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IAPA urges Supreme Court to respect free speech in relation to constitutional amendment

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, February 7, 2011 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today issued an open call on the Mexican Supreme Court to respect people's right to express themselves publicly through the news media during a review of Article 41 of the nation's Constitution adopted in 2007 which allows only an official agency to place political messages in the media.

The electoral reform passed by Congress in 2007 became the subject of controversy again when a group of 15 intellectuals and prominent members of the public filed with the Supreme Court a writ protesting Article 41 for prohibiting private persons from purchasing space on radio and television for political propaganda, giving such a right exclusively to the official Federal Electoral Institute (IFE).

The Supreme Court justices were required to rule whether the constitutional amendment can be challenged in court, but on January 31 they had a tied vote among the 10 justices. The impasse is expected to be overcome once one of the vacancies on the Court is filled.

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín insisted that "the Court should take into account our position at the time, when we also pointed out to the Mexican Congress that the amendment limited freedom of expression in that it prohibited persons or public and private institutions from placing or disseminating messages on radio and television."

Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, said that at that time, just as now, "we understood that there had been too much ambiguity in the law and in the end it might influence voters' choices and legislating to the detriment of the public's right to express themselves freely through the news media."

The co-chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, editor of the Uruguayan weekly news magazine Búsqueda, added that the current law contravenes constitutional guarantees concerning freedom of expression and the right to information, as well as international treaties on free speech signed to by the Mexican government.

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