Latin newspeople air complaints before human rights commission

Ecuadorean and Argentine journalists have turned to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for what they consider an erosion of rights in their countries.

The commission held a hearing Oct. 28 that was attended by representatives of 15 Ecuadorean organizations, among them press groups, that complained of a deterioration in freedom of expression and of assembly in their country. The delegation spoke of specific cases of violations of press freedom, and of a communication law in effect since June this year.

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa described those denunciations as “another nonsense by those who lost the elections and by the international bureaucracy.” Vice President Jorge Glass and other senior government officials added their insults and discrediting of journalists in public statements and on social media.

The same attitude of belittling those making the denunciations was adopted by the Argentine government, which attacked Magdalena Ruiz Guiñazú and Joaquín Morales Solá, who in representation of a group of press colleagues complained to the commission Friday the poor conditions for practicing journalism in their country, campaigns to discredit independent journalists and legal and economic persecution of media critical of the government.

Argentina’s ambassador to the Organization of American States, Nilda Garré, who attended the hearing, accused the journalists of seeking to make themselves victims, of being spokespersons of monopolistic groups that resist democratic advances, and of orchestrating campaigns against nationalistic policies in Latin America.

The chairman of the Inter American Press Association’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Claudio Paolillo, declared his organization’s solidarity with the journalists and regretted that the right to denounce was not being respected. “Beyond the differences that President Correa or any other person in government may have with the inter-American system there cannot be a lack of respect for the mechanisms which, in seeking justice, are available for all the people of the Americas.”

Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda, added that governments have a right to respond as an opposing party in the same hearings, “but this does not mean that instead of discussing the issues and presenting their views they can end up insulting their own citizens.”

“As we in the IAPA have a great deal of experience in taking part in those hearings before the IACHR and discussing with governments, but always in a climate of respect, it is difficult to understand why a president of a country or high-ranking official has to resort to disparaging remarks.”

Anyone in the Americas can request to be heard in one of the two hearings that the commission holds each year. The rules of the inter-American system protect the people so that they can present their formal complaints, while it prohibits governments from “taking the witnesses or experts to court or taking reprisals against them or their families because of their statements….”

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