Also praises formal request in Peru
Miami (July 7, 2014)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today protested the use of legal action in Guatemala to intimidate and discourage media and journalists, while welcoming a formal request by the judicial branch of government in Peru to judges not to admit lawsuits that would seek to censor the press.
Last week in Guatemala it was learned that the president of the Guatemalan Social Security Institute (IGSS), Juan de Dios Rodríguez, filed more than 30 lawsuits against the president and editor of the newspaper elPeriódico, José Rubén Zamora, and the paper’s staff for having published op-ed pieces that he claimed sullied his reputation. The charges are sedition, incitement to commit crime, calumny, libel and defamation.
The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, while recognizing the right of any person to seek justice recalled that in February this year the IAPA had visited Guatemala’s top officials to whom it expressed concern at “continuous legal actions against elPeriódico which, like the present ones, could imply that it is a strategy to intimidate the media outlet and its journalists.”
Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, added, “The judicial harassment of journalists by officials is common in several Latin American countries, often managing to discourage journalistic investigations and generating self-censorship by the media, due to the high cost and great effort of having to go to court.”
In this regard, and giving as an example precedents in other countries in defense of press freedom, the IAPA praised the formal request made by Peruvian Supreme Court Chief Justice Enrique Mendoza Ramírez to criminal court judges in his country, urging them to review “exhaustively lawsuits brought against journalists to determine whether or not they are well-founded.”
This June 19 request – announced at a press conference given jointly by Mendoza at the Supreme Court with IAPA President Elizabeth Ballantine and Paolillo – is based on the fact that “many lawsuits filed against journalists or press entities are bought in some cases with the objective of intimidating them and in this way nullifying the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and of expression, particularly in matters concerning cases of corruption, undue influence in the justice system or social conflicts.”
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.