WHEREAS in the United States, the media continue to face a large number of defamation lawsuits
WHEREAS a recent Unesco report warns that defamation laws and SLAPP are used in several countries of the Americas to criminalize freedom of expression, including Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela, among others
WHEREAS in Bolivia and El Salvador, the media and journalists have been harassed through audits by the Finance Ministries
WHEREAS in Guatemala, the Attorney General's Office ordered the investigation of six journalists and two columnists of elPeriódico for alleged obstruction of justice in the case of the media outlet's president, José Rubén Zamora, imprisoned since July 2022; those accused, almost all of them abroad to avoid prosecution without due process, are the former president of the IAPA, Gonzalo Marroquín, the editor of elPeriódico. Julia Corado, columnist Edgar Gutiérrez and journalists Rony Ríos, Alexander Valdez, Cristian Velix, Denis Aguilar, and Gerson Ortiz
WHEREAS in Panama, lawsuits against the media and journalists constitute the main threat to press freedom, meanwhile the legislation allows the plaintiff to freeze the assets of the media or intervene in its administration without the lawsuit having been admitted; and that Congressman Gabriel Silva presented a bill to protect the media and journalists from judicial harassment
WHEREAS in Paraguay, the convictions of the editor and a journalist of ABC Color for alleged defamation, as well as the other lawsuits underway, had the intention to censor news content
WHEREAS in Peru, a court order from the Fifth Constitutional Court of the Superior Court of Justice of Lima ordered the digital media El Foco to remove content related to the alleged mistreatment and harassment of four former employees by the prosecutor of the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations; the governor of Ancash ordered the Directorate of Transport and Communications to evaluate the licenses of radio and television stations used to "annoy, to bother, to blackmail," and the Public Prosecutor's Office initiated an investigation against journalist Paola Ugaz for alleged illicit enrichment, the third complaint filed against Ugaz by the director of the portal La Abeja, Luciano Revoredo
WHEREAS in Venezuela, the authorities investigate journalists who report on matters related to the government and its administration, among others, such as the case of José Gregorio Meza of El Nacional, who the Public Prosecutor's Office and the Scientific, Criminal, and Criminalistic Investigations Corps urged to testify about journalistic work
WHEREAS the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued in November a relevant judgment against the State of Chile for violating the freedom of the press of an environmental lawyer sentenced to prison for serious libel in 2004 and that, in its decision, the Court called for "establishing alternative channels to criminal proceedings for the protection of the honor of public officials" in their actions in the public sphere
WHEREAS, Principle 10 of the Declaration of Chapultepec establishes that "no media or journalist should be punished for disseminating the truth or formulating criticisms or denunciations against the public authorities"
WHEREAS, the Declaration of Salta establishes in Article 3: "Governments should not inhibit by regulation expressions of public interest in the digital space, nor impose aggravated sanctions for the fact that they are expressed in said space. Likewise, governments should not penalize criticism, information, or protest against public officials on matters of public interest or against individuals who voluntarily expose themselves to the scrutiny of society. In the case of claims of a civil nature, actual malice must be proven."
THE IAPA MID-YEAR MEETING RESOLVES
To deplore the use of civil and criminal lawsuits as an instrument against the media and journalists to intimidate and discourage journalistic investigations and generate self-censorship
Urge countries with criminal defamation to adhere to the Inter-American standards of the Declaration of Principles of Freedom on Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which states that "there should only be civil remedies for defamation"
Reject government pressure against the media and journalists, exercised through tax or official investigative agencies to curb independent journalistic work
Urge the Chilean State to comply with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling, which requires it to decriminalize defamation in the case of lawsuits filed by public officials on matters of public interest.