Uruguay I

Resolution of the 62nd General Assembly Mexico City, Mexico September 29 – October 3, 2006 WHEREAS on August 30 the Uruguayan Supreme Court handed down a suspended five-month prison sentence against journalist Carlos Dogliani, two years after he reported and commented on alleged acts of corruption in the government of Paysandú department (350 kilometers northwest of Montevideo) WHEREAS the reasoning of the Supreme Court represents a severe blow to journalism in Uruguay, as it relied on the theory that the good name of public officials is the “limit” that should be set on freedom of the press WHEREAS the Supreme Court stated in its ruling that it is “irrelevant” to the courts whether journalists are reporting or expressing an opinion on events that actually happened, because the only issue at hand is whether someone’s reputation has been damaged WHEREAS in its ruling, the Supreme Court invoked the theory that a journalist has committed a crime “even if the aggrieved party has been convicted for the action in question” WHEREAS after the ruling was handed down, it was described by the Uruguayan journalists’ union APU as “alarming” and “dangerous,” and as setting an “extremely grave precedent that is likely to lead to self-censorship among journalists and media professionals” WHEREAS renowned Uruguayan journalists such as Tomás Linn have called the ruling “undemocratic” and “freedom-killing” because it “penalizes free journalism and allows national and municipal officials to do whatever they want without fear of punishment while the press is unable to perform its natural duty as a watchdog,” and because “journalists now know better than ever that their words can turn them into criminals and get them thrown in jail” in Uruguay WHEREAS this ruling, combined with others from other courts, set an ominous precedent for press freedom in Uruguay WHEREAS Principle 1 of the Declaration of Chapultepec states: “No people or society can be free without freedom of expression and of the press. The exercise of this freedom is not something authorities grant, it is an inalienable right of the people” WHEREAS Principle 4 of the Declaration of Chapultepec states: “Freedom of expression and of the press are severely limited by murder, terrorism, kidnapping, intimidation, the unjust imprisonment of journalists, the destruction of facilities, violence of any kind and impunity for perpetrators. Such acts must be investigated promptly and punished harshly” WHEREAS Principle 10 of the Declaration of Chapultepec states: “No news medium nor journalist may be punished for publishing the truth or criticizing or denouncing the government” THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE IAPA RESOLVES to vehemently condemn this decision by the Uruguayan Supreme Court, which violates inalienable rights and flagrantly defying longstanding legal doctrine in the inter-American system to express deep concern that this Supreme Court ruling may take a heavy toll in terms of self-censorship on all Uruguayan journalists, who in the wake of this deplorable ruling now feel they may be sent to prison for reporting and commenting on government actions or decisions, and this inevitably degrades the democratic and republican form of government to report this situation to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.