Miami (February 16, 2022) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed its concern over the scope of an initiative to reform the Penal Code of the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, which could criminalize the practice of journalism with up to eight years in prison. The organization urged the state Congress to shelve the proposal because it contravenes precepts on freedom of the press and could inhibit the press's investigative work.
The proposal, presented on September 14, 2021, by Deputy Iris Mora Vallejo of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, modifies Articles 194 Bis and 194 Ter on "violation of personal or family privacy," a crime punished in the Penal Code of Quintana Roo since 2008, with between six months and four years in prison, and from 100 to 300 days of fine.
The initiative increases three years in prison to whoever uses various means to reproduce documents or listen, observe or record images from a processing or storage device without the authorization of its owner or legitimate possessor. In addition, the bill adds the crime of "violation of personal or family privacy" and the disclosure of "professional or confidential" information, with a punishment of up to eight years in prison.
IAPA President Jorge Canahuati urged Congress to "reject the reform, which harms the right to freedom of the press and information since it runs the risk of inhibiting journalists from publishing investigations of officials or personalities involved in matters of public interest."
The Chairman of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Carlos Jornet, said, "When there are conflicts over values such as the right to privacy and freedom of the press, the public's right to know and receive information must always prevail." He added, "the Legislation and regulations must guarantee freedom of expression when it comes to journalistic work to expose issues of public interest. In addition, criminal Legislation already exists to penalize crimes against privacy and property among individuals, so it is not advisable to create special legislation".
Canahuati, president of the OPSA group of Honduras, and Jornet, editor of the newspaper La Voz del Interior of Argentina, said, "The criminalization of journalistic activity is contrary to inter-American jurisprudence."
They recalled that the Declaration of Chapultepec, created by the IAPA in Mexico, states: "No news media nor journalist may be punished for publishing the truth, criticizing, or denouncing the government." They also indicated that the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights states: "Privacy laws should not inhibit or restrict investigation and dissemination of information of public interest." In addition, the Inter-American document says, "Public officials are subject to greater scrutiny by society."
IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.