Costa Rica's President signs Declaration of Chapultepec
IAPA's international delegation takes part in forum in San José on press freedom
MIAMI, Florida (May 6, 2015)—Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís today signed the Declaration of Chapultepec before an international delegation of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) which traveled to San José to commemorate World Press Freedom Day which is celebrated annually on May 3.
The delegation, headed by IAPA President Gustavo Mohme and also made up of Claudio Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, and José Roberto Dutriz, editor of La Prensa Gráfica, San Salvador, El Salvador, went to Costa Rica to participate in the forum titled "The Current State of Press Freedom in Latin America" organized by the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, the Institute of Press and Freedom of Expression (IPLEX), the United States embassy in Costa Rica and the Costa Rican Journalists Association, in connection with the international activities celebrating World Press Freedom Day.
Following the signing of the hemispheric document President Solís told the IAPA representatives, "I ratify our national principles concerning freedom of the press and of expression with the signing of the Declaration of Chapultepec." He added, "Costa Rica is committed and today we deepen our respect for freedom of expression, the protection of journalists and rules to prevent any direct or indirect censorship of freedom of the press."
The IAPA president praised "the plural, democratic and committed gesture of the government concerning freedom of expression and of the press."
The Declaration of Chapultepec contains 10 principles on these fundamental rights and was adopted in 1994 during an IAPA hemispheric conference in Mexico (http://www.sipiapa.org/chapultepec3/acerca-de-la-declaracion).
During his presentation in the forum Paolillo, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, criticized a legislative bill on telecommunications that had already been rejected by the government after receiving criticism from civil society organizations, legislators, journalists, news media and members of the public. Among other things, Paolillo questioned the government seeking to turn radio and television broadcasts into activities of "public interest" because that way "the government gives itself the power to intervene" in content, given that the government of the day would decide what is or is not "of public interest."
He also objected to the proposed imposition that he noted in the bill regarding the media disseminating "true and impartial information" – that for a long time has been questioned in inter-American jurisprudence regarding freedom of expression – given that the government would have the power to decide when a piece of information is "true" or "impartial" and when not – and that the bill would force the press to foster "the nation's fundamental values" given that those "values" would be set out by the government officials responsible for applying the law.
Communication Minister Mauricio Herrera, who during the forum definitively trashed the bill, describing it as "disastrous" and "catastrophic," saying that the signing of the Declaration of Chapultepec by President Solís "is a reaffirmation of the will of the current Costa Rican administration to give depth to" the principles that are set out in that document and to which Costa Rica has been historically committed.
To Solís, who becomes to the 63rd government leader in the Americas to sign the Declaration, Mohme expressed the IAPA's pleasure at this action and praised the development of freedom of expression in Costa Rica, "one of the countries with the best standards and an example for the support of this right in its citizenry."
Dutriz, chairman of the IAPA's Chapultepec Committee, declared, "We are celebrating a true act of confidence in and of responsibility to freedom of expression." He also mentioned the long trajectory that unites the organization with Costa Rica, a reference to the consultative opinion on obligatory membership of a journalists' guild which the government asked of the Inter-American Human Rights Court. In 1985 that Court ruled that such obligatory membership was an imposition transgressing the principles of freedom of expression. The government then declared it to be unconstitutional.
Mohme discussed the principal problems restricting press freedom in the Americas, such as murders and attacks, lawsuits against journalists, media, bloggers and Web site users, discrimination in the placement of official advertising, limited access to information, tax harassment and the establishment of regulations and rules, among other abuses and means of censorship, to which he declared "we cannot be indifferent nor remain silent." He also mentioned the conversations between the governments of Cuba and the United States, on which he said there are great expectations of an opening towards freedom of expression and of the press.
During their stay in Costa Rica the IAPA representatives also scheduled meetings with Inter-American Human Rights Court Secretary Pedro Saavedra and members of the Legislative Assembly to talk about matters related to telecommunications and press freedom in the Central American country. In San José they also met with journalists and representatives of television channel CB24TV, of newspapers Extra and La Nación and of the Radio and TV Chamber (CANARTEL).
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.