WASHINGTON, DC (March 8, 2019)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed deep concern at complaints of the existence of a secret databank created by the United States to keep an eye on journalists who cover the Central American migrant caravans and called on the government for clarification of this discriminatory policy which limits the work of the press and restricts press freedom.
IAPA President María Elvira Domínguez, editor of the Cali, Colombia, newspaper El País, considered as "of great concern the step coming from United States government bodies." She added, "We must be alert because this situation reminds us of other cases that we have denounced in Latin America where in the name of national security are created 'black lists' in order to curb independent journalists and other professionals that cause discomfort."
According to news media the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), with the participation or knowledge of other United States government bodies, compiled a secret list of 57 persons with their passport or social networks photo, date of birth, origin and family details, among other data. The list includes lawyers, activists linked to the caravans, social media influencers and 10 journalists (seven of them American, two Spanish and one Mexican).
The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Roberto Rock, editor of the Mexico City, Mexico, news portal La Silla Rota, said, "In the case of the journalists the creation of the secret list seeks to limit and make more difficult the coverage of a matter of international relevance. This is a discriminatory policy that restricts press freedom."
The databank, titled "San Diego Sector Foreign Operations Branch: Migrant Caravan FY-2019, Suspected Organizers, Coordinators, Instigators and Media," identifies and has the intention of keeping an eye on those on the list in their return over the border between the cities of San Diego, United States, and Tijuana, Mexico. Several journalists have confirmed that their visa or return to the United States and to Mexico has been revoked, and others were subjected to rigorous Customs screenings.
Domínguez and Rock were in agreement that the government action violates the fundamental rights of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and the IAPA's Declaration of Chapultepec, saying restrictions of the circulation of news media go directly against press freedom.
The IAPA officers are in the U.S capital as part of an international mission of their organization to expose the serious situation being faced by freedom of expression and of the press in Nicaragua.
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 publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.