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First national conference on communications held in Brasilia

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 22 December 2009 - The first National Conference on Communications brought together 1,684 delegates from 14-17 December in Brasilia to discuss how to improve freedom of expression in the country. During the event, ARTICLE 19 launched a Portuguese translation of The Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality, a groundbreaking document that elaborates international standards on the rights to freedom of expression and equality.

National Conferences are used in Brazil to bring together different stakeholders to discuss and recommend policy options in different fields to the government, building on earlier debates at the municipal, state and national levels. This first Conference on Communications was a long-standing demand from social movements complaining about the lack of representation within the Brazilian media.

ARTICLE 19 was heavily involved in the Conference, including as a member of the organising committee for the São Paulo State Conference. ARTICLE 19's inputs were based on its publication, Access to the Airwaves: Principles of Freedom of Expression and Broadcast Regulation, which sets out international standards which strike a balance between the needs of social movements and the private sector.

Some of the key proposals debated at the National Conference included the idea of establishing an independent body to regulate communications in the public interest; equitable access to the airwaves with distribution of the spectrum among commercial, public and community broadcasters; decriminalisation of community radios operating without licenses and a more fluid process for licensing them; a new Press Law that guarantees the right of reply and plurality in the print media sector; and the recognition of access to the Internet as a fundamental right for all.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes the Brazilian government's efforts to foster an open and participatory debate about communication policies and urges it to implement human rights based proposals in this area. ARTICLE 19 recommends, in particular, that efforts be directed towards transforming state broadcasters into public service broadcasters, overseen by an independent body, and that broadcasting frequencies should be shared equitably and in the public interest among the three tiers of broadcasting (public, commercial and community), as well as broadcasters of different geographic reach (national, regional and local).

The Camden Principles are available in English
and in Portuguese
"Access to the Airwaves" is available in English
and in Portuguese

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