we recommend be collapsed into one provision consistent with established international law, as set out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which provides for a careful balancing between free speech and the right to be free of racism and discrimination. Some of ARTICLE 19's key recommendations are as follows:

- The separate rules on hate speech over the Internet, on disseminating ideas based on superiority and on public vilification should be removed, leaving just one hate speech provision.
- Only incitement to hatred, discrimination or violence should be prohibited; vague terms such as intolerance, propaganda activities, encouragement and promotion should be removed.
- The rule prohibiting denial of genocide, which effectively puts the judgments of international tribunals beyond scrutiny, should be removed.

The ARTICLE 19 Memorandum is available at: http://www.article19.org/pdfs/analysis/oas-anti-racism-convention-07.pdf

ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech.

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