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IAPA opposes proposed law governing journalistic activity

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is a 20 December 2007 IAPA press release:

Don't enact press law, give access to public records, IAPA urges Paraguayan president

Miami (December 20, 2007) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today called on Paraguay's President Nicanor Duarte Frutos to oppose a proposed law governing journalistic activity and urged him instead to come up with one on access to public information which "would require the government to be more transparent and empower citizens to monitor its actions more closely."

In a letter signed by IAPA President Earl Maucker and the chairman of the organization's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gonzalo Marroquín the organization censured the Paraguayan leader for his repeated verbal attacks on individual journalists and news media owners which had became more bitter during the ruling political party's internal elections that wound up on Sunday.

Maucker, editor and senior vice president of the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, newspaper Sun-Sentinel, and Marroquín, editor of Prensa Libre in Guatemala City, Guatemala, expressed concern and surprise that Frutos had taken the position of opposition nominee for the presidency Fernando Lugo, who has declared during his presidential election campaign that if elected next April he will set down rules governing journalistic activity.

Following is the text of the letter:

"Mr. President,

"On behalf of the Inter American Press Association we wish to express to you our deepest concern at the continued attacks and statements against news media, journalists and media owners, a situation that worsened during the Colorado Party's internal election campaign that ended this past Sunday.

"Our organization has constantly monitored the situation in your country and has received numerous complaints from journalists and news media regarding verbal attacks, abuses and indirect actions that could be interpreted as acts designed to undermine freedom of the press and encourage self-censorship.

"These attacks are out of line with the principles that you defend and have upheld concerning press freedom and free speech, the framework required for the unfettered practice of journalism and diffusion of ideas.

"We are greatly concerned at your support for an initiative voiced by presidential nominee Fernando Lugo who, facing the April 2008 elections came out in favor of a press law. Regrettably - and we appeal to your experience as a journalist in this area - you will admit that these regulations can only end up limiting the actions of the media and restricting the freedom of the press that they are intended to reinforce.

"We also believe, however, that Paraguay has a debt with the subject of freedom of expression and owes itself a debate on an access to public information bill that requires far greater transparency by the government and empowers its citizens to keep a close watch over its actions.

"In the spirit of the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Chapultepec, which you have respected, we ask that you continue supporting and encouraging an increasingly favorable climate for journalistic work to be carried out and for press freedom and freedom of expression to prevail in your country."

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