Miami (May 20, 2002).—Journalism students at the Catholic Pontifical University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) shared their views with experts convened by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) on the value of press freedom in a democracy, taking as their basis the principles of the IAPA-sponsored Declaration of Chapultepec.
During the forum “Press Freedom: Reality, Obstacles and Solutions”, an element of the Chapultepec Ambassadors project, the students and international specialists engaged in productive debates on inter-American standards of press freedom and free speech which they said should be on the same level as constitutional rights in Brazil since the country is a signatory to the American Convention on Human Rights.
Former IAPA president Julio C. F. Mesquita, representing the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, opened the conference by addressing the harsh censorship that the newspaper had undergone during Brazil’s military dictatorship and detailing current new forms of censorship, giving as an example a court ruling that for the past nine months has prohibited his paper from publishing any information about wrongdoing committed by the son of former president José Sarney.
Jessica Carvalho Morris, head of the University of Miami, Florida, post-graduate international law program and Director of Amnesty International, acted as “ambassador” at the invitation of the IAPA. Morris compared the principles of the Declaration of Chapultepec to those upheld under the inter-American system, concerning freedom of the press and offered some concrete examples, stating that application of the principles could solve many of the problems faced by the press that restrict freedom of expression in Brazil.
The event was opened by Angeluccia Habert, director of the PUC-Rio’s Communication Department, and also had the participation of Prof. Leise Taveira of the Social Communication Department, Chico Otavio of the newspaper O Globo and the Brazilian Association of Investigative Reporters, Abraji, and Carlos José Guimarael, a member of the board of directors of the Brazilian Bar, among others.
Journalism professor Leonel Aguiar and a panel made up of three PUC-Rio students spoke of the need for ethics to be observed by the press and investigative reporting as an additional means to ensure quality. The discussion turned into an interesting exchange on the implications of the requirement in Brazil of a university degree to work as a journalist, which has now been overturned by the Supreme Court.
IAPA Press Freedom Director Ricardo Trotti completed the day’s activities and shared the conclusions that were reached in the previous day’s forum on crimes against journalists; he also explained the IAPA’s position on the degree requirement, stating that the hemisphere free press organization encourages journalistic excellence at all levels but, as set forth in the Declaration of Chapultepec’s Article 8, both the degree requirement and obligatory membership in a journalists union must be strictly voluntary.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. The IAPA Impunity Project is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and has the mission of combating violence against journalists and lessening the impunity surrounding the majority of such crimes. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org; http://www.impunidad.com