Media Center

Press Release


  May 5, 2009

On the occasion of World Press Freedom day, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, said that “freedom of expression is an attribute of democracy essential to guarantee proper political participation, to achieve the effective inclusion of all the sectors of the population and to practice a democratic control of the public authorities’ conduct.”

During the celebration, organized by the Inter-American Association of Broadcasters (IAAB), the Secretary General and the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Catalina Botero, joined the Board members of the IAAB, who shared their own concerns regarding the threats to freedom of expression in various countries of the Western hemisphere.

Recalling episodes of history that represented an obstacle to the full exercise of freedom of expression, Insulza affirmed that “accomplishing full acceptance and practice of freedom of expression in society has implied efforts, sacrifices, and on many occasions even martyrdom, that are not always adequately remembered.”

The Secretary General of the hemispheric institution, referred also to the concentration of media ownership. He affirmed that “the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights have clearly indicated that monopolies and oligopolies in the ownership and control of the media infringe on the right of freedom of expression. Therefore, it is the state’s responsibility to subject media ownership and control to general competition laws in order to prevent the concentration that limits diversity and pluralism.”

Insulza also took this opportunity to condemn physical and psychological violence against journalists, affirming that “during 2008, at least nine journalists were murdered in the region, and there were almost two hundred reports of aggression, threats and intimidation against the media, presumably related to journalistic activity.”

He applauded that today most of the OAS member states have incorporated in their constitutions the freedom of expression as a fundamental right, and have created guarantees aimed at ensuring its full force. He also highlighted that many of those states have abolished the “Desacato laws” and have modified their penal system to avoid the criminalization of the critical or dissident expression.

Nevertheless, he pointed out that “there is still a long way to go to achieve the full force of freedom of expression in our continent” and that this challenge can only be confronted with the shared commitment of media, governments and civil society. “With the conviction that building a free society can only be possible through the free expression of ideas; and that only through open discussion and information without barriers, will we be able to find solutions to our big concerns and create consensus, practice social justice, and achieve equality.”

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly declared May 3rd as World Press Freedom Day, on the recommendation of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Reference: E-157/09