IAPA Condemns Press Restrictions p. 20

By: M.L. STEIN CRIMES AGAINST JOURNALISTS are sometimes exposed in the world's press, but almost nothing is reported about such restrictions as compulsory licensing, censorship, court injunctions, and mandatory qualifications for journalists.
In a series of resolutions closing its recent 52nd General Assembly in Pasadena recently, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) addressed these concerns, and demanded an end to the murders, beatings and harassment of journalists that occur
in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In a resolution titled "Freedom to Practice Journalism," Chile, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Venezuela and Panama were cited for acts limiting freedom of expression and journalistic independence.
IAPA called on Venezuela to drop a law requiring journalists to be licensed and on Chile to reject a new law giving preference to journalism school graduates for newspaper jobs.
Nicaragua, Ecuador and Panama, it was noted, face legislation that also would require journalists to have a license and a university degree.
A number of countries, including the United States, were listed as hampering access to information through the "arbitrary action by government officials at many levels and in different ways."
"Free access to information is a universally accepted human right and the basis for press freedom," the resolution declared.
Among the other nations named were Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica.
In response to CIA director John Deutch's commitment to use journalists as spies on "rare" occasions (E&P, Oct. 19), IAPA demanded that the U.S. government "openly and unambiguously" ban the use of journalists in espionage.
Court systems and law enforcement agencies in Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia drew IAPA's condemnation for freeing suspects accused of murdering journalists, or for failing to investigate such crimes.
As an example, IAPA said that a Bogot?, Colombia, tribunal recently released four persons who had been found guilty in connection with the murder of El Espectador publisher Guillermo Cano Izasa. Similarly, a Barranquilla high court freed four suspects charged in the killing of radio reporter Carlos Lajud Catalan.
Two resolutions decried attacks and other crimes against journalists, a topic heavily discussed during the five-day meeting. The General Assembly voted
to "condemn all acts of violence against journalists" and demanded that "police and government officials implicated in violence and threats of violence against journalists be prosecuted and punished appropriately."
Countries named included Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Argentina and Chile.
Cuba was also under harsh criticism, primarily for the "repression, persecution and harassment of independent journalists."
"The mere fact of reporting freely is still a crime in Cuba after
37 years of totalitarianism," IAPA declared, pointing to such "despicable acts" of repression against independent journalists as expulsion, deploying informers in their ranks, raiding homes, arrest, interrogation, harassment, and wiretaps.
Haiti, a country the United States is helping to democratize, was reported as experiencing a setback in efforts to create a free press. The resolution said that journalists who attempt to work freely "run great risks to their personal safety because of attacks on them and their places of work."
IAPA blamed paramilitary forces and asked President Rene Preval to issue "necessary guarantees" to ensure that journalists operate freely.
An unusual bill before the Mexican Congress caught IAPA's attention and was rebuked. An amendment to the General Population Law would limit foreign journalists to a five-year stay in the country.
The measure would "seriously harm freedom of the press" and would be "contrary to the free flow of information," IAPA said.
Another resolution asserted there are 53 bills before the Brazilian Congress aimed at curtailing the press, 45 of which would "cause irreparable damage to the free practice of journalism" and would undermine the media financially.


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