Colombia I

Resolution of the Midyear Meeting Quito, Ecuador October 17 - 20, 2006 WHEREAS the sponsor of a bill that would make it a criminal offense for an editor or journalist to publicize any libelous statement, unfounded assertion, or dubious claim requested that the bill be shelved WHEREAS Article 25 of the Law of Guarantees requires private radio and television operators and licensees to submit a weekly report to the National Electoral Council on the amount of time and space that their broadcasts or publications have allocated to the campaign of each presidential candidate, to determine whether the allocation was equitable; and upon reviewing the law, the Constitutional Court ruled that this equitability requirement applied not only to the amount of time or space but also to the quality of content WHEREAS the number of cases involving legal action against media outlets and journalists has continued on the rise, as an intimidation tactic that hinders the free practice of journalism WHEREAS in this year’s election season, Colombia’s newspapers have been adversely affected by a number of restrictions, such as a ban on publishing or releasing the results of surveys and on publishing election propaganda WHEREAS although Andiarios, as the representative of Colombian newspapers, has since 1994 been pursuing all legal and political methods available under the rule of law to have the ban on publishing political advertising on election days lifted, newspapers had no choice but to refrain once again from running such material on the latest election day, March 12, as the National Electoral Council ordered them to abide by the ban under threat of the penalties provided for under the law WHEREAS Principle 5 of the Declaration of Chapultepec states: “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” THE MIDYEAR MEETING OF THE IAPA RESOLVES to urge that the Colombian Congress honor the request to shelve the aforementioned bill and that it not consider any future legislation that runs counter to the Colombian tradition of respect for press freedom, the Constitution, pluralism in the news, and the financial independence of the media to ask government agencies to refrain from acting as censors, preserve the autonomy and independence of the media in determining their content, and understand that self-regulation is the best way to achieve balance in news coverage for election processes to urge the media and government agencies to see to it that concerted efforts are made to review existing legislation on libel and media liability, bring this legislation into line with current international standards related to decriminalization, and adopt the principle of actual malice or establish the tort liability of the media to invite Congress to repeal all laws and regulations that impose restrictions on political and electoral advertising in the printed press.