By: Robert U. Brown
Inter American Press Association registers its concern about
the spread of licensing, the right of reply, censorship,
and the fact that the murderers of 18 journalists worldwide
in the past year have not been brought to justice sp.
“”The crack of the rifle and pistol is the trademark sound of the challenges and risks of journalism in the Americas,”” members of the Inter American Press Association concluded at their 50th general assembly in Toronto last week. “”This is the journalism that sometimes is forced to live in fear more of the assassin’s bullet than the censor’s pencil and scissors.””
With attendance of members and guests at close to 450, this was the second-largest general assembly since 1978, surpassed only by last year’s in Bariloche, Argentina.
For two days IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press heard reports from sub-chairmen in almost every country in the hemisphere, and found that 18 journalists “”have been silenced through this ultimate censorship”” in the last year (10 in Colombia, four in Mexico, three in Guatemala and one in Brazil).
“”In every single instance their murderers so far have gotten off scot-free,”” stated the conclusion portion of the press freedom committee’s report. “”It is the exception rather than the rule that anyone even is charged in such cases.””
IAPA condemned “”unprosecuted murder as an evil which directly affects not only the victims of aggressions but also the rule of law?indispensable for the exercise of press freedom.””
IAPA continues to be concerned about the spread in Latin American countries of licensing of journalists through the obligatory membership in a journalists guild or “”colegio,”” as well as the spread of the “”right of reply.””
This licensing practice continues to be pursued in many countries (Chile and Venezuela are considering it) in spite of the ruling by the InterAmerican Human Rights Court in Costa Rica, which found it incompatible with the American Convention on Human Rights.
It was found that the “”right of reply”” exists or is proposed in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Uruguay and elsewhere.
IAPA announced its continued opposition to these practices and its resolution to condemn them as damaging to a free press.
The Colombian government was urged to abolish its law limiting the right to publish information (interviews, opinion polls, and exit polls) on election day. It also asked the Colombian courts to revise an order restricting the circulation of books, “”giving the right to privacy a higher priority than that of freedom of information.””
Cuba was condemned, as in the past, for its continued repression of the Cuban people and for jailing journalists. Haiti, which formerly was condemned along with Cuba for its repression, was viewed with hope since the return of President Aristede and the reopening of the newspaper Liberte and of several radio stations.
IAPA did observe “”some undiluted successes”” have been recorded in the Americas this year. One was the Declaration of hapultepec adopted by the hemisphere Conference on Free Speech in Mexico City in March under the auspices of IAPA.
The document, which has been signed by the presidents of 11 Latin American countries, as well as by the governor of Puerto Rico and the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, declares that “”no law or act of government may limit freedom of expression or the press, whatever the meidum.””
It established 10 bedrock principles of a free press.
Another success acclaimed by IAPA was the Declaration of Santiago adopted at the semianr on Media Development and Democracy in Latin America, held under the auspices of UNESCO and signed in Santiago, Chile, in May. It underscored in a 10-point declaration that freedom of expression is the “”cornerstone of our democracies.””
To allow for its expanded activities, the IAPA Technical Center formally changed its name to the IAPA Press Institute and announced that it will sponsor a one-day seminar in Miami on Dec. 8 to help journalists understand the issues that will arise there at the Summit of the Americas on Dec. 9 and 10.
The North/South Center of the University of Miami will co-sponsor the event. This will be the first hemisphere summit in 17 years since it was held in Punte del Este, Uruguay, in 1967. The seminar will offer participants in-depth analysis by experts of the issues designated as the agenda items-trade, environment and democratic governance.
Raul Kraiselburd, editor of El Dia, La Plata, Argentina, was re-elected IAPA president. He had been acting as president, filling the unexprired term created by the resignation of Roy Megarry of the Globe and Mail in mid-term.
David Lawrence, publisher of the Miami Herald, was elected vice president Luis Gabriel Cano, president of El Espectador Bogota, Colombia, was elected second vice president. Roberto Suarez, publisher of El Nuevo Herald, Miami, was re-elected chairman of the executive committee. Oliver CLarke, chairman of the Gleaner Company Ltd., Kingston, Jamaica, was named vice chairman of the executive committee.
Caracas, Venezuela, was selected as the site for the 1995 general assembly, October 15-19. The mid-year board of directors meeting will be held in St. Petersburg, Fla., March 25-28, 1995.
?( David Lawrence, publisher of the Miami Herald, was elected IAPA vice president.) [Photo]