28 July 2008

IAPA welcomes debate in Paraguay on public access to information

Points out that the right to know is an inalienable human right

MIAMI, Florida (July 29, 2008)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today praised efforts by civic and non-governmental organizations in Paraguay for promoting open debate on the need for an access to public information law, something that the IAPA itself has championed since 1994 based on the principles of press freedom and free speech enshrined in the Declaration of Chapultepec.


“We salute the progress that this debate represents for Paraguayan citizens and are delighted that our work in recent years has contributed to a better understanding among sectors and that legislative leaders are considering introduction of a new bill for access to public records,” said the chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín.


The IAPA message comes as a number of civic and NGOs in the South American country prepare for activities over the next few days during “Access to Public Information Week”. The activities, which began on Monday, are scheduled on a daily basis with the aim of making lawmakers and the general public aware that a public information law is an essential element of democratic society.


Officers of the hemisphere free press organization recalled that during a public forum organized by the IAPA and held in August last year in the Paraguayan legislature Senate President Miguel Abdón Saguier and Chamber of Deputies Speaker Oscar Salomón signed the IAPA-sponsored Declaration of Chapultepec, whose principles define the exercise of freedom of expression and of the press not as something granted by the authorities but as an inalienable right of the people. Earlier last year, in February, Paraguay’s President Nicanor Duarte also signed the Declaration during a visit to Paraguay by IAPA officers in connection to a training session for journalists at risk. 


IAPA work in support of press freedom and free speech in Paraguay has been ongoing.  In 1994 the then Paraguayan president, Juan Carlos Wasmosy, became the country’s first to sign the Declaration of Chapultepec; in 2000 the capital, Asunción, hosted the 11th National Forum on the Declaration of Chapultepec. Over the years the IAPA has closely followed legislative actions impacting freedom of the press and expression. In 2006, for example, the organization expressed concern at an anti-free press legislative bill that sought, through a government agency, to ban the dissemination of images considered to be offensive and fine those breaking such a law.


Marroquín also issued a call for the National Congress in Guatemala to pass a bill currently under debate there and send it to the executive branch for enactment, in line with the pledge made by Guatemala’s President Álvaro Colom in April this year when he added his signature to the Declaration of Chapultepec.