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Nov 4, 1998

P.M. to sign declaration for a free press

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In the last year twenty-five journalists have been murdered in the Americas, some of them very close to home: four in Mexico, two in Guatemala. The Inter-American Press Association says reporters are fighting a daily battle against drug leaders in Colombia and Mexico and often pay the ultimate price to advance press freedom. By comparison journalists in Belize have it easy, but the President of the Inter-American Press Association is here this week nonetheless to present our Prime Minister Said Musa with the declaration of Chapultepec, which outlines ten essential principles to ensure freedom of the press. The document was developed at the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City in 1994 at a hemispheric conference on free speech. Tomorrow Belize’s Prime Minister will add his signature to those of eighteen other regional leaders in a symbolic act of support for journalists and the public’s right to know. News Five spoke with the President of IAPA Oliver F. Clarke, the Managing Director of Jamaica’s Gleaner newspaper the largest newspaper in the English speaking Caribbean and Sean Casey IAPA’s project administrator.

Oliver Clarke, President, IAPA

“The Caribbean is a short of oasis of freedoms you know, there have been few real challenges to press freedom in the English speaking Caribbean for a long time. There was a little problem in Grenada when Prime Minister Bishop was there and of course the press always has some tiff or another with various politicians, as is what is happening in Trinidad. But our constitutions in the English Caribbean, throughout CARICOM, protect freedom of the press and we enjoy freedoms that many countries in Latin America don’t.”

Sean Casey, IAPA

“Well in other parts of the Western Hemisphere, particularly in countries that in the 1980′s had dictatorships, in the southern part of Latin America, those countries are now experiencing democratization. With the declaration of Chapultepec we have had a lot of support, in those nations: Argentina, Chile, Brazil. But there are still some leaders in some countries that are in an earlier stage of their democratization process such as Peru, Venezuela, and those leaders haven’t yet endorsed our principles, but they will at some point I’m sure come along and see that in order to have a successful democracy and a free society there must be a free press.”

Oliver Clarke

“The Inter-American Press Association is very pleased that the Prime Minister is going to sign our declaration of Chapultepec tomorrow. He will be the nineteenth head of state in the Americas to do so. The declaration of Chapultepec is an exciting document. There is no definition of what freedom, press freedom means in Latin America, no common definition. So what the Inter-American Press Association is trying to do is get various countries to sign the declaration which won’t be binding as law but over a period of time we hope the ten definitions will become commonly accepted as what press freedom means.”

The ten definitions include the concept of free expression as an inalienable right, the right for everyone to seek and receive information and express their opinion, the right of journalists to form associations and that no journalist should be punished for publishing the truth or criticizing the government. The Prime Minister will sign the declaration of Chapultepec tomorrow morning in Belmopan.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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