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IAPA censures prime minister for restricting two newspapers' access to information

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami (May 8, 2009) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today protested the decision of Bermuda Prime Minister Ewart Brown to reduce the supply of his government's information to the newspapers The Royal Gazette and Mid-Ocean News, calling the move an act of discrimination.

Brown had earlier this week ordered officials of his cabinet office and the Ministry of Tourism and Transport to cut back their contact with the daily The Royal Gazette and the weekly Mid-Ocean News, both publications owned by the same company. He said his decision was aimed at reducing friction that he had been having with the newspapers since last year.

IAPA President Enrique Santos Calderón, editor of the Bogotá, Colombia, newspaper El Tiempo, declared, "Friction between the press and the government has to be accepted as being normal and the government has no excuse in this for discriminating, an attitude that goes against international precepts that make it clear it is a government's obligation to make public information widely available so as to show transparency in its administration and to guarantee access to information to all citizens."

In March 2008 the IAPA criticized and characterized as a reprisal the decision of Brown's government to cancel the placement of official announcements in The Royal Gazette and its subscription to the paper in a move seen as motivated by the newspaper's campaign titled "The Right to Know - Giving Power to the People" in which it pushed for enactment of a law on access to public information in Bermuda.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, added, "To limit access to information of public interest is detrimental to citizens in that it restricts their right to know and that of the news media to provide news and carry out their role in an effective way."

The two IAPA officers agreed that "so as to guarantee the right of its citizens to be informed, the government of Prime Minister Brown should rethink its decision, be transparent in the delivery of information and move away from taking exclusionary decisions that go against freedom of the press in its country."

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