Press organisation calls for reaffirmed commitment to freedom of expression
PANAMA CITY, Panama -- The Inter American Press Association (IAPA), through a delegation visiting Panama, on Thursday announced an open proclamation that called on government leaders of the Americas taking part in the seventh Summit of the Americas to “reaffirm their commitment to freedom of expression and of the press, and the people’s right to information.”
The IAPA delegation, headed by the organization’s president, Gustavo Mohme, circulated the open letter “A Historic Opportunity” addressed to the heads of state and government of the Americas meeting in the seventh Summit of the Americas, whom it urged to not remain silent “nor be indifferent to violations of human rights and of freedom of expression.”
The IAPA also publicly called on the Cuban government, within the process aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations with the United States, to contemplate a greater opening and that an IAPA mission be invited to visit the Caribbean island, with the aim of including freedom of the press in the bilateral talks, as a guarantee for the Cuban people.
During their stay in Panama the IAPA representatives held numerous meetings and visited local media’s newsrooms to send a message of solidarity with journalists and disseminated their open letter, which calls for the clear and direct inclusion of the principles of freedom of expression and of the press, enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, in any document or conclusions emerging from the Summit, which is bringing together government leaders of the Western Hemisphere.
In this regard the IAPA considers that under the mandate of national constitutions and international treaties on human rights, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “government leaders have the obligation to watch over, promote and defend freedom of expression” and “there are no excuses for our government leaders to be silent witnesses” of violations of individual and civil liberties, especially “when those abuses and outrages come from the very government” and “must be denounced by all – government leaders and those governed – without censorship, limits or borders.”
Specific reference is made in the document to the cases of Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela, where the governments of Raul Castro, Rafael Correa and Nicolas Maduro “particularly and systematically commit” violations of human rights, matters that are unmasked by the existence of “prisoners of conscience, shut-down news media, and journalists and members of the public muzzled.”
After declaring that democracy is more than holding elections, and “demands a clear separation of powers, independent judges, transparency in public affairs, propelling prosperity, promoting equality, individual guarantees and a respectful environment that empowers diverse and plural ideas, as corresponds to a state of law”, the IAPA concluded its message by advising the government leaders of the Americas that “full and true cooperation can only be achieved when there is a democratic conviction, and no member of the public is excluded or discriminated against for thinking, voicing an opinion or being different.”