Miami (November 17, 2009)–The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today stressed the importance United States President Barack Obama's call yesterday in China for greater freedom of expression and information as universal values.
While meeting with students in Shanghai during his first visit to the Asian nation Obama declared, “we believe that the freedoms of expression, religion and access to information are universal rights,” adding that these “must be accessible to all, including ethnic and religious minorities, whether in the United States, in China or anywhere else.”
Alejandro Aguirre, who was elected IAPA president at the organization’s General Assembly in Buenos Aires, Argentina, earlier this month, said Obama’s message was especially strong since it was made from a country “known for practicing censorship and oppressing the individual and public freedoms of its citizens.”
Aguirre, managing editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, added that the U.S. President’s call “applies to numerous countries, including many in the Americas, where governments do not respect the free speech and press freedom that are essential to strengthening democracy.”
Chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Fredom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, welcomed Obama’s words favoring an Internet without censorship when he stated “I have always been strongly in favor of the Internet … and a passionate advocate of there being no censorship.”
Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, recalled that the latest reports on the state of press freedom presented at the Buenos Aires meeting show Cuba as being the only country in the Western Hemisphere where there is official censorship and control of access to the Internet, along with fear tactics, attacks and threats directed at bloggers and other Internet users.