IAPA concerned at ruling against practice of journalism in Colombia

Serious and of concern that this decision will create the precedent that the media must ask permission to publish public facts of those affected, "a kind of prior censorship in practice."

MIAMI, Florida (August 16, 2019)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today described as "serious and worrisome" for the practice of journalism a ruling against the Cali, Colombia, newspaper El País which calls on the media to have prior authorization of those affected to publish news items that involve them.

On Monday this week the criminal High Court of the Judicial District of Cali, revoked a lower court sentence of June 27 which dismissed a lawsuit by a person who suffered an accident on the public highway with his automobile. The judge ordered the newspaper to "within 48 hours remove the image of Mr. Andrés Ramírez Urbano from the video posted on its website, until it has the authorization of the owner to publish it," arguing, moreover, that the publication had given rise to disgraceful comments on the part of users against the person concerned.

Roberto Rock, chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, declared, "It is serious and of concern that this decision will create the precedent that the media must ask permission to publish public facts of those affected, a kind of prior censorship in practice."

Given the order that comes from the ruling that it will be sent to the Constitutional Court for its eventual review, Rock expressed the "hope that the Court adopts and pronounces on this case which, while apparently being a simple matter, can unleash serious consequences and limitations for press freedom, the practice of journalism and freedom of expression."

"The work of the press would become a complicated activity, slow and also condemned to silence, if the media must ask for authorization of the citizens or those affected to publish images in public spaces and of news interest," declared Rock, editor of the Mexican news portal La Silla Rota.

The traffic accident occurred on May 13. The newspaper published a video of a user, taken with his cell phone, at the moment that Ramírez Urbano's car fell into a drain in the city of Cali. The person affected requested El País to remove the video from its portal, considering that his good name, privacy and honor were being violated. At the time the newspaper denied the request under the argument that it was a piece of news about something that occurred on a public highway.

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.