03 September 2015

IAPA rejects complaint against Uruguay paper for using drone to report

MIAMI, Florida (September 3, 2015)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today rejected a formal complaint made against Uruguayan newspaper El Telégrafo for having published images taken by a drone of damages to a business location, saying that the paper reported on matters of public interest using a legitimate and new work tool. El Telégrafo, in the town of Paysandú, used a drone and published in June damage done to one of the storehouses of the Nuevo Paysandú plant, owned by Alcoholes del Uruguay (ALUR). The company, which had not officially reported the accident, complained about the newspaper for using the drone for its news coverage. Several days after the publication of the information in the newspaper ALUR issued a press release. IAPA President Gustavo Mohme while acknowledging that “any limitation of the free practice and mobilization of journalists directly opposes press freedom” also admitted that “the new technologies have brought with them complexities and debates.” Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, warned that “in several countries there is a risk that lawmakers try to create prohibitions for journalism instead of regulations that allow new technologies to be used for the common good and the public's right to information.” The chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, declared for his part that “The El Telégrafo journalists simply carried out legitimate journalism using a new work tool that enables the coverage of matters of public interest in a new way.” Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, said that in this case “not only was not any law broken but the journalists did something good for society in bringing up to date a situation that involves buildings of a company whose capital consists of public funds of Uruguay and Venezuela. The ALUR complaint, relayed by Dinacia (the National Civil Aviation and Aviation Infrastructure Directorate) represents an attack on freedom of expression and the public’s right to be informed.”   Following a formal complaint submitted by the ALUR company against El Telégrafo the agency that regulates the use of drones in Uruguay, Dinacia, on August 30 summoned the newspaper. It called on the paper to report on “the technical specifications of the drone used (such as weight, dimensions, etc.), the name and other personal details of the drone’s owner, as well as the name and other personal details of the person that operated it on the mentioned date.” In several Latin American countries studies are underway on new legislation on the use of drones, such as in Peru. Also, in the United States the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) imposed as a rule that the use of drones for commercial purposes must be previously authorized, including the production of news, which provoked sharp debates. News media outlets such as The New York Times and the news agency Associated Press responded that gathering news does not have a commercial objective but rather is a constitutional right. 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.