Miami (June 26, 2023) – The Inter American Press Association (SIP) expressed its concern about the decision of the Government of Chile to create an official commission to combat disinformation, warning it "could fall into the temptation of establishing censorship mechanisms."
On June 20, the Official Gazette published the decree to create an Advisory Commission against Disinformation within the Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge, and Innovation. Its objective will be to advise the General Secretariat of Government (Segegob) on disinformation and democratic quality, digital literacy, disinformation on digital platforms, and good digital practices. It will also make recommendations on public policies.
The president of the IAPA, Michael Greenspon, expressed: "Beyond how laudable the objectives may seem, there should be precaution when governments get directly involved in analyzing information, expression, media or journalism issues." Greenspon, global director of Printing Licensing and Innovation at The New York Times, added: "Commissions, observatories or other forms of government surveillance tend to look at reality through ideological lenses, advising discriminatory public policies with adverse effects on the freedom of expression and of the press."
The president of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Carlos Jornet, the editor of La Voz del Interior of Argentina, said: "As an organization, we favor governments promoting digital literacy and legislators exploring the adoption of policies public authorities to combat misinformation. However, he added that "it is very different when the State creates its commission, studies and seeks to determine, from its point of view, what is most convenient."
Greenspon and Jornet recalled that the Chapultepec and Salta Declarations leave no loopholes for States to impose requirements, conditions, or guidelines on freedom of expression or misinformation. "The spirit of these documents -they said- is to defend freedom of the press and expression as essential principles of democracy and therefore prescribe that governments should not impose measures, to avoid the temptation to establish censorship mechanisms."
IAPA authorities said that to combat disinformation, the Chilean government should encourage measures to support journalism, the media, academia, and civil society organizations but not get directly involved in solutions. "In this way - they said - it will give greater relevance to the issue so that it is treated with greater openness, diversity, and plurality in society."
According to the decree, the Advisory Commission against Disinformation will comprises two representatives from state universities, two from private schools and one from an institution outside the Metropolitan Region, three members of an NGO, foundation, or civil society related to the subject, and a representative from a fact-checking organization. Among other functions, the body will submit to the Ministry of Science and the General Secretariat of Government recommendations to adopt public policies.
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.