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Government orders media to restrict dissemination of information on security situation during municipal elections

(IFJ/IFEX) - Due to disturbances during the electoral process, the national government issued Decree 3950 on 12 October 2007, containing special measures to "maintain public order". The decree ordered, among other things, that on the day of the municipal elections, which took place on 28 October throughout the country, the media restrict the information it disseminated regarding the state of public order to that information confirmed by national government sources.

Andres Monroy, legal advisor to IFJ Colombia's Solidarity Centre, warned that this was an unjustified restriction on the dissemination of information and one that, under existing jurisprudence constitutes prior censorship, which is expressly forbidden under Article 20 of the Constitution.

Article 8 of Decree 3950, containing special measures concerning the public security situation, stipulates that, "regarding public order, the media shall transmit on the day of the elections only information confirmed by government sources."

Monroy points out that if such restrictions are ever to be genuinely necessary to preserve public order, the government has the option to declare a State of Internal Disorder (Estado de Conmotion Interior), and that in fact no such State of Internal Disorder has been declared (. . .).

He also points out that such a generic and unlimited restriction would not be valid, since declarations of such states of emergency must meet the requirements of appropriateness, need and proportionality which apply in any democratic society.

He also notes that Decree 3095 of 2007 meant that information concerning the state of public order had to be vetted prior to its dissemination, since it had to be confirmed by a government source. This constitutes prior censorship (. . .).

For the complete text in Spanish, see: http://www.fipcolombia.com/noticiaAmpliar.php?noticia=867

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