Magazine article Editor & Publisher

IAPA in Madrid: Spanish Editors Ask for Help against Threats to Freedom

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

IAPA in Madrid: Spanish Editors Ask for Help against Threats to Freedom

Article excerpt

GATHERING OUTSIDE THE Western Hemisphere for the first time and attracting approximately 400 members and guests to its 48th General Assembly in Madrid, Spain, the Inter American Press Association learned last week that threats to liberty and a free press continue in many Latin American countries.

They also heard from editors of Madrid's daily newspapers that they are threatened by proposed amendments to the Spanish penal code that would make libel a criminal offense and would also grant the right of reply. Criminal libel would make it possible to put editors in jail and to bar them effectively from practicing their profession.

Responding to their plea for support, the IAPA considered a resolution citing these threats to the Spanish free press and noted its concern. Members of the IAPA legal committee provoked a debate by stating the association% constitution and bylaws prevented its taking a stand on issues outside the Western Hemisphere.

Various members noted that IAPA had already voted to join the International Federation of Newspaper Publishers (FIEJ), was presently meeting in Spain, and is a participant in the World Press Freedom Committee.

A compromise resolution was passed declaring publicly the IAPA's concern that the threatened laws would influence negatively on legislation in their own countries.

Their Royal Highnesses King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sophia were present and participated in the opening sessions of the conference Sept- 29.

After its usual country-by-country survey of press freedom, the IAPA found "the sunshine of freedom does not shine in Cuba--free speech is unknown, free assembly unthinkable, a free press only a sad and haunting memory." Haiti also was condemned for its suppression of freedom. Liberty and a free press are also under attack in once traditional democracies Venezuela, Peru and Colombia.

"Even in the United States, long regarded as a bastion of democracy," the Committee on Freedom of the Press said, "judges who act as if they are above the law have chipped away at that image. Journalists have been ordered with frightening regularity to reveal their sources, surrender their documents, and otherwise act as arms of law enforcement."

In Canada, IAPA said the decision of the Ontario provincial government and the city of Toronto to stop buying advertising in newspapers during the strike by the Guild against the Toronto Sun was clearly an attempt by government to use purchasing power to influence a labor dispute.

Noting the continued assassinations of journalists in many countries, including the U.S., the IAPA said "the rifle blast is only one way to silence troublesome journalists. Another, more refined but just as sure technique is the constitutional or legal restrictions imposed, especially in the developing countries. Press freedom and the right of information are threatened in some countries that still maintain in effect constitutional or legal norms that limit the profession of journalism to those who meet certain requirements of 'suitability' or who belong to a guild.

"In others, legislation has been proposed in the same vein in open violation of Article 13 of the Inter American Convention on Human Rights. In Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru and Venezuela court decisions have imposed prior censorship on certain subjects in some media.

"For all the press problems of the hemisphere, the spread of democracy here, as throughout the world, has given new hope to the champions of human freedom. Sadly this hope remains a 'dream deferred' for the suffering people of Cuba. …

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