EL PASO, Texas (December 6, 2010)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today urged the United States government to cease any political, legal or Web strategy that could limit freedom of expression on the Internet. The call came after the organization expressed concern at attacks and threats aimed in recent days at Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange, responsible for leaking hundreds of thousands of U.S. State Department classified diplomatic documents.
IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín, during a joint forum here with the American Association of News Editors (ASNE) on violence against the Mexican press on the U.S. border, declared, “We condemn any strategy that seeks to limit freedom of expression and the creation of new legal rules specifically aimed at destroying Wikileaks by governments, political pressure and intimidation of privately-owned Internet companies to shut down the Web site, or the online attacks that have been noted in recent days from servers located in various parts of the world in a bid to strangle and silence Wikileaks.”
Marroquín stressed that the IAPA does not support any action that could be regarded as unlawful taken by Wikileaks or its operator and recognizes that no publication can be exempt from responsibility. He added, however, that “there are, and must be resorted to, legal channels and regulations to prosecute alleged offenses, without having to enter into a witch-hunt in which governments also become offenders.”
Both Marroquín, and Robert Rivard, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, said the organization’s fear is that these episodes might end up giving rise to a series of adverse laws in the United States that could limit free speech on the Internet. “The threat,” they said, “is that restrictive legislation against neutrality and online freedom could favor the position of other, less democratic governments in the world that have always seen the Web as a threat to their hardly transparent policies and the public learning about government affairs.”
They said that both the United States and other governments should act wisely and prudently so as not to confuse what could be offenses for which appropriate regulations already exist with the fundamental principles of free speech and press freedom, which should also be in force on the Internet and certainly in addition imply responsibilities. “Restricting the Web would have a catastrophic impact for all humanity and we would be reverting to the dark ages,” they declared.
Marroquín and Rivard said that the IAPA will remain vigilant and alert to policies that could be adopted against the flow of news on the Internet and that it would maintain its presence and voice on this issue at world forums.
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. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.