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IAPA concerned over article of draft Constitution calling for media "truthfulness and responsibility"

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is an 11 February 2008 IAPA press release:

IAPA calls for stronger guarantees that Bolivia's new constitution will safeguard press freedom

MIAMI, Florida (February 11, 2008) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today urged that greater guarantees for press freedom be specified in Bolivia's proposed new Constitution and that a clause calling on the media to publish news and opinion with "truthfulness and responsibility" be dropped.

The IAPA, acting in conjunction with the South American country's National Press Association, referred to the Constitution's proposed Article 108 which, among other references to the press, states in paragraph 2 that "information and opinion imparted through the news media must respect the principles of truthfulness and responsibility."

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín, declared, "This reform amounts to an attack on freedom of expression. It would allow any unscrupulous government to regulate by law exactly what journalists, media or the general public perceive to be true or not, from a dangerously pro-government viewpoint."

Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, expressed surprise at the scant attention this issue has raised in Bolivia. "What surprises me most," he said, "is that if approved as it stands, the grave error will be committed of requiring that not only news items be accurate, but also opinions - and that runs the risk of turning a government into a real inquisitor."

He said that while the concept might appear harmless, the IAPA would be keeping a close watch and would be calling for its removal from the proposed new Constitution since in the past similar clauses had negative outcomes. He went on to cite Venezuela, where the inclusion of the principle of "accurate information" in its Constitution gave rise to the enactment of laws and the application of government decrees that enabled the shutdown of RCTV and persecution of other media and individual journalists.

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