Legal restrictions harm freedom of the press and expression, underlines IAPA resolution

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Urges governments to abandon decrees, laws, and administrative provisions, since it creates barriers to freedom of the press and freedom of expression
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Miami (October 26, 2020) .- The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed concern about bills and decrees issued under the argument of sanctioning the dissemination of fake news in countries such as Chile, Colombia, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Argentina, which cut off freedom of speech and the press.

During its 76th General Assembly, held virtually from October 21 to 23, the IAPA approved the following resolution on Legal restrictions:

WHEREAS, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Panama, approved laws, issued decrees and circulars; presented bills for constitutional and Penal Code reforms; made efforts to create agencies to monitor and punish malicious information - measures that restrict various aspects of freedom of the press and expression

WHEREAS, in Argentina, in the provinces of Tucumán and Salta, there is a law and an ordinance - respectively - making it possible to penalize with arrests and fines those who spread false news on social networks; it was announced the creation of the official "Observatory of Disinformation and Symbolic Violence in Digital Media and Platforms (Nodio)" - with the supposed intention of "protecting citizens from false, malicious and fallacious news"

WHEREAS, in Chile a plebiscite on constitutional reform contains ideas on media regulation, and suggests the recognition of the "right to communication" with limitations on media ownership and regulations on content; the Lower House approved norms that introduce penal sanctions for those who justify, approve or deny human rights violations that occurred in the country during the military regime, there is an effort to introduce the crime of "denialism"

WHEREAS, in Colombia a bill establishes provisions for the protection of the fundamental right to honor - which would create rules that would collide with freedom of opinion; more than 130 people - including 52 national and international journalists - reported having been subjected to surveillance and profiling by the military

WHEREAS, in Cuba, Decree 370 establishes broad government control over the Internet to censor and punish opinions contrary to official information; there is an upsurge of accounts that impersonate opposition figures and independent journalists and in the use of trolls and false accounts - the main tool used by the regime to disseminate messages and criticize opposition figures

WHEREAS, in Ecuador, the government issued general and specific circulars to some media outlets - denouncing them for spreading sensationalist and false information about the pandemic

WHEREAS, in El Salvador, attacks by government-controlled individuals and trolls against independent journalists and columnists - especially women - persist

WHEREAS, in Nicaragua the bill for a "Special Law on Cyber-Crime" would punish - with two to four years in prison - anyone who disseminates false information in the digital ecosystem and causes fear or anxiety in the population

WHEREAS, in Panama there are bills to reform the Electoral Code to penalize false news and misinformation, and another initiative that penalizes users of social networks who publish information that affects third parties

WHEREAS, the first principle of the Chapultepec Declaration states that: "There are no free people or societies without freedom of speech and press. The exercise of these freedoms is not granted by authorities; it is an inalienable right of the people"

THE 76th H IAPA GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLVES

To urge the governments of Argentina, Chile, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Panama to abandon decrees, laws, and administrative provisions that seek to establish State-imposed ethical rules for the media or to stop sensationalism or disinformation on social networks, since this creates barriers to freedom of the press and freedom of expression - as set forth in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights

To call on States to adopt the Salta Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression in the Digital Age, which in its tenth article states: "Disinformation should not be fought with censorship mechanisms or penal sanctions, but with the promotion of press and digital literacy policies" and encourages technological giants to "adopt self-regulatory measures to prevent the deliberate dissemination of disinformation"

To call on the States of Cuba and El Salvador to abandon the repulsive mechanisms of propaganda and harassment of journalists on social networks and digital platforms - via trolls and bots operated by government security or intelligence systems

To call upon States to desist from using digital surveillance mechanisms to infringe upon the freedoms and privacy of citizens - as stated in the seventh article of the Salta Declaration.

IAPA is a non-profit entity 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 the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.

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