Freedom of Expression

Press Release 30/00


The Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, Dr. Santiago A. Canton, condemns the repeated attacks and threats that the newspapers El Litoral of Santiago del Estero and La Voz del Interior of Córdoba in Argentina have been receiving for more than a month now.

In mid-July, the newspaper El Liberal denounced the persecution and defamation of a group of journalists and the wiretapping of their telephones, following publication of a supplement denouncing serious irregularities by the authorities of the province of Santiago del Estero.

In its report, El Liberal also accused the local government of having closed government media outlets to all but the transmission of official reports. Furthermore, a month ago, Eduardo Gómez, a driver who distributes the newspaper La Voz del Interior of Córdoba in the city of Santiago del Estero, was threatened by armed men, who warned him that they would burn the entire print-run if the newspaper continued to report on the governor of Santiago. In addition, the editorial staff of that Córdoba newspaper received telephone threats on August 1, which the editor reported to the judicial authorities.

Prior to these events, the Special Rapporteur sent a letter, dated June 29, to Governor Carlos Juárez expressing his opposition to the censorship of Antonio Skármeta’s play El Cartero de Neruda [Neruda’s Postman], which was to be presented at a theater in the city. The letter reminded the provincial governor that Argentina is a party to the American Convention on Human Rights, in which Article 13 refers to the right to freedom of expression, and expressly prohibits prior censorship. To date, this Rapporteur has not received any reply whatsoever.

The Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression urges the authorities of the province of Santiago del Estero, Argentina, to investigate and punish those responsible for these serious attacks and threats to both freedom of expression and the bodily integrity of persons. Moreover, the Rapporteur hereby recalls that open discussion of ideas and opinions is indispensable in any society that seeks to grow as a democracy.

Finally, it is important to cite once more Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, to which Argentina is a party. That provision repudiates all those actions that tend to curtail freedom of expression, by clearly stating 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."

Santiago A. Canton
Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression
August 4, 2000 Washington, D.C.