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IPI Public Statements
Coordinating Committee Resolutions
21 November 2002
In addition to a letter to President Vladimir Putin, dated 21 November, on the rapid degradation of press freedom in Russia, the members of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organisations present at the meeting on 21-22 November 2002 in Vienna, Austria (Commonwealth Press Union, Inter American Press Association, International Association of Broadcasting, International Press Institute, North American Broadcasters Association, World Association of Newspapers, World Press Freedom Committee) adopted resolutions on Cuba, Impunity, Poland, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe, and also issued a statement on the World Summit on the Information Society.
COMMONWEALTH PRESS UNION
- on Cuba
RESOLUTION ON CUBA
The members of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations present at the meeting on 21 November 2002 in Vienna, Austria, issued the following resolution on harassment, the lack of freedom of expression and freedom of the press that affects independent journalists in Cuba.
The Coordinating Committee resolves:
to condemn the violation of the Cuban people’s right to obtain information about matters that concern them and to protest the openly propagandistic conduct of the government media
to demand the release of independent journalists and an end to harassment of their colleagues
to demand that independent journalists be given access to the tools they need to disseminate their ideas, opinions and news throughout the country and abroad as well as the possibility of traveling to other countries without government restriction
to demand the free and unrestricted practice of independent journalism in Cuba.
RESOLUTION ON IMPUNITY
The members of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations present at the meeting on 21 November 2002 in Vienna, Austria, issued the following resolution on the murder and violence against journalists.
The Coordinating Committee resolves:
to urge governments to consider the murders of journalists as federal crimes or crimes that can be handled with a change of jurisdiction to special courts as a way to guarantee greater clarity in the trials and to prevent impunity for this type of crime
to request that the governments establish special prosecutors’ offices to investigate attacks on journalists and the media more efficiently and quickly
to encourage legislatures to amend procedural and criminal codes so an attack that harms a journalist will be considered an aggravating circumstance
to insist that international organizations consider press freedom a condition for granting financial or economic aid to nations in the hemisphere.
RESOLUTION ON VENEZUELA
The members of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations present at the meeting on 21 November 2002 in Vienna, Austria, issued the following resolution on the situation on freedom of the press in Venezuela.
The Coordinating Committee resolves:
to roundly condemn the conduct of the administration and other branches of Venezuela’s government for systematically violating the freedom of expression and of the press within the meaning of the Declaration of Chapultepec and the OAS Declaration of Principles on the Freedom of Expression
to urge the administration and other branches of Venezuela’s government to conduct themselves with greater regard for such freedoms, and to provide such protections as are indispensable for the exercise of press freedom in that country
to demand that the Government of Venezuela comply with the measures adopted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to protect publishers, editors and journalists
to respectfully recommend to the Government of Venezuela that it seek an advisory opinion from the Inter-American Human Rights Court on the draft Content Law and Citizen Participation Act, to determine whether they are compatible with the rules of the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.
RESOLUTION ON POLAND
The members of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organisations present at the meeting on 21 November 2002 in Vienna, Austria, resolved to condemn the ongoing legal harassment campaign that has been launched by the Polish government against the independent newspaper Rzeczpospolita.
A dozen lawsuits have been brought against the newspaper in what international, independent legal experts characterize as "an attempt to bring the editorial content of Rzeczpospolita back into the influence of a ruling political majority in government."
The Polish state owns 49 per cent of the publishing company of Rzeczpospolita. It is anomalous in a modern democracy for a state to own or control any shares in a general circulation newspaper. Further, the government's position as a stakeholder in the newspaper means that it appears as having an obvious conflict of interest in the outcome of the lawsuits. The Polish State should be working to divest itself of its remaining print press holdings, not increasing them, directly or indirectly.
The Polish government has also proposed to strengthen its hold over the national broadcasting outlets that it owns, instead of converting them into truly independent public service broadcasters along the lines of those in the most advanced democracies in Europe.
These developments raise very serious concerns about the approach of the government of Poland, a country that is a leading candidate to join the European Union, where respect for rigorous separation of the printed news media and the government is the accepted democratic rule.
The emerging situation is in contradiction with Post-Communist developments in Poland, where it was generally thought that the establishment of press freedom was an irreversible feature of Polish democracy. The Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organisations urges the Polish government to ensure that the legal harassment campaign against Rzeczpospolita is ceased and to ensure that press freedom is fully respected.
RESOLUTION ON ZIMBABWE
The members of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organisations present at the meeting on 21 November 2002 in Vienna, Austria, resolves to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the Zimbabwean government's decision to introduce the enforced accreditation of journalists and media outlets.
Enacted as an amendment to the Access to Information and Protection to Privacy Act ("AIPPA") 2002, the new regulations stipulate that local journalists, freelance journalists and foreign correspondents are all obliged to pay exorbitant fees for the right to practice journalism in Zimbabwe. Indeed, foreign media houses must pay US$ 2,000 and US$ 10,000 for application and registration, respectively.
Moreover, all journalists and media outlets must register with the newly-formed, and government-controlled, Media and Information Commission (MIC) by 21 November 2002. Once registered all journalists will be awarded a certificate of accreditation and forced to observe a code of conduct, soon to be drafted by the MIC in consultation with those organizations it believes represent the profession in Zimbabwe.
While the Coordinating Committee, believes that voluntary and independent media bodies may be of benefit to journalists, the creation of the present body represents nothing more than the legislated attempt to control and subdue the journalism profession in the country.
Of particular concern is the fact that the code of conduct has not yet been drafted. Thus, by seeking accreditation, journalists and media organizations are agreeing to a set of rules which they are as yet unaware, and which, in all probability, they will have no say in. A view reinforced by the fact that the MIC, as the body overseeing the code, is not duty bound to consult all interested parties.
Elsewhere, the accreditation procedure allows the MIC to investigate the claims of members of the public against journalists, enabling it to "adjudicate and enforce" the results. This leads to the possibility that journalists may have their accreditation rights stripped from them for minor breaches of the code.
When viewing this new law in its entirety, it is clear that it represents merely another means of controlling the free flow of information. Since March 2002, 36 journalists have been arrested with 13 charged, eight of them for spreading false news. For this reason, the Coordinating Committee believes the legislation is further evidence of a government that has no interest in affirming the right of freedom of the media and upholding democracy in Zimbabwe.
STATEMENT: PRESS FREEDOM ON THE INTERNET
The members of the Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organisations present at the meeting on 21 November 2002 in Vienna, Austria, issued the following statement stressing the importance of preserving and extending press freedom on the Internet, particular in the context of the upcoming United Nations World Summit on the Information Society, scheduled for 2003 in Geneva; Switzerland, and 2005 in Tunis, Tunisia.
1. News media in cyberspace and via international satellite broadcasts should be afforded the same freedom of expression rights as traditional news media. Any text adopted by the World Summit on the Information Society should affirm this. A free press means a free people. Press freedom on the Internet must be a fundamental characteristic of this and of any new communication system.
2. This principle is embodied in UNESCO’s Declaration of Sofia of 1997:
"The access to and the use of these new media should be afforded the same freedom of expression protections as traditional media."
This declaration, adopted by a broad cross-section of journalists from both East and West Europe, was formally endorsed by the member states of UNESCO at its General Conference in 1997.
3. A major priority must be implementation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
"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."
That pledge, made by the international community in 1948, must be a living reality everywhere.
4. There are many forms of communication over the Internet, and it is important not to confuse them. News, for example, is different from such things as pornography, paedophilia, fraud, conspiracy for terrorism, incitement to violence, hate speech, etc., although there may be news stories about such problems. Such matters as those listed are normally covered in existing national general legislation and can, if appropriate and necessary, be prosecuted on the national level in the country of origin.
No new legislation or international treaty is necessary.
5. Some countries that have advocated controls over the free flow of information across national
Such controls are clearly in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
6. Over the years, developing countries have complained of being unequal partners in world communication ability. The new information technologies afford just the opportunity for interactive and multi-way communication that these developing world critics have said they want.
For those in many countries, Article 19 is still a promise rather than a reality. The new communication technologies could go a very long way toward fulfilling the promise.
7. Those who seek answers to the so-called "digital divide" neglect to recall that previous communication technologies such as printing, radio and television also started in advanced, more developed countries and spread virtually throughout the world, largely thanks to natural market processes.
The rate of spread of each successive new communication technology accelerated radically. According to the International Telecommunication Union, it took 38 years for the first 50 million radio sets to be in place worldwide, 13 years for the first 50 million television sets, and just four years for the first 50 million Internet connections. There are now more than 10 times as many Internet connections worldwide.
8. Because general principles are at stake, there is concern that controls instituted for new communication technologies could "wash back" into controls over traditional news media. This would be regressive and tragic. Nothing that could work in this manner should be permitted at this Summit.
9. A number of proposals for regulation and controls now being made were made and rejected during past debate over now-discredited proposals for a "new world information and communication order." There are clearly those at work who seek to revive and assert for their own purposes such restrictive proposals in the new guise of countering alleged threats and dangers posed by new communication technologies.
These proposals must again be successfully resisted, just as they were earlier.
10. Many of the fears over the new communication technologies expressed by officials and politicians seem to reflect anxieties about the new and unfamiliar, which they do not control. Such anxieties often reflect ignorance on what the new communication technologies really are and of how they work. They can also reflect a fear of freedom.
Discussions of many alleged problems are often conducted on the basis of unproved assertions and speculations. Rigorously researched, hard data is missing to describe the supposed threats posed by the new communication technologies, with these unproven dangers used to justify the
11. If successful, proposals to control content and its dissemination through new information
12. In the broader freedom of expression context, existing international copyright regimes and intellectual property rights agreements are, generally speaking, an indispensable encouragement to creation and innovation. Those who seek to undermine such existing conventions on the grounds of free access would, in fact, succeed only in drastically reducing incentives for developing and distributing information.
13. Most people in the world continue to receive their news and information through traditional broadcast and print media and are likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
14. The forthcoming World Summit on the Information Society provides both opportunities to broaden the reach of freedom of expression as well as dangers from those who would narrow it -- unthinkingly or deliberately.
15. Everyone involved in preparations for that summit in late 2003 in Geneva, and for the follow-up summit in 2005 presently scheduled for Tunis, should bear firmly in mind the need to maximize opportunities for extending press freedom and to resist the threats to restrict it.
To that end, civil society and all those engaged in news flows over the Internet must be an integral part of the preparations at every stage. This summit conference cannot be left to governments and technocrats alone.
16. The Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organisations calls for concerted effort to make preserving and extending the free flow of news and information in cyberspace a basic concern of the Summit.
News on the Internet is the same as news everywhere. New technology does not require any reconsideration of fundamental rights such as freedom of the press.
We call on delegates and others involved in the Summit process to: a) reject any proposal aimed at restricting news content or media operations, b) support inclusion of a clear statement of unqualified support for press freedom on the Internet, and c) include with action on any other subject that could be used restrictively a clear statement that the particular provision involved is not intended to involve any restriction on press freedom.
There must be press freedom in cyberspace.
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