01 June 2011

IAPA/ANJ Forum in Brasilia rejects implementation of another press law

Miami (June 1, 2011) .- Brazil does not need a new press law to regulate the media was the conclusion reached by several jurists, lawyers and journalists in response to attempts by Congress to pass new legislation replacing the 1967 law revoked in 2009.

Fórum da SIP e da ANJ em Brasília rejeita a implementação de outra lei de imprensa


Miami (June 1, 2011) .-  Brazil does not need a new press law to regulate the media was the conclusion reached by several jurists, lawyers and journalists in response to attempts by Congress to pass new legislation replacing the 1967 law revoked in 2009.

The majority opinion, which also concluded that the right of reply should be a matter of self-regulation and not imposed by legislation, emerged from the forum held last Friday in Brasilia at the seat of the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and the National Newspaper Association of Brazil (ANJ, for its acronym in Portuguese).

The event was inaugurated by the President of the STF, Cezar Peluso, who emphasized that "it would be impossible to underestimate the role played by press freedom in the consolidation of democracy."

Judge Carlos Ayres Britto, vice president of the STF, stated that the 1967 Press Law and the 1988 Constitution were incompatible because the former was restrictive by nature and the second focuses on openness. He claimed that today’s increased press freedom has helped redirect the judiciary which in the past has made embarrassing rulings in favor of censorship.

In the panel moderated by Ayres Britto, Brazil After the Press Law, Manuel Alceu Affonso Ferreira, attorney for the newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo, and Federal Deputy Miro Teixeira, Rio de Janeiro, who in 2009 advocated the abolition of the Press Law by the STF, agreed that there should be no more regulations that restrict the practice of journalism. Teixeira said " we do not need a press law, rather a law providing access to public Information."

This criteria for any new legislation was supported by Gustavo Binenbojm, a specialist in civil law, who added that "any law must be limited by what is stated in the Constitution – it should expand the freedoms therein and not the restrictions."

During the opening ceremony ANJ president Judith Brito noted that the forum was being held in "the perfect place to reflect upon the exercise of democracy, since the Supreme Tribunal is the guardian of the Constitution, of democracy and of its freedoms."  IAPA Executive Director Julio E. Muñoz explained the significance of the Declaration of Chapultepec and how it upholds the elimination of all judicial and legal barriers that restrict press freedom. The program is part of the IAPA's Chapultepec Program and the forum was sponsored by the U.S. MacArthur Foundation

Judith Brito recalled that with the elimination of anti-democratic press law, the Supreme Court prompted media companies to engage in self-regulation, a fact that set the stage for a panel on the right of reply. Peruvian lawyer and former Public Ombudsman, Jorge Santistevan de Noriega, said "there is no need for a specific law dealing with the right of reply since in the 1986 opinion of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights it suffices that the State has signed the American Convention, which provides for it in its section 14, or if it is included in the national Constitution."

Citing the philosophy that "the best press law is no law," Santistevan suggested that before taking cases to court, the right of reply should be worked out in accordance with journalistic ethics, through press councils, ombudsmen or reader defense mechanisms. 

Paulo Sotero, director for Brazil of the Woodrow Wilson Institute, U.S,  also coincided with the self-regulatory mechanism to improve the quality of information and public debate, a point highlighted by STF Justice Ellen Gracie, who added that "journalism should be the critical conscience of society."

In another panel on inter-American case law, Venezuelan jurist Pedro Nikken reviewed the evolving opinions and judgments of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on freedom of the press since the issue was first addressed in 1985 with an advisory opinion on compulsory licensing of journalists.

Nikken also placed critical emphasis on some countries that still defend the honor of public officials through the archaic figure of contempt, explaining that public figures have a lower threshold of privacy and must bear a higher level of scrutiny.

At the close of the forum, and after presentations by Folha de S. Paulo consultant Tais Gasparian and ANJ consulting attorney Alexandre Jobim, Paulo Camargo Tonet, director of government relations for ANJ, emphasized the importance of the guidelines indicated by the Supreme Court for self-regulation," suggesting that this is the best way to solve issues concerning the right of reply. "

The forum was also attended by director of Press Freedom, Ricardo Trotti and Chapultepec Project Manager, Sally Zamudio.

Clarinreceives award

Clarin newspaper was awarded ANJ’s Press Freedom Award. The president of the institution, Judith Brito, said Clarín symbolizes the problems faced by the press in Argentina to provide quality and independent journalism, without government interference.

Hector Magnetto, president of Grupo Clarin, received the award, and cited retaliation against the independent media by the Argentine government. He added that "every democracy requires a strong parliament, a court with the ability to sentence independently and a press that is able to work freely."

During the forum ANJ also honored Sidnei Basile, who died on March 16, for his contribution in defense of press freedom in Brazil and the continent. Basile was a vice president of publisher Editora Abril, and ANJ officer and  Secretary of IAPA.

The IAPA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and promoting press freedom and freedom of expression throughout the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications in the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, USA. For more information, please visit http://www.sipiapa.org