Miami (April 16, 2009)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today issued a call to Western Hemisphere leaders to keep free speech and press freedom at the forefront of discussions as a foundation for consolidating democracy when they meet for the three-day Summit of the Americas opening tomorrow in Trinidad and Tobago.
“We trust that during the Summit heads of government from across the Americas will encourage, initiate and emphasize discussions on the importance of freedom of expression and of the press as a basis for free and democratic societies,” IAPA President Enrique Santos declared.
He added that in celebration of the 15th anniversary of the organization's Declaration of Chapultepec – a document defining the principles for press freedom and free speech drafted on March 11, 1994 – “we call upon current government leaders to uphold those principles as their guidelines and make them a daily item on their administrations' agendas.”
The Declaration of Chapultepec, signed to date by 54 heads of states from throughout the Americas, inspired the drafting of the Organization of American States' Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression that has been in force since 2000. Santos Calderón, editor of the Bogotá, Colombia, newspaper El Tiempo, recalled that IAPA delegates attended previous Summits where they backed fundamental basics for freedom of expression and the press, including the fight against impunity surrounding crimes against journalists and the enactment of laws on access to public information, among others.
In 1998, during the Summit held in Santiago, Chile, Western Hemisphere heads of state and government expressed concern at the state of the rights of free speech and press freedom in their countries and supported the creation of the existing Office of Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression within the Organization of American States responsible for promoting, strengthening and protecting those fundamental rights.
Attached is the full text of the Declaration of Chapultepec.
1. No people or society can be free without freedom of expression and of the press. The exercise of this freedom is not something authorities grant, it is an inalienable right of the people.
2. Every person has the right to seek and receive information, express opinions and disseminate them freely. No one may restrict or deny these rights.
3. The authorities must be compelled by law to make available in a timely and reasonable manner the information generated by the public sector. No journalist may be forced to reveal his or her sources of information.
4. Freedom of expression and of the press are severely limited by murder, terrorism, kidnapping, intimidation, the unjust imprisonment of journalists, the destruction of facilities, violence of any kind and impunity for perpetrators. Such acts must be investigated promptly and punished harshly.
5. Prior censorship, restrictions on the circulation of the media or dissemination of their reports, forced publication of information, the imposition of obstacles to the free flow of news, and restrictions on the activities and movements of journalists directly contradict freedom of the press.
6. The media and journalists should neither be discriminated against nor favored because of what they write or say.
7. Tariff and exchange policies, licenses for the importation of paper or news-gathering equipment, the assigning of radio and television frequencies and the granting or withdrawal of government advertising may not be used to reward or punish the media or individual journalists.
8. The membership of journalists in guilds, their affiliation to professional and trade associations and the affiliation of the media with business groups must be strictly voluntary.
9. The credibility of the press is linked to its commitment to truth, to the pursuit of accuracy, fairness and objectivity and to the clear distinction between news and advertising. The attainment of these goals and the respect for ethical and professional values may not be imposed. These are the exclusive responsibility of journalists and the media. In a free society, it is public opinion that rewards or punishes.
10. No news medium nor journalist may be punished for publishing the truth or criticizing or denouncing the government.