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Five IFEX members and another organisation pass resolutions on global press freedom issues

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is an abridged IPI press release:

Resolutions passed by the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations, 18 June 2008, Belgrade, Serbia

The members of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations present at their meeting on 18 June 2008 in Belgrade, Serbia, adopted unanimously the following resolutions:

The Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations, meeting in Belgrade June 18, 2008, hailed forthcoming United Nations commemorations of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and called upon UN bodies and their member states to act to implement their pledge of freedom of expression and of press freedom, as contained in the Declaration's Article 19:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. (. . . )

The only problem with Article 19 is that it is not respected nor implemented everywhere. The time is long past for the United Nations to move to make it so. Those countries that ignore their commitments to respect freedom of expression and freedom of the press should be enjoined to do so.

Failure to honor those commitments should be treated as a serious breach and should be sanctioned by such measures as exclusion from UN human rights bodies. The UN system should reinforce its aid to the development of independent news outlets everywhere.

We members of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations, representing journalists and news outlets throughout the world, call upon the United Nations and its agencies to move now from their promise of global press freedom to adopt measures for implementation needed to transform that promise into practice.

The Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations at its meeting in Belgrade, Serbia, on June 18, 2008 adopted by unanimous vote of its members present the following resolution:

Whereas: President Raúl Castro is keeping the Cuban press in the same stagnation, control of information and repression of independent reporting despite the changes noted in recent months

Whereas: more than 20 journalists are in prison, many of them with serious health problems, with the authorities not agreeing to release them on humanitarian grounds nor allowing them to emigrate with their families (. . . )

The coordinating committee resolves:
- to demand the unconditional release of imprisoned journalists and government recognition of independent reporting, and to also to call upon the Cuban government to allow the immediate, unrestricted departure of all journalists who have been granted visas to emigrate,
- to demand the cancellation of repressive actions against independent journalists and reprisals against their family members,
- to condemn the intensification of government control over use of the Internet and to call for the cost of access to the World Wide Web to be lowered,
- to demand respectful treatment of the foreign correspondents carrying out their duties in the island.

The Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations at its meeting in Belgrade, Serbia, on June 18, 2008 adopted by unanimous vote of its members present the following resolution: (. . . )

To condemn the violations by the government of the human rights of journalists and news media workers and the constant threats against the independent press, radio and television

To reiterate its condemnation and reject President Chavez's decision to cease RCTV's broadcasts, in retaliation against an independent station that maintained its news and editorial behaviour, until the last moment of its transmission, despite pressures and harassment

To urge the government to guarantee fairness and transparency in the allocation of broadcast concessions by providing a clear explanation of the process and the criteria used in making decisions

To urge the return of the over-the-air television signal to RCTV, and give them back immediately the equipment and facilities that were illegally confiscated, in the same conditions they were seized, as well as to cease the harassment of Globovisión and the other independent media in Venezuela

To repudiate the use of the official foreign exchange system to limit timely approval and grant of currency for the importation of newsprint and other supplies

To reject the concentration of state media, created and maintained with public funds with the aim of indoctrinating and controlling opinion.

The Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations, meeting in Belgrade on 18 June 2008, expressed concern regarding a growing tendency amongst international and regional organizations to justify curtailing freedom of expression in the name of avoiding offence to religions.

In March 2007, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) passed Resolution 4/9 regarding "Combating Defamation of Religions". The resolution, which voices concern about the defamation of all religions, but refers specifically only to Islam, provides that the right to freedom of expression may be subject to limitations if "necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others", and for the "protection" of respect for religions and beliefs. It was subsequently adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2007. ( . . . )

The Committee emphasizes that the very narrow permissible limitations on speech, such as those embodied in civil defamation laws aiming to protect the reputations of individuals, were never intended to shield religions as a whole from criticism. Efforts to couch the issue as a conflict between the right to expression and the right to practice one's religion without interference or discrimination are similarly misplaced, as one does not negate the other.

The Committee therefore calls on the international community, particularly the United Nations, to put an end to this erosion of the right to freedom of expression, which places at risk the continued relevance of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as it approaches its 60th Anniversary.

The Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations, at its meeting in Belgrade, Serbia, on June 18, 2008 adopted the following resolution by the unanimous will of those members present.

Whereas: A bill on the so-called "rights to communication" has been introduced for its first debate at the Constituent Assembly of Ecuador.

Considering: That the text of this bill violates freedom of expression, the principles stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the American Convention of Human Rights and the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, all of them recognized by the State of Ecuador.

That the bill under discussion aims to impose the state control of the information and programming of the media, a doctrine that was not admitted by the World Summit on the Information Society - WSIS.

The global coordinating committee resolves: To call on the members of the Constituent Assembly to assure that the new Constitution maintains the firm respect to freedom of expression that the Ecuadorians have always defended passionately. (. . . )

IPI, the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, is dedicated to the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information, and the improvement of the practices of journalism.

Signed by the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations:

For the full press release, see:

International Press Institute

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