Government media oligopolies decried

The Inter American Press Association has denounced the existence of government sponsored media oligopolies in various countries of
Latin America.  The allegation took place during a hearing in Washington, D.C., before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

The press association declared that in Ecuador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Guatemala and Argentina the government, using public resources, have created powerful oligopolies to support those in power, with hundreds of radio stations, television channels, newspapers, news agencies and Web sites. The organization pointed out that a total media monopoly controlled by brothers Raúl and Fidel Castro, has existed in Cuba for 56 years.

At a hearing called to debate issues of plurality, diversity and media concentration in the region, the Inter American Press Association defended its historic position in favor of the observance of Article 12 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, adopted in 2000.

Article 12 warns that “Monopolies or oligopolies in the ownership and control of the media must be subject to anti-trust laws, as they conspire against democracy by limiting the plurality and diversity which ensures the full exercise of people’s right to information.”

It also adds that “In no case should such laws apply exclusively to the media. The concession of radio and television broadcast frequencies should take into account democratic criteria that provide equal opportunity of access for all individuals.”

“The IAPA opposes, has opposed and will oppose the existence of monopolies or oligopolies, both public and private, in the precise terms that are established by Article 12 of the Declaration of Principles,” said Claudio Paolillo, chairman of the organization’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information. He is editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly Búsqueda.

“The problems of monopolies or oligopolies is one of the principal risks to freedom of expression,” he said.

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