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Ecuadorean and Argentine journalists belittled at IACHR hearing

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today (November 6, 2013) expressed concern at the belittling of Ecuadorean and Argentine journalists by officials in their respective countries after they last week denounced abuses of press freedom to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

The IACHR held a hearing on the issue on October 28 that was attended by representatives of 15 Ecuadorean organizations, among them press groups, that complained of a deterioration in freedom of expression and of assembly in their country. The delegation spoke of specific cases of violations of press freedom, and of the Communication Organic Law in effect since June this year.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa described those denunciations as “another nonsense by those who lost the elections and by the international bureaucracy.” Vice President Jorge Glass and other senior government officials added their insults and discrediting of journalists in public statements and on social media.

The same attitude of belittling those making the denunciations was adopted by the Argentine government, which attacked Magdalena Ruiz Guiñazú and Joaquín Morales Solá, who in representation of a group of press colleagues denounced to the IACHR on November 1 the poor conditions for practicing journalism in their country, campaigns to discredit independent journalists and legal and economic persecution of media critical of the government.

Argentina's ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Nilda Garré, who attended the hearing, accused the journalists of seeking to “make themselves victims,” of being “spokespersons of monopolistic groups that resist democratic advances”, and of orchestrating campaigns against nationalistic policies in Latin America.

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, declared his organization's solidarity with the journalists and regretted that the right of reply was not being respected. “Beyond the differences that President Correa or any other person in government may have with the inter-American system there cannot be a lack of respect for the mechanisms which, in seeking justice, are available for all the people of the Americas.”

Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, added that governments have a right to respond as an opposing party in the same hearings, “but this does not mean that instead of discussing the issues and presenting their views they can end up insulting their own citizens.”

He went on to say that “as we in the IAPA have a great deal of experience in taking part in those hearings before the IACHR and discussing with governments, but always in a climate of respect, it is difficult to understand why a president of a country or high-ranking official has to resort to disparaging remarks.”

Anyone in the Americas can request to be heard in one of the two hearings that the IACHR holds each year. The rules of the Inter-American System protect the people so that they can present their denunciations, while it prohibits governments from “taking the witnesses or experts to court or taking reprisals against them or their families because of their statements….”

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