Miami (March 13, 2023) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) has warned about a bill in Peru that would make registering and licensing journalists mandatory. The organization considers that the initiative represents a setback for press freedom and contravenes Inter-American jurisprudence.
Congresswoman Noelia Herrera of the far-right Renovación Popular party presented the initiative on March 10 before the Congressional Education Committee. Herrera's bill establishes a compulsory requirement of a bachelor's degree in communications or membership in the Peruvian College of Journalists to practice journalism.
IAPA president, Michael Greenspon, emphasized that if the bill is approved, it would imply a "serious setback in terms of freedom of expression and press freedom in the country." Greenspon, Global Head of Licensing & Print Innovation for the New York Times, explained: "These requirements could be used by governments to decide who can be a journalist and to block critical voices, as done in many countries where governments regulated the profession."
The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Carlos Jornet, added: "a statute of this kind conflicts with the historic decision of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which in 1985 set an important precedent, still in force today. Advisory Opinion OC-5/85 of the Inter-American Court, at the request of the Costa Rican government and mediated by the IAPA, established: "The compulsory licensing of journalists is incompatible with Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights if it denies any person access to the full use of the news media as a means of expressing opinions or imparting information."
Jornet, the editor of La Voz del Interior of Argentina, explained: "Although there are associations in some countries, these are usually voluntary." He added that regarding the requirement of a university degree, "a democratic society should not limit the exercise of freedom of expression by requiring a license."
Greenspon and Jornet stressed that, as stated in article 8 of the IAPA's Declaration of Chapultepec, "The membership of journalists in guilds, their affiliation to professional and trade associations and the affiliation of the media with business groups must be strictly voluntary."
Complaint about a new initiative in Florida
The IAPA also expressed concern over a bill presented on February 28 to the Senate of the U.S. state of Florida that would oblige bloggers to register, especially those who write about the government and state legislators. Jornet pointed out that this is a dangerous form of mandatory registration that seeks to control those who write about government affairs.
The "Information Dissemination" Bill 1316, sponsored by Republican Senator Jason Brodeur, states that the blogger would be required to file monthly reports with the appropriate state office upon registration. Failure to register could result in a fine of US$25 per day, up to a maximum of US$2,500 per publication. The initiative would not extend to newspapers or similar websites.
IAPA also spoke out a few days ago about another bill in Florida that would allow politicians to sue media outlets and journalists more easily.
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.