Judicial harassment


79th IAPA General Assembly, November 9 - 12, 2023, Mexico City, Mexico


WHEREAS, in several countries in the region, including the United States, defamation lawsuits remain a persistent threat to media outlets, and journalists and press organizations are calling for legislation that would allow for the swift dismissal of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs)

WHEREAS, many civil lawsuits with claims of millions of dollars are brought to intimidate the media and journalists and judges indiscriminately admit them without considering laws, jurisprudence, and inter-American standards that protect press freedom

WHEREAS, in Brazil, journalists from Gazeta do Povo were the victims of a dozen lawsuits after publishing articles on the remuneration of judges, prosecutors, and lawyers, and several press organizations asked the Supreme Court to interpret provisions of the Civil Code and the Special Courts Law to reduce the damage caused by judicial harassment of the press

WHEREAS in El Salvador, there is concern about a lawsuit for millions of dollars against El Diario de Hoy and one of its journalists brought by a relative of a high-ranking government official for partially reproducing an article in a foreign magazine in which he is mentioned

WHEREAS, in Guatemala, the Public Prosecutor's Office, through politically rigged trials, sentenced José Rubén Zamora Marroquín to six years in prison, and eight other journalists linked to the irregular process were forced to leave the country to avoid jail time

WHEREAS, in Panama, judicial harassment is maintained through civil lawsuits claiming disproportionate compensation, and the law allows that, in the face of a case for damages, the plaintiff may request the freezing of the assets of the media or the seizure of its administration, even when a judgment has not been handed down in its favor

WHEREAS, in Paraguay, the Public Prosecutor's Office requires ABC Color and Última Hora to certify articles and their authors in a complaint of political persecution of former President Horacio Cartes

WHEREAS, Principle 10 of the Declaration of Chapultepec states: "No news media nor journalist may be punished for publishing the truth, criticizing, or denouncing the government." while Article 3 of the Salta Declaration states: "governments must not penalize criticism, information or protests against public officials regarding matters of public interest or against individuals who voluntarily expose themselves to public scrutiny. In cases where civil claims are filed, evidence of real malice must be proven."


Urge national congresses to create legislation that allows judges to identify and reject strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) without merit

Urge the Supreme Courts to urge judges not to admit until they have thoroughly analyzed whether defamation lawsuits against media and journalists are intended to silence journalistic denunciations and investigations in contravention of principles, jurisprudence, and standards on press freedom

Support in Brazil the request of press organizations to the Supreme Court to interpret provisions of the Civil Code and the Special Courts Law, in comparison with the national Constitution, to reduce the impact of judicial harassment of the press

Urge the courts of El Salvador to consider the 2004 jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the "Mauricio Herrera Ulloa Vs. Costa Rica" case, which exempts the media from liability for publishing content from other media, rejecting a conviction for defamation that violated the right to freedom of expression

To denounce that judicial harassment fosters a self-censorship culture in the press that harms journalistic work and the public's right to know.