The Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression believes that the Internet is an
instrument with the capacity to fortify the democratic system, assist the
economic development of the region’s countries, and strengthen full enjoyment
of freedom of expression. The
technology of the Internet is without precedent in the history of communications
and it allows rapid access of and transmission to a universal network of
multiple and varied information.
The Internet is a medium with great possibilities because it allows
individuals to participate openly in discussions and exchanges of information on
issues of interest to them. The global scope of the Internet allows people to
communicate and obtain information immediately, regardless of geographical
borders and distinctions based on race, sex, religion, or social origin.
Maximizing the population’s active participation through the use of the
Internet furthers the political, social, cultural, and economic development of
nations by strengthening democratic societies.
In turn, the Internet has the potential to be an ally in the promotion
and dissemination of human rights and democratic ideas and a major tool in the
actions of human rights organizations, because of its speed and breadth which
allow it to immediately transmit and receive information on situations affecting
fundamental rights in different regions.
The community of American states has explicitly recognized the protecting
of the right of freedom of expression in the American Declaration of the Rights
and Duties of Man and the American Convention on Human Rights.
These instruments allow a broad interpretation of the scope of freedom of
expression. Internet content is covered by Article 13 of the American Convention
on Human Rights. The Rapporteur urges the member states to refrain from
implementing any sort of regulation that would violate the terms of the
Restrictions and threats to freedom of expression and information are
present in virtually every State of this Hemisphere.
Absolute respect for freedom of expression and information is as
impossible as absolute respect for other fundamental rights.
Nevertheless, States in which the restrictions on freedom of expression
and information are part a systematic campaign by authorities to silence
criticism of the government, must be distinguished from those in which the
restrictions and threats to freedom of expression and information are not
symptomatic of systematic persecution by government authorities. In the latter cases, the democratic institutions themselves
can find ways to put a stop to such attacks and threats.
Both situations are of concern to the Rapporteur.
A State is responsible for the abuses or acts committed.
Of the two, however, systematic persecution on the part of government
authorities is by far the more disturbing because it threatens other fundamental
rights and the preservation of the democratic system of government.
In line with this, the Rapporteur distinguishes three main categories of
restrictions on and threats to freedom of expression: 1) States without freedom
of expression; 2) States where freedom of expression is severely limited owing
to systematic persecution by government authorities to silence their critics;
and 3) Other cases.
The Office of the Rapporteur is most concerned with the first two
categories, because of the serious implications such situations have for the
existence of a democratic society. The
cases outlined below are not an exhaustive list of the complaints that this
Office received in 1999.
First of all, mention must be made of some cases of progress made by
states in defending and protecting freedom of expression.
The Annual Report for 1998 stated that there were a number of
anachronistic laws in Panama that constituted a legal obstacle to the full
exercise of the right to freedom of expression.
Public officials frequently used those laws to silence their critics and
to harass journalists and the press in general.
great majority of these laws are still in force in Panama and public officials
continue to use them against journalists.
Some of the laws restricting freedom of expression and information are:
Article 33 of Panama’s Constitution, Articles 202 and 386 of the Judicial
Code, Article 827 of the Administrative Code on Correctional Penalties, Articles
307 and 308 of the Penal Code. All
these are, in one way or another, a contempt law.
Article 903 of the Administrative Code, Cabinet Decree No. 251 of 1969
and Article 177 of the Electoral Code allow censorship.
Certain articles of 1978 Law 67 regulate journalistic activities by
requiring that those practicing journalism fulfill certain requirements set by
the Ministry of Government and Justice.
new Administration of President Mireya Moscoso has expressed its willingness and
has signaled its intention to make it possible to repeal these laws.
Two ad hoc committees have been
appointed, composed of lawyers and journalists, to study the laws that curtail
freedom of expression and information and prepare bills for their repeal or
December 1999, the ad hoc committees introduced their first two proposals, which lead
to repeal of the laws (the Rapporteur is awaiting the texts for the proper
commitment, effort and drive that the Administration of President Mireya Moscoso
has put behind the goal of repealing or amending the laws that restrict freedom
of expression and information are laudable.
The Office of the Special Rapporteur is very gratified that two laws have
already been repealed. However, the
repeal of these two laws is a first step but does not completely dismantle the
body of laws that curtail freedom of expression.
Any amendment or legal initiative related to freedom of expression and
information must conform to the parameters set in Article 13 of the American
Convention on Human Rights.
The Argentine Senate is now examining a bill to amend the libel and
The Office of the Rapporteur is urging continued action on this bill,
which can serve as an example to the other nations of the hemisphere and become
one of the most important advances for freedom of expression and information in
the years ahead.
Freedom of expression does not exist in Cuba.
Unless and until changes are introduced to democratize the country and
the other basic rights are recognized, freedom of expression and information
will not grow in Cuba.
Many laws in Cuba restrict freedom of expression and information.
The Cuban Constitution provides that no means of communication can be the
target of private appropriation, thus “ensuring that all media will be used
exclusively to serve the proletariat and the interests of society.”
The government censors all foreign material entering the island and
arbitrarily refuses entry to foreign journalists.
Chapter VII of the Cuban Constitution, on “Basic Rights, Duties and
Guarantees” recognizes freedom of expression, information and the press, but
only “in accord with the ends of a socialist society.”
Freedom of artistic expression and information is also limited, as the
Constitution stipulates “that artistic freedom exists only insofar as its
content is not counter-revolutionary.” The
Constitution also establishes the legal grounds for censorship, which is that
only the State has the authority to determine whether oral or written expression
The Cuban Constitution also states that “none of the freedoms accorded
to citizens may be exercised to challenge the Constitution and laws, or the
existence and purposes of a socialist State, or the decision of the Cuban people
to build socialism and communism. Violation
of this principle is a punishable offense.”
In February 1999, Law No. 88 was enacted, called the Law on Protection of
the National Independence and Economy. This
law makes it a crime to impart, search for or obtain subversive information or
to bring subversive materials into the country, reproduce them or circulate
them. It also criminalizes
collaboration –either direct or through third parties- with radio or
television transmitters, newspapers, magazines or other mass communication media
for the purpose of disseminating subversive materials.
This law establishes penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment for the
authors of these acts and their accomplices.
Cuban authorities are using this law to threaten journalists if they
persist in activities with which the State is uncomfortable.
Cuban authorities frequently use laws on the books criminalizing certain
behaviors, such as enemy propaganda,
contempt, state of danger, operation of clandestine printing presses,
circulation of unauthorized news, insult to fallen heroes and acts committed
against the security of the State, to silence critics and dissidents and to
restrict to the maximum freedom of expression and information.
In 1999, the Cuban government tried a number of dissidents and detained
more than thirty independent journalists and activists.
On March 15, 1999, a court convicted four leaders of the Grupo
de Trabajo de Disidencia
Interna (GTDI) [Internal Dissidence Working Group] for “acts against the
security of the State” and sentenced them to prison. In 1997, this group had published the document La Patria es de
Todos, where it analyzed the Cuban economy, suggested amendments to the
Constitution, debated human rights issues and criticized the fact that Cuba
recognized only one political party.
The following persons are also serving prison sentences:
Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, sentenced to six years in 1997 for the crime
of speech offensive to President Fidel Castro and Vice President Carlos Lage;
Manuel Antonio González Castellanos, arrested in October 1998 and sentenced to
two years and six months in prison, and Leonardo Varona González, arrested in
October 1998 and sentenced to sixteen months in prison, both for speech
offensive to President Fidel Castro; and Jesús Joel Díaz Hernández, Director
of the Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes, arrested on January
18, 1999, and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for the crime of “posing
a danger to society.”
In September 1999, the Rapporteur received information to the effect that
the Cuban government had refused journalist Raúl Rivera, founder and director
of the Cuba Press independent news agency, permission to travel to the United
States. He was on his way to
receive the prestigious María Moors Cabot
award that New York City’s Columbia University bestows each year.
That same month, journalist Angel Pablo Polanco from the independent news
agency Cooperativa de Periodistas Independientes was arrested at his home by
State police and his telephone line was cut.
The journalist, known for his coverage of the activities of human rights
organizations, was accused of participated in illegal activities.
According to information received, on November 10, 1999, during a human
rights demonstration staged on the occasion of the Ibero-American Summit in
Havana, journalist Angel Pablo Polanco from the Cooperativa
de Periodistas Independientes was arrested again, along with journalist Omar
Rodríguez from the Agencia Nueva Prensa.
That same day, journalists Aurora García del Busto from the Cooperativa
de Periodistas Independientes, Ohalis Victores from Cuba
Voz and José Antonio Fornaris
from Cuba Verdad were placed under
In December 1999, journalists Juan González Febles, Adela Soto Alvarez,
María del Carmen Carro and Santiago Martínez Trujillo were detained in an
apparent maneuver by Cuban authorities to prevent them from reporting on an
anti-government protest demonstration. Six
other journalists were placed under house arrest: Meri Miranda, Osvaldo de Céspedes,
María de los Angeles Gómez, Amarylis Cortina, Ricardo González and Alida
The cases mentioned here clearly illustrate that freedom of expression
and information does not exist in Cuba. The
Special Rapporteur urges the Cuban authorities to change their posture with
regard to an independent press and dissident voices and to recognize the Cuban
people’s right to freedom of expression and information.
The Special Rapporteur holds that Peru is lacking the guarantees
needed for full exercise of the right of freedom of expression. Between the in
loco visit in November 1998 and the publication of this report, there was no
progress indicating a positive trend vis-à-vis freedom of expression.
In a number of its reports, the Commission has stated that the judiciary
in Peru has little independence and autonomy.
As a consequence, there is no effective judicial control of the
constitutionality and legality of the government’s acts.
This leads to illegalities and abuses of authority.
Given this situation, the independent press is playing a vital role in
Peru by reporting the authorities’ irregularities, bringing to light acts that
elude the scrutiny of democratic control mechanisms and whose authors find their
allies and accomplices among the ranks of the authorities.
As a consequence of these reports, the media and independent journalists
and opposition politicians have been the targets of a systematic plan of
harassment by intelligence services and police.
The attacks have range from threats and smear campaigns to serious human
rights violations. Compounding the
harassment plan is the judiciary’s passive attitude, as it refrains from
conducting serious and effective investigations into the abuses and crimes
committed against journalists. The
judiciary has also allowed itself to be used as a means to harass and intimidate
of the most frequently attacked media outlets in Peru is La República, a newspaper with a reputation as one of the
government’s sternest critics. Its
publisher, Gustavo Mohme Llona, has received death threats on several occasions,
and both he and the newspaper he heads are and have been the target of a
campaign clearly intended to offend and tarnish the newspaper and its team of
journalists of the newspaper have also been threatened. The journalist Angel Páez
Salcedo, head of the investigative unit of the newspaper and correspondent for Clarín
of Argentina, received a death threat in December 1998.
As a journalist, he reported on corruption involving Peru’s government
officials and military leaders.
addition, Mohme, Páez,
and other journalists of the newspaper have been the target of a smear campaign
by various tabloid press media such as Repúdica,
which was published in May 1999, but survived only one issue, because the Instituto
Nacional de Defensa de la Competencia y la Propiedad Intelectual (National
Institute to Defend Competition and Intellectual Property) passed a resolution
banning its circulation. Repúdica was
replaced by Repudio, which had the same content and objective of discrediting
these journalists. Subsequently, in
September 1999, a new anonymous publication called Repútica del Gran Sur came out in Puno. Like Repúdica, it
also aimed to discredit La República
and its publisher. The injured
parties filed a complaint requesting a thorough investigation.
on La República continued in October 1999 when the newspaper received
150 offensive faxes that jammed its telephone lines. It also received numerous
threatening and insulting calls targeting the publisher and the editor-in-chief
of the newspaper, Blanca Rosales.
campaign against these newspapers was also carried on, in late 1998, via
Internet. The web page was updated from Peru by the so-called
Asociación Pro Defensa de la Verdad (APRODEV) (Association for the Defense
of the Truth) with material similar in content and tenor to the editorials of
certain of the above-mentioned anonymous lampoon media.
Another example of serious violations to the right to freedom of
expression is the case of Mr. Baruch Ivcher Bronstein.
Mr. Ivcher was born in Israel and acquired Peruvian citizenship in 1984. Under Peruvian law, Peruvian citizens may own shares in
companies holding concessions for television channels in Peru. Within this legal framework, Mr. Ivcher owned 53.95% of the
equity of Compañía Latinoamericana de
Radiodifusión, the company that operates Channel 2, Frecuencia Latina.
April 1997, Television Channel 2 broadcast news on torture committed by members
of the Peruvian Army Intelligence Service.
In July 1997, the Peruvian government passed a resolution annulling Mr.
Ivcher’s citizenship. Subsequently,
in August, 1997, a judge suspended the ownership rights of Baruch Ivcher as
president of the television company, prohibited the transfer of shares, and
revoked the appointment of Ivcher as president of the firm.
1998, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a report on the case,
and found that the Peruvian Government had violated the rights under the
American Convention on nationality, due process, freedom of expression,
property, and effective judicial protection to the detriment of Mr. Ivcher.
Consequently, the Commission filed the case before the Inter-American
Court, requesting that it order the Peruvian Government to restore to Mr. Ivcher
Peruvian nationality and all the rights and prerogatives of which he had been
The Office of the Rapporteur also received information that police or
army agents would go to the media to request information on the political
affiliation of the owners, journalists, and activities of the various media, and
also to ask them for copies of programs they broadcast.
For instance, in August 1999, in Huancavelica, the Military Commander
with Political Authority in the region (Jefatura Político Militar) ordered the
media in the area to submit the news content of their radio programs.
The memorandum addressed to media managers instructed them “… to make
arrangements to send to the Office of the Military Commander with Political
Authority, on a daily basis, and beginning from today, information transmitted
by his/her radio station. On orders from our superiors, all information broadcast in
this emergency zone must be monitored.” A
few days later, the Command Headquarters of National Security Sub-Zone for
Center No. 8 issued a press release in which it reported that Captain Adolfo
Delgado Ruíz had been dismissed and punished, and that charges had been brought
against before the Army’s Second Judicial Zone.
Similarly, the Rapporteur received information to the effect that the
news program Radio Tigre in Iquitos had been arbitrarily shut down.
The report stated that the executives of the radio station were under
pressure from the Army who told them to order their employees to stop reporting
the irregularities committed by high-ranking members of the Army.
The Rapporteur received information to the effect that in March of 1999,
a number of journalists from Radio Marañon
were threatened in a variety of ways. For
example, two men in hoods shot journalist José Luis Linares Altamirano in his
home in Jaén. Reporter Homero Marín
Salazar was the victim of an assault in his own home.
The director of the radio said that he believed these attacks were part
of an intimidation campaign possibly being waged by local groups that were
uncomfortable with the programming.
In September 1999, Juan Sánchez Oliva, director of the radio news
program Quasar en la noticia in the
city of Huaraz, complained that he and his family were the victims of constant
threats and aggression. Similarly,
Angel Durán, a colleague of Sánchez Oliva, received phone threats that month
and in November was shot in the right thigh while on his way to interview the
mayor of Alija. The Special
Rapporteur had an opportunity to speak by phone with the journalist in the
hospital and offered him his support. Journalist
Juan Sausa Seclén, a correspondent for La
República and journalist for Radio
Marañon, also received death threats.
In November 1999, the Commission received a request asking that
precautionary measures be ordered for the journalist Guillermo Gonzales Arica,
that had been harassed by State agents and agencies because of his journalistic
activities. On November 21, the Commission asked the Government of Peru
to grant precautionary measures to journalist Guillermo Gonzales Arica.
mentioned earlier, attacks on and threats to freedom of expression and
information are present in all the member States.
The cases presented here are hardly representative of all the problems in
the hemisphere. Only the most
disturbing of the cases reported to the Rapporteur are mentioned here.
Colombia there are cases of journalists being murdered, kidnapped, assaulted and
threatened. In Chile, a restrictive
law is on the books that some authorities use, as happened with the censorship
of a book in 1999. In the Dominican Republic, there are laws that require an
identification card for journalist activities.
In Venezuela, the concept of truthful information was introduced in the
Constitution. These governments
have repeatedly emphasized their commitment to making every effort possible to
recognize and protect the right to freedom of expression.
There are bills before the Chilean legislature, introduced by the
executive branch and by members of the legislature, to amend some of the laws
now on the books that effectively abridge freedom of expression.
As the armed conflict escalated in Colombia in 1999, so did there the
violence and intimidation against journalists and the media.
The violence targeted against journalists and the media left five
journalists dead, killed while practicing their profession.
Others have been kidnapped and/or threatened by members of armed
dissident groups. According to
reports received, fifteen journalists working for major media outlets were
forced to flee the country in fear for their lives.
But this figure is compounded by the number of journalists who leave the
country or move, but file no complaint with the Office of the Rapporteur.
While at home in March 1999, Plinio Mendoza, a columnist for the
newspaper El Espectador, received a
package containing a bomb, which was quickly deactivated.
The armed dissident group called Ejército
de Liberación Nacional (ELN) claimed responsibility for the attempt and
described Mendoza as a propaganda machine for State and paramilitary violence.
In March and August 1999, journalist Jaime Orlando Aristizabal was
arrested, threatened with death and stripped of his journalism material by the Audodefensas
Unidas de Colombia (AUC), because of his journalistic work for the RCN
chain. In 1994, the journalist was
the target of similar acts of violence and was forced to resign from his job at
the Notipacifico television news.
Aristizabal had reported these acts of violence to State security
agencies, but got no response.
On April 11, 1999, Hernando Rangel Moreno, director of the newspaper Sur
30 Días and a radio broadcaster, was killed.
Jaime Garzón, a popular journalist and humorist, was killed on August
13. Guzmán Quintero Torres,
editor-in-chief of the regional paper El
Pilón and a news correspondent for Tele
Caribe, was killed on September 16. Rodolfo
Luis Torres, correspondent for Radio Fuentes in Sincelejo, was killed on October 21 and Pablo
Emilio Medina Motta, a television cameraman, on December 4.
In August 1999, flyers began to circulate in Bogota, Cali, and Medellín.
In those flyers, the Ejército
Rebelde Colombiano named three journalists and 21 intellectuals as enemies
of the peace process in Colombia. The
journalists mentioned were Alfredo Molano and Arturo Alape, columnists with El
Espectador, and Patricia Lara, former owner of the weekly publication Cambio
and a columnist for the Bogota newspaper El
Tiempo. In early 1999, Molano
had to leave the country after his wife was threatened by a leader of one of
Colombia’s armed dissident groups.
In September 1999, the National Television Commission censored the
program Hechos y personajes, done by
journalist Ramón Jimeno, on the grounds that the journalist’s profiles
constituted a defense of criminal conduct.
On October 26, 1999, Henry Romero, reporter/photographer for the Reuters
news agency, was abducted by the armed dissident group that calls itself Ejército
de Liberación Nacional (ELN), as he was covering the release of a group of
people from the Church of María de Cali who had been abducted since May 31,
1999. He was abducted immediately
and held in order to explain why he published photographs showing the face of
various ELN members. He was finally
released the city of Suárez, on November 3, after nine days in captivity.
On October 29, 1999, seven journalists and a cameraman were abducted by
an armed dissident group in the department of Bolívar.
They were Wilson Lozano from Radio
Caracol, Idamis Acero and Reynaldo Patiño of RCN Television, Blanca Isabel
Herrera and John Jairo León of CM
Noticias, Ademir Luna from Vanguardia
Liberal, and Franklin Chaguala from Noticiero
de las siete. One of the
kidnappers spoke with the media to report the kidnapping and said that the
journalists would not be released until they reported the real truth about the
atrocities that paramilitary forces had committed against peasants in that
region. The group was finally released on November 2.
On November 12, 1999, seven journalists and their driver were abducted by
armed dissident groups in the department of Cesar.
They were David Sierra and Isabel Ballesteros from RCN
Televisión, José Urbano Céspedes and Aldemar Cárdenas of Caraco
Televisión, Pablo Camargo Alí from the newspaper El
Pilón, Libar Gregorio Maestra from CM
news and Edgar de la Hoz from the Bucaramanga newspaper Vanguardia
After being held by their abductors for five days, the journalists were
On November 14, 1999, a bomb containing six kilograms of dynamite
exploded at a bus stop, close to the offices of the Cali newspaper El
Tiempo. Three employees of the
newspapers were wounded in the explosion, which did considerable property damage
as well. The identity of the
parties responsible for the attack is not known.
In June 1999, an armed dissident group abducted Jorge Rivera Serna, a
journalist with Cartagena’s newspaper Universal, and held him for one week.
He was beaten and pressured to denounce other armed groups in his
reporting. Later, Mr. Rivera Serna
decided to leave Colombia, saying that he was retiring from the profession
because there were no guarantees of professional
Similarly, journalist Juan Carlos Aguilar, television cameraman Javier
Jaramillo, investigative journalist and columnist for the newspaper El
Tiempo Alejandro Reyes Reyes and the deputy director of Noticiero de las Siete and columnist for El Tiempo Hernando Corral, left Colombia in 1999 after receiving
numerous threats to their lives and/or their families.
The Office of the Rapporteur received information indicating that the
Office of the Attorney General of the Nation would create a special unit to
investigate the murders of journalists. The
Special Rapporteur urges the Colombian authorities to move forward with this
important initiative, which can help see to it that the murders of journalists
Special Rapporteur is concerned about Article 58 of the new Venezuelan
Constitution. It provides that
“Everyone has the right to timely, truthful, impartial and uncensored
information.” As explained
earlier in this report, information is not susceptible of preconditions or
qualifiers. Requiring that
information be truthful, timely, and so on is a kind of prior censorship
expressly prohibited in the American Convention on Human Rights.
In June 1999, the Special Rapporteur visited Chile in response to an
invitation to participate in several seminars on freedom of expression and
information, in connection with the censorship of the book titled El
Libro Negro de la Justicia Chilena by Chilean journalist Alejandra Matus.
During his stay in Chile, the Special Rapporteur met with various
officials, journalists, representatives of civil society and professors and
found that some laws on freedom of expression were anachronistic.
The Constitution still allows for film censorship and although prior
censorship is prohibited in the Constitution, lesser laws allow it and are
applied by the Chilean courts. The
law also still criminalizes expression disrespectful of authority.
These and other laws are incompatible with Article 13 of the American
Convention and inconsistent with one of the objectives of a democratic and
pluralistic society, which is to encourage public debate.
During his visit to Chile, the Special Rapporteur got a commitment from a
number of Chilean authorities that they would introduce bills to amend or repeal
the existing legislation on freedom of expression and information that is
restrictive and incompatible with the American Convention and other
international human rights instruments.
The laws that need to be repealed or made compatible with the American
Convention owing to their frequent use are:
Article 6(b) of Law 12.927 on Internal State Security
law establishes penalties for violations of public order and stipulates that
these offenses occur whenever the president of the Republic, ministers of state,
senators, deputies, members of the courts, the comptroller general,
commanders-in-chief of the armed forces or the director general of the Carabineros
is insulted, irrespective of whether the defamation, libel or slander is related
to the offended party’s performance of his official duties.
Articles 16 and 30 of the State Security Law
16 of the State Security Law is very akin to Article 6(b).
It reads as follows: “If
the press, radio or television are used to commit any crime against State
security,” in other words, if it is perceived as violating or harming the
public order, the court hearing the case may suspend publication of up to ten
editions of the newspaper or magazine and up to ten days of broadcasting of the
radio or television station. In
serious cases, the court can order immediate confiscation of any edition in
which an abuse of freedom of expression punishable under this law is apparent.
This article gives very broad discretionary authority to the examining
judge. He need only assert “some
apparent abuse of freedom of expression” to order confiscation of publications
or temporary shutdown of other media of expression.
Judges are thus able to ban circulation of books before deciding whether
the law itself has been violated. The
law is, therefore, authorizing or allowing judges to engage in prior censorship
of a publication. The Rapporteur
was informed of some concrete cases in which this law was used.
Article 30 states that in any proceeding instituted pursuant to the State
Security Law, “the examining judge shall first order that the printed
materials, books, pamphlets, records, films, tapes, and any other object that
may have been used to commit the crime be immediately compiled and turned over
to the court.”
The Rapporteur is of the view that a law of this nature would have the
same legal consequences as those described in the case of Article 16 of the
State Security Law, i.e., authorizing judges to engage in prior censorship of
Other laws that need to be repealed or made to conform to the American
Convention on Human Rights are Articles 263 and 264 of the Penal Code and
Article 284 of the Code of Military Justice, which also recognize and establish
penalties for the crime of desacato (expression offensive to authority).
Some public officials are indeed using this anachronistic legislation.
A case in point: an episode occurred in Chile in 1999 that was a
regretable setback for freedom of expression and information in that country,
and so disproportionate that it became international news.
On April 13, 1999, the book titled El
Libro Negro de Justicia Chilena, written by journalist Alejandra Matus and
published by Editorial Planeta, was banned in Chile. Police confiscated the book in question from Chilean
bookstores and the warehouses of Editorial Planeta.
Its circulation was banned in Chile by order of Judge Ismael Huerta, in
response to a court action brought by a sitting justice of the Chilean Supreme
Court and its former chief justice, Servando Jordán. The latter invoked article 6(b) of the State Security Law and
other laws to request that the book be confiscated and its circulation banned
In addition to the court-ordered confiscation and ban of the book,
journalist Alejandra Matus and Editorial Planeta were charged with defamation
under the State Security Law. When
Matus learned of her imminent arrest, she left for Buenos Aires and then the
United States. The latter granted her political asylum in June 1999.
Charges were also brought against Bartolo Ortíz, manager of Editorial
Planeta, and Carlos Orellana, editor of Planeta.
The Police arrested them on June 16 and held them for two days.
Both were then released.
As of this writing, El Libro Negro
de la Justicia Chilena is still banned and its author is under indictment.
In April 1999, a group of Chilean congressmen introduced a bill to amend
the State Security Law. The most
important changes were to eliminate desacato
from Article 6(b) and to amend Article 16, which the judges use to ban
publications. The executive branch
later proposed some additional amendments.
These legislative initiatives are still in Congress.
Finally, the Chilean Constitution still contains a clause allowing film
censorship. It stipulates that “the law shall establish a censorship
system for the screening and advertising of films.”
This clause is contrary to Article 13 of the American Convention, which
states that the right to freedom of expression and information cannot be subject
to prior censorship but shall be subject to subsequent imposition of liability.
The only exception is for the purpose of regulating children’s access
to public entertainments.
The Special Rapporteur urges the Chilean authorities to act swiftly on
those initiatives aimed at repealing contempt laws that penalize expression
offensive to public officials [desacato],
laws that allow film censorship, and any other law on freedom of expression and
information that is contrary to the American Convention.
Rule 824 on the operation of the National Entertainment and Radio
Commission authorizes the Commission to suspend entertainment containing
portions the Commission has not approved; while Article 71 requires organizers
to submit librettos to the Commission for review.
These provisions could result in prior censorship, which is a violation
of Article 13 of the American Convention.
According to reports received, some individuals have been barred from
speaking on radio and television. By
analogy to Advisory Opinion OC-5/85, issued by the Inter-American Court of Human
Rights, one could argue that this rule is contrary to Article 13 of the
Convention, since it denies those who do not have the identification card issued
by the Commission their right to exercise their freedom to speak on radio or
The Court has held that:
The Court concludes, therefore, that reasons of public order that may be
valid to justify compulsory licensing of other professions cannot be invoked in
the case of journalism because they would have the effect of permanently
depriving those who are not members of the right to make full use of the rights
that Article 13 of the Convention grants to each individual.
Hence, it would violate the basic principles of a democratic public order
on which the Convention itself is based.
The argument that licensing is a way to guarantee society objective and
truthful information by means of codes of professional responsibility and
ethics, is based on considerations of general welfare.
But, in truth, as has been shown, general welfare requires the greatest
possible amount of information, and it is the full exercise of the right of
expression that benefits this general welfare.
In principle, it would be a contradiction to invoke a restriction to
freedom of expression as a means of guaranteeing it.
Such an approach would ignore the primary and fundamental character of
that right, which belongs to each and every individual as well as the public at
large. A system that controls the
right of expression in the name of a supposed guarantee of the correctness and
truthfulness of the information that society receives can be the source of great
abuse and, ultimately, violate the right to information that this same society
The Court also recognizes the need for the establishment of a code that
would assure the professional responsibility and ethics of journalists and
impose penalties for infringement of such a code.
The Court also believes that it may be entirely proper for a State to
delegate, by law, authority to impose sanctions for infringement of the code of
professional responsibility and ethics. But,
when dealing with journalists, the restrictions contained in Article 13(2) and
the character of the profession, to which reference has been made (supra
72-75), must be taken into account.
81. It follows from what has been said that a law licensing
journalists, which does not allow those who are not members of the “colegio”
to practice journalism and limits access to the “colegio” to university
graduates who have specialized in certain fields, is not compatible with the
Convention. Such a law would
contain restrictions to freedom of expression that are not authorized by Article
13(2) of the Convention and would consequently be in violation not only of the
right of each individual to seek and impart information and ideas through any
means of his choice, but also the right of the public at large to receive
information without any interference.
The Office of the
Rapporteur has received information on the journalists killed in 1999.
Given the various stories received and after investigating the veracity
of the information, it has decided to refer to those cases in which there are
reasons to suppose that the motive behind the murders was related to the
victims’ practice of journalism.
May – Ricardo Gangeme (56).
This journalist was killed on May 13, in the city of Trelew, province of
Chubut. He was director of the
weekly El Informador Chubutense and
was killed as he was parking his car in front of his home. Gangeme had previously reported irregularities and corruption
in the provincial government and by some local businessmen.
Five days before he was killed, the journalist had filed a complaint of
death threats, allegedly from Argentine businessman Héctor Fernándes.
On June 23, 1999, the judge hearing the case ordered that the businessman
be indicted and, as the record shows, some days before Gangeme’s death, the
businessman had told him: “You’re
going to die for the things you’re writing.”
In November 1999, preventive detention was ordered for six people charged
in Gangeme’s death and according to the sentencing arguments, the journalist
was most likely killed for his investigative journalism.
April – Hernando Rangel (44).
This journalist was killed on April 11, 1999, in Plato, Magdalena.
Rangel was director of the local publication Sur
30 Días and was attacked at the home of a friend.
An unknown assailant shot him four times in the head.
The journalist was also working independently and had a reputation for
reporting corruption in government. The
investigations conducted by the Prosecutor’s Office found that the suspected
intellectual author of the crime was Fidias Zeider Ospino, a mayor of that
municipality who had been suspended. He
was arrested on December 7, 1999.
August – Jaime Garzón (36).
This journalist was killed on August 13, 1999, in Bogota. He was both a journalist and humorist with Radionet and Caracol Televisión
and was assaulted by two men on a motorcycle, as he was listening to the radio.
At the outset, a man who spoke on behalf of the Autodefensas
Unidas de Colombia (AUC) claimed responsibility for the murder; later,
however, this group denied the information in a fax sent to the Radionet
station. The journalist was known
for his role in the peace negotiations to obtain the release of persons abducted
by guerrilla movements. He had also
lobbied to get the authorities to begin talks with the Ejército
de Liberación Nacional (ELN).
September – Guzmán Quintero
Torres (34). This
journalist was killed on September 16, 1999, in Valledupar, capital of the
department of Cesar. He was
editor-in-chief of the newspaper El Pilón.
An armed man approached him and shot him several times in the head and in
the chest. He then fled the scene
on a motorcycle. Two El
Pilón journalists who were with Quntero Torres that night were witnesses to
the event. Quintero was respected
in journalistic circles. He was
founder and vice president of the Valledupar Journalists’ Club and a
correspondent for Televista, a news
program carried by Telecaribe, a
regional television chain. He was
also coordinator of the program to train communicators for community
participation, conducted by the Universidad Nacional Abierta y a Distancia.
The motive for the killing has not yet been determined.
According to his colleagues, Quintero had not received threats in the
days leading up to the killing, although some years back he had received threats
for publishing a note in the newspaper El
Heraldo about the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), a paramilitary
group fighting other guerrilla groups. After
these threats, the journalist stopped reporting on political matters and devoted
himself exclusively to the finance area. However,
Quintero Torres had been investigating the murder of journalist Amparo Leonor
Jiménez , which was on August 11, 1998.
October – Rodolfo Luis Torres
(38). Torres was killed on
October 21, 1999, in the city of San Onofre in the department of Sucre.
The body of the journalist, a correspondent for Radio
Fuentes of Sincelejo, was found along a highway with three bullet holes to
the head. According to witnesses,
very early that morning four men had forcibly dragged him from his home.
Torres was also working as a mayor’s press secretary.
He had once been a correspondent for Radio
Caracol and the newspaper Meridiano
in Sincelejo. Torres’ colleagues
were certain that the journalist was killed in retaliation for his published
articles. One year later, a series
of anonymous pamphlets distributed in the city accused him of belonging to an
armed dissident group called the Ejército
de Liberación Nacional (ELN).
December – Pablo Emilio Medina Motta (21). This journalist was killed on December 4, 1999, between the cities of Gigante and Garzón, in the department of Huila. According to the first police report, Pablo Emilio Medina, a television cameraman for TV Garzón, was believed to have been killed by an armed dissident group called the Fuerzas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) while covering the group’s offensive on the city of Gigante. Members of FARC allegedly fired on Pablo Emilio Medina as he, riding in a police motorcycle at the time, was filming the attack. Local journalists said that the FARC members fired because they mistook him for the police.
Article IV of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man states
that: “Every person has the right to freedom of investigation, of opinion,
and of the expression and dissemination of ideas, by any medium whatsoever.”
Similarly, Article 13.1 of the American Convention states that: “Everyone
has the right to freedom of thought and expression.
This right includes freedom to seek, receive, and impart information
and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing, in
print, in the form of art, or through any other medium of one's choice.”
The newspaper Panamá América
reported on February 25, 1999, that the contempt laws had been used to
institute more than 86 legal proceedings against journalists in recent years.
See the full text of the bill in Appendix Nº 4.
See IACHR, 1998 Annual Report, Report of the Rapporteur for Freedom of
Expression, April 16, 1999, pp. 34-35.
In January 1998, Cuba denied visas to Argentine journalists Matilde Sánchez
from the newspaper Clarín, Mario
Perez Colman from the newspaper La Nación
and Rodolfo Pousá of Américas
TV, who were trying to cover Pope John Paul II’s visit to Cuba.
Article 62 of the Constitution of Cuba.
Law No. 88 on Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy,
articles 1, 5(1) and 6(1), February 17, 1999.
See press communiqué No. 4/99 from the Office of the Rapporteur for Freedom
of Expression, dated February 18, 1999.
Article 8 of 1997 Law No. 80 on Reaffirmation of the National Dignity and
Sovereignty provides that “the full force of this law will be used against
anyone who either directly or indirectly collaborates with the enemy’s
The four people are Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, economist, sentenced to
three years six months in prison; Vladimiro Roca, economist, sentenced to five
years; Félix Antonio Bonne Carcassés, engineering professor, sentenced to
four years; and René Gómez Manzano, attorney, sentenced to four years.
On November 8, 1999, the United States Senate adopted Resolution No. 209,
expressing its concern regarding interference in press freedoms and in the
independence of the judiciary and stating that:
Whereas the Department of State's Country Report on Human
Rights Practices for 1998, dated February 26, 1999, concludes, with respect to
Peru, that `government intelligence agents allegedly orchestrated a campaign
of spurious attacks by the tabloid press against a handful of publishers and
investigative journalists in the strongly pro-opposition daily La Republica
and the other print outlets and electronic media';
and, Whereas on July 13, 1997, Peruvian immigration
authorities revoked the Peruvian citizenship of Baruch Ivcher, the
Israeli-born owner of the Channel 2 television station; and,
Whereas Baruch Ivcher subsequently lost control of Channel
2 under an interpretation of a law that provides that a foreigner may not own
a media organization, causing the Department of State's Report on Human Rights
Practices for 1998 to report that `threats and harassment continued against
Baruch Ivcher and some of his former journalists and administrative staff . .
. In September Ivcher and several of his staff involved in his other nonmedia
businesses were charged with customs fraud. The Courts sentenced Ivcher in
absentia to 12 years imprisonment and his secretary to 3 years in prison.
Other persons from his former television station, who resigned in protest in
1997 when the station was taken away, also have had various charges leveled
against them and complain of telephone threats and surveillance by persons in
unmarked cars': Now, therefore, be it
SECTION 1. SENSE OF THE SENATE ON
ANTIDEMOCRATIC MEASURES BY THE GOVERNMENT OF PERU.
It is the sense of the Senate
(1) the erosion of the
independence of judicial and electoral branches of the Government of Peru and
the blatant intimidation of journalists in Peru are matters of serious concern
to the United States;
(2) efforts by any person or
political movement in Peru to undermine that country's constitutional order
for personal or political gain are inconsistent with the standard of
representative democracy in the Western Hemisphere;
(3) the Government of the United
States supports the effort of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to
report on the pattern of threats to democracy, freedom of the press, and
judicial independence by the Government of Peru; and
(4) systematic abuse of the rule
of law and threats to democracy in Peru could undermine the confidence of
foreign investors in, as well as the creditworthiness of, Peru.
On November 24, 1999, the
Argentine Chamber of Deputies unanimously adopted the following statement:
To express its consternation and
profound concern at the attitude taken by the Peruvian State in stripping Mr.
Baruch Ivcher Bronstein of his nationality in order to eliminate his control
over Channel 2, Frecuencia Latina,
and thus curtail his freedom of expression, when that channel was known to
report serious human rights violations and cases of corruption.
The basis for this Resolution
states that freedom of expression is:
A fundamental right for the
maintaining the democratic system, since it is the citizens who must, through
their votes, periodically judge their rulers. As representatives of the
Argentine people and members of a state that claims to be committed to world
peace and democracy, we cannot divert our gaze from such a serious act of
violence that does not only harm the journalist in question but also deprives
the people of Peru as a whole, our brothers, of elements for forming critical
opinions of their representatives.
In its 1998 Annual Report, the Commission wrote that the limited independence
of the Peruvian Judiciary had created a climate of juridical insecurity for
the exercise of journalism, compounding a wave of death threats and a campaign
to persecute and smear journalists critical of the government.
See press communiqués in appendices.
See press communiqué from the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression No. 16/99,
dated November 12, 1999.
Article 2 of the American Convention on Human Rights provides that “where
the exercise of any of the rights or freedoms referred to in Article 1 is not
already ensured by legislative or other provisions,” the States have an
obligation to “adopt, in accordance with their constitutional processes and
the provisions of this Convention, such legislative or other measures as may
be necessary to give effect to those rights or freedoms."
The Court has held that the State has a legal obligation to adopt the
measures necessary to comply with its obligations under the treaty, whether
those measures be legislative or of some other kind.
The Rapporteur has been told that this article has been used on various
occasions and by a number of public officials as a means to silence critics or
to remove them from the political debate.
The Special Rapporteur received reports of multiple legal actions
brought against journalists or politicians under Article 6(b) of the State
Security Law. The following cases
of legal proceedings instituted against journalists are mentioned merely by
way of example: Juan Andrés Lagos, director of El
Siglo; Francisco Herreros, director of Pluma
y Pincel; Juan Pablo Cárdenas, director of the journal Análisis; Osvaldo Muray, of Fortín
Mapocho; Guillermo Torres, director of El
Siglo; Alberto Luengo and Mónica
González, of La Nación; Manuel
Cabieses, director of Punto Final;
Roberto Pulido and Paula Couddu, of the magazine Cosas; and Fernando Paulsen and José Ale, from the newspaper La
Tercera, and others. Among
the political leaders charged under this article of the State Security Law are
the following: Mario Palestro,
Socialist Party deputy; Jorge Schaulsohn and Nelson Avila, deputies from the Partido por la Democracia; Gladys Marín, Secretary General of the
Communist Party, and José Antonio Viera Gallo, Socialist Party deputy.
Mention should also be made of the suit recently brought against
See Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report 11/96, Case No. 11,230
of May 3, 1996, Francisco Martorell v. Chile, in the Commission’s 1996
Article 19(2) of the Chilean Constitution provides, inter
alia, that “the law shall establish a censorship system for the
screening and advertising of film productions.
 See Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Compulsory Membership in an Association Prescribed by Law for the Practice of Journalism (Arts. 13 and 29 of the American Convention on Human Rights), Advisory Opinion OC-5/95 of November 13, 1985, Series A No. 5.