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Tribunal issues decision aimed at avoiding "prior censorship" during election campaigns

(CEPET/IFEX) - In order to avoid "prior censorship", the Electoral Tribunal of the Federation's Judiciary (Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación, TRIFE) recently decided to establish limits on the ability of elections authorities to use mechanisms that restrict publicity during electoral campaigns.

According to the 13 April 2009 edition of "Reforma" newspaper, the ruling was in response to a challenge presented by the Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Demócrata) against guidelines instituted by the Federal Electoral Institute (Instituto Federal Electoral, IFE) to safeguard the elections process against illegal activities.

In issuing the ruling, the TRIFE judges noted that freedom of expression is an essential tool for publicity of a political nature and must be maximized during election campaigns. They also noted that the limits of freedom of expression are defined in the Constitution. The magistrates said that it is feasible to put certain limits and rules on the right to freedom of expression, including with respect to content, characteristics and types of messages. However, the evaluation of whether these limits have been crossed must be done after the fact. In other words, the limits cannot be used to exclude, in a prior manner, information about elections and public debates, but rather the information should be disseminated and then subjected to administrative and judicial scrutiny if warranted. The judges were in agreement that true democratic debate requires the free circulation of ideas and information about the candidates and their parties, as well as discussions about the candidates' proposals and abilities.

The tribunal's ruling also responds to the concerns of certain organisations, such as the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), which viewed the electoral publicity law as an encouragement to censorship.

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