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Don't let September 11 cut into freedom of expression, groups say

(IFEX) - The following is an 11 September 2002 International Freedom of Expression eXchange media release:


Don't Let September 11 Cut into Freedom of Expression, Groups Say

Dakar, September 11, 2002 - The threat of terrorism "must not be used as an excuse to impose restrictions on freedom of expression," 46 press-freedom and other human-rights groups declared today at the General Meeting of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX).

The media have a "fundamental role" to serve "the public's right to know, including the issues related to terrorism," the 46 organizations, including all 33 IFEX members in attendance at the Dakar meeting, said in a signed Declaration.

The groups said in the statement that they "strongly condemn acts of terrorism and crimes against humanity such as the attacks on the United States one year ago."

But they also noted that "any strategy to combat the threat of terrorism ? must respect freedom of expression and democracy as set out in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Anti-terrorism laws passed in many countries in the aftermath of September 11, the Declaration says, "include provisions that undermine civil liberties and, in some cases, severely limit the right to freedom of expression and to freedom of information."

These limits include "threats and harassment directed at those reporting on terrorism and conflict" and an "increasing tendency towards official censorship and undue pressure on journalists and media by the authorities" of some countries.

All parties must also strive to ensure "secure conditions for the exercise of journalism" and none should ever "allow their agents or combatants to pose as media workers," the Declaration says.

IFEX is a network whose 54 members strive to protect and promote free-expression and journalists' rights around the world. It monitors such issues and issues Action Alerts from its Toronto-based Clearing House.

The text of the Declaration follows:

Declaration on War, Terrorism and Media After the Events of September 11th 2001

Participants, undersigned, at the International Freedom of Expression eXchange meeting in Dakar, Senegal, on September 11th 2002 strongly condemn acts of terrorism and crimes against humanity such as the attacks on the United States one year ago:

Recalling the fundamental role of the media in meeting the public's right to know, including about issues related to terrorism,

Believing that "anti-terrorism" laws passed in many countries in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks include provisions that undermine civil liberties and, in some cases, severely limit the right to freedom of expression and to freedom of information,

Condemning the killing of journalists and attacks on media, including threats and harassment directed at those reporting on terrorism and conflict,

Noting the increasing tendency towards official censorship and undue pressure on journalists and media by the authorities, which is leading to widespread self-censorship within media,

Convinced that free access to information, the free flow of information and open public debate are essential to any long-term solutions to the problems of terrorism,

Believing that ignorance, fear and uncertainty created by secrecy and unprofessionalism in media leads to manipulation of public feeling in favour of intolerance and acts of extremism rather than the resolution of conflict through dialogue and democratic exchange,

Declare

That any strategy to combat the threat of terrorism and for resolution of conflict must respect freedom of expression and democracy as set out in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

That media have a right to report fully on terrorism in the public interest and a duty to promote open and informed debate about terrorism and strategies to combat it

That all parties to conflicts must

* Respect the rights of journalists and freedom of expression defenders to work in safe and secure conditions,
* Allow media to investigate and report freely on conflict,
* Grant journalists and media staff maximum access to conflict areas, and
* Ensure the fullest respect for journalists' rights under the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols

That the threat of terrorism must not be used as an excuse to impose restrictions on freedom of expression or on freedom of information

That all parties must instill in their agents, officials and combatants a recognition that the safety and security of journalists is important and they should further provide resources to create secure conditions for the exercise of journalism

That all parties should never allow their agents or combatants to pose as media workers

That media organisations, journalists' groups and professional associations, including media educators, should take measures, in co-operation with other civil society groups, to enhance the capacity for informed, professional and tolerant reporting on terrorism, through

* Professional training programmes on issues such as safety of journalists, conflict reporting and tolerance in journalism, and

* Providing opportunities for discussion of ethical issues related to reporting on terrorism.

Dakar, Senegal
September 11th 2002

Signed

IFEX SIGNATORIES:
Alliance of Independent Journalists, Indonesia
ARTICLE 19
Asociación de Periodistas de Guatemala, Comisión de Libertad de Prensa
Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Center for Human Rights and Democratic Studies, Nepal
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Philippines
Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social, Mexico
Committee to Protect Journalists, US
Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association
Féderation professionnelle des journalistes du Québec, Canada
Free Expression Ghana
Free Media Movement, Sri Lanka
Freedom of Expression Institute, South Africa
Freedom House
Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa, Colombia
Independent Journalism Center - Moldova
Independent Journalism Centre - Nigeria
Index on Censorship
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, Peru
International Federation of Journalists
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions and Free Access to Information and Freedom of Expression
International Press Institute
Journaliste en Danger, Democratic Republic of Congo
Journalists' Trade Union, Azerbaijan
Media Institute of Southern Africa
Network for the Defence of Independent Media in Africa, Kenya
Pacific Islands News Association
Periodistas Para la Defensa del Periodismo Independiente, Argentina
Thai Journalists' Association
West African Journalists' Association
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
World Association of Newspapers
World Press Freedom Committee, US

NON IFEX SIGNATORIES:
Association des journalistes de Guinée
Association des journalistes de Niger
Cartoonists Rights Network
Centre for Media Freedom - Middle East and North Africa
Council for Assisting Refugee Academics, UK
Credo for Freedom of Expression and Associated Rights, UK
International Media Support
International Press Center, Nigeria
Internews Network
Mouvement des refugiés Mauritaniens au Sénégal pour la défense des droits de l'homme
Periodistas Frente a la Corrupción
Sudan Organization Against Torture
Timor Lorosa'e Journalists' Association, East Timor


IFEX

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