By: ROBERT U. BROWN
THE LARGEST MID-WINTER directors meeting in the history of the Inter American Press Association in San Juan, Puerto Rico ? 360 people registered ? was told that in spite of successes in promoting a free press in the Americas, tragic reports tempered success in some countries.
Since IAPA’S general assembly Oct. 12, journalists have been murdered for their words: five in Colombia, four in Brazil, two in Mexico and one in Guatemala. In addition, there were reports of kidnappings, harassment and threats against journalists in many countries.
Also, there remain in several countries restrictive press laws that directly affect freedom of the press, or will if proposals take effect.
The Committee on Freedom of the Press noted with pride some of IAPA’s successes during the year:
u At its general conference in Paris in November, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization approved unanimously a resolution reaffirming freedom of expression as a fundamental human right and condemning assassination and physical violence against journalists.
u The Ibero-American Heads of State, meeting in November on Margarita Island, rejected a proposal by Venezuelan President Rafael Caldera to create a so-called right to truthful information. This measure, which would have allowed governments to determine the truth, was forcefully opposed by IAPA as a danger to free expression.
u The Declaration of Chapultepec is increasingly recognized as a powerful mechanism for freedom of expression, and IAPA is organizing a hemispheric conference in August on that subject. It will mark the start of a compilation of press laws in the Americas plus a comparative analysis and presentation of the principles into an inter-American convention.
u With input from IAPA, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States is in the process of establishing a special rapporteur for freedom of the press issues.
u At the Summit of the Americas scheduled in April in Santiago several countries, following the suggestion of IAPA ,will seek to include in the agenda the issues of freedom of expression and impunity for crimes against journalists.
In spite of this progress, the IAPA was told:
u The president of Argentina plans to send a tax bill to congress that would make advertising in news media subject to value-added tax.
u The La Paz Journalists Association has asked the Bolivian government to use the nation’s press law to stop “non-qualified” people from working as journalists.
u A bill being debated in Chile’s legislature would include defamation as a criminal offense.
u Colombia would create a Journalism Council under the Education Ministry which would impose a professional code of ethics to regulate the press.
u Despite government pledges that placement of official advertising would be based on technical criteria, there are indications in Nicaragua that it is being used to reward or punish.
u Haitian journalists have been subjected to threats affecting their ability to carry out their professional responsibilities.
u Despite rejection by the Ibero-American Summit of the proposal for “the right of people to truthful information,” that government is applying the principle and one editor faces charges based on an alleged violation of the right to truthful information.
?(E&P Web Site: http://www.mediainfo.com)
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher March 28, 1998) [Caption]