With support from UNESCO’s Global Media Defence Fund, CRNI has recruited a new network of Legal Experts around the world, both practicing lawyers and academics, these bolstering our existing roster of Regional Representative cartoonists. In a series of interviews we get to know a selection of these experts better; today’s subject is Herman Duarte of Simple Legal Consulting, Costa Rica. In addition to directing his own firm Mr. Duarte is the Costa Rican representative for Arbitrator Intelligence and an advisor to the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation.
1. Our cartoonists are consistently expressing anxiety about criminalisation. In your view, are they right to be worried?
I would say there is no pressing reason for those in Costa Rica to be worried, however in El Salvador (I am a Salvadoran/Swiss citizen) there is. Hostility towards independent journalists continues to grow and there are rumours around the advent of some new laws that will make it easier to intimidate journalists with impunity, diminishing the freedom of the press.
2. What is the greatest impediment to freedom of expression in your location?
Again, in Costa Rica there are none that are worth mentioning. In El Salvador there are many, including the fear of reprisals for stating opinions critical of or contrary to the government. Naturally, that will include satirical cartoons.
3. Describe the work of your firm; in particular tell us about any efforts on behalf of minority or marginalised people.
I have worked on many different human rights cases related to LGBTQIA rights, including an amicus curiae in Advisory Opinion OC-18/03 of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. I have also participated in the abortion case of Manuela v. El Salvador before the same international court.
Additionally I have been an op-ed columnist in La Prensa Gráfica for over a decade. In my articles there I comment on different topics including the political situation.
I work often with other organisations and experts across Central America, including Saúl Antonio Baños of Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicacion del Derecho (FESPAD), perhaps the best human rights defender I know in the world. He is so dedicated to his work. [Ed. – Mr Baños is also an expert within our network.]
4. Do you consider yourself a human rights defender (HRD)? If so and you are at liberty to describe the experience, have you been the victim of harassment or threat because of your work?
Resoundingly, YES. And I have some bad past experiences when I focused on LGBTQIA rights (2016-2019) and nowadays, especially following my work in the promotion of rule of law in El Salvador which has been so diminished during the presidency of Nayib Bukele.
5. Have you been involved in any note-worthy cases concerning cartoonists, artists or journalists?
Yes, although the matters are sensitive. I would refer anyone interested to a couple of books I’ve written. One is on discrimination and freedom of expression in Latin America and the other one is on agnotology practices of the Salvadoraen government during the recent pandemic.
6. Have you a favourite cartoonist? If so who, and what do you admire about them?
I like Otto, the cartoonist for El Faro newspaper in El Salvador. I admire how good he is at distilling the truth of reality with a powerfully conceived image.
DISCLAIMER: The designations employed and the presentation of material throughout this article do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. The author(s) are responsible for the choice and the presentation of the facts contained in this article and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of UNESCO and do not commit the Organization.