13 November 2012



Simply put, the Declaration of Chapultepec is based on the idea that “no law or act of government may limit freedom of expression or of the press, whatever the medium.” The Declaration is unique among international documents in that it was written by private citizens, with no involvement from any government whatsoever.

The IAPA’s Chapultepec Project was started in 1994 and since then has received financial support from the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation. Its initial goal (1996–2001) was to promote broad public understanding of the importance of press freedom for a sustainable democracy and social well-being, in accordance with the Declaration’s ten principles. After these principles became established as a standard for press freedom, it was clear that judicial and legislative institutions needed to be strengthened if they were to become an integral part of the political culture. Thus, the Chapultepec Project focused on the judicial branch (2002–2004) to provide it with the tools it needed to interpret laws related to these basic rights. Since 2005, the project has shifted its attention to the legislative branch, in a country-by-country effort to bring national legislation into line with the Declaration’s principles.


In the three branches of government  

Executive branch: Public forums were held in 29 countries between 1996 and 2006. Thus far, the Declaration has been ratified and signed by 43 presidents (three of them as candidates) from 24 countries.

Judicial branch:

The Hemispheric Conference on Justice and Press Freedom in the Americas was held in Washington, DC, in 2002, with the participation of Supreme Court justices from throughout the region. This event was followed by 14 national conferences that brought together publishers, judges, and human rights groups to discuss the legal tools that are available to support the Declaration’s principles.

Legislative branch:

Organized and sponsored the Hemispheric Summit of National Congresses on Press Freedom, in Washington, DC, in 2004. The third in a series of national conferences aimed at opening up a dialogue among legislators, media attorneys, constitutional experts, and members of the press in order to review existing legislation and make specific recommendations to bring national legislation into line with the Declaration’s ten principles. In most countries, the most pressing issues continue to be access to information, decriminalization of libel, and federal jurisdiction of crimes against journalists as a way of combating impunity. By the end of 2006, these conferences had been held in ten countries.

Public awareness:

- A second Chapultepec conference on freedom of expression was held in San José, Costa Rica, in 1998, kicking off a series of presentations on the Declaration before professionals from member newspapers, press associations, journalism schools, and media outlets in every country in the hemisphere.

- The Chapultepec Grand Prize is awarded annually to honor individuals and organizations that defend the principles of the Declaration of Chapultepec.

- Publications: In the beginning years of the Chapultepec Project, 11 publications were issued, and they proved effective in securing the involvement the region’s academic and political forces in legal reform efforts. Nuevos Términos de Código de Censura (2001), Ninguna Ley (2001), and Justice and Press Freedom have been published as part of the Chapultepec Collection, in addition to brochures on important cases.

The IAPA’s review of specific press laws in each country was published in Press Freedom and the Law (1999), which was the first comparative study of laws related to press freedom in the Americas to be made available to jurists, legislative leaders, and students. A new project, now under way, will focus on internal issues that media outlets face and the values that should guide the printed press. This initiative will cover everything from the commitment to truth, independence, corruption, and sensationalism to issues such as impartiality and accuracy, conflicts of interest, government subsidies, opinion, and the influence of advertising.

Active missions

Amicus curiae briefs: Collaborated in the submission of amicus curiae briefs on behalf of journalists in three cases before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Mauricio Herrera Ulloa of Costa Rica; Ricardo Canese of Paraguay; and, in a case currently pending before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, The Gleaner Company Limited, Jamaica).

Emergency forums: Missions have been sent to problem spots, such as Venezuela and Haiti. During the last seven years of the Chávez presidency, we have sent six high-level missions and held three emergency forums to protest legislation curtailing press freedom. Meanwhile, we have taken our protests directly to the OAS and asked the General Assembly to condemn violations.


Perhaps the greatest achievement of the Chapultepec Project in the last ten years has been its ability to take an abstract concept like “freedom of expression” and put it in terms that people can understand. Prior to 1994, when the people of the Americas — and particularly of Latin America — were asked what freedom of speech is, the answers were often confused, disjointed, and incoherent. Many of them could not explain the true meaning of the concept. Today, the IAPA can confidently state that the Declaration of Chapultepec is used in many areas of civil society as a standard for defining “freedom of expression,” and its influence is felt at the highest institutional levels. The Declaration and its ten principles have become the recognized standard by which the hemisphere measures freedom of press and freedom of speech: it formed the basis for the OAS’s Inter-American Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in 2002, and the Declaration of Chapultepec is often quoted in court cases throughout the Americas.

The Chapultepec conferences have been successful in advancing the trend toward transparency. In the last five years, freedom of information laws have been passed in Colombia, Jamaica, Panama, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic, and are now pending in Guatemala, Chile, Nicaragua, Honduras, Uruguay and Paraguay. In Argentina, a bill that had been amended beyond recognition was defeated after the Chapultepec legislative conference remarked that “no law is better than a bad law.” Laws on injuria (offensive or insulting words or actions) were repealed in Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Panama — and partially repealed in Chile — while crimes against journalists have been placed under federal jurisdiction in Brazil, a measure currently under consideration in Mexico as well.