My first commentary Chapultepec which was aired on May 14th 2009 was not fully understood by all, the
language used was a little complex as I was reproducing it verbatim from the
internet and so I have modified the explanation of each principle for you, in
my own words, to seek to simplify it. I hope that I have done a better job.
The ten principles of Chapultepec
were adopted by the Hemispheric Conference on Free Speech in Mexico City on the
11th March 1994. Guyana signed as accepting its provisions by President
Bharat Jagdeo on 4th May 2004. I cannot think of one of the 10
provisions which the PPP government has not breached and are continuing to
breach since then; to be fair I must say that the PNC when in government also
infringed a lot of these principles but at that time prior to 1994 there was no
It is an essential value in human life for individuals to be able to express
themselves freely, to seek, disseminate and receive information with complete
It is not possible for any society to be democratic and free without having a
press that can act with complete freedom.
This principle recognizes the right to seek, disseminate and receive
information of any kind, air views on any matter and disseminate any and all of
them in any medium. The holders of this right are not only those who work as
journalists, but everyone every citizen.
Explanation: There can be no free press or free society if
journalists in particular and citizens in general, find themselves restricted
in their search for timely and complete information. Nor could there be freedom
of the press if those in government or the authorities surround their actions
with secrecy, or try to make or uphold old laws which allow secrecy in the
business of Government as a means of preventing their actions from being
transparent to public scrutiny.
Regulation of the press as here in Guyana with the fair and balanced
clauses appended to all broadcast licenses is a good example of a restriction
to free speech. Such restrictive regulations conspire against plurality and sow
the seeds of totalitarianism and dictatorship
Every person has the right to receive information that will permit him to
make judgments about public affairs affecting his welfare or that of his
community. This unavoidably forces the authorities to permit free access to
information in its possession regarding the public sector. This information must
to be provided in a timely and fair manner, containing complete facts,
including any necessary supporting documentation, it must be accompanied by accurate
data regarding its sources and any necessary explanations in order that the
public will understand the information being provided
Explanation: It is an indispensable necessity that for journalists to
operate properly on behalf of the public in a democracy, that those in
government who are in charge of disseminating public information, understand
that they do not own the information. The information belongs to citizens who,
as are its true owners and have the right to know it.
It is also to guard against the bureaucracy hiding information by
unjustly labeling the information as being hidden to protect national security,
public order, etc., but what in fact they are doing is actively limiting necessary
information about public affairs which the public must have to make informed
This principle, moreover, calls upon authorities not only to adopt the
necessary measures, including legislative means such as freedom of information
legislations, but to be truly committed to making information available to the
Attacks on the practice of journalism and freedom of expression described in
Principle Four restrict the rights of all other citizens since they limit the
right to receive information by those citizens. These are thus open violations
of human rights that on occasion manifest themselves in a gross and criminal
manner but also in subtle and deceitful ways.
Explanation: the people who restrict information should be deemed to
be in violation of the law which offends press freedom. The authorities cannot
avoid their responsibility for this and as a result it is reaffirmed that
governments have an obligation to guarantee and respect the practice of
journalism and freedom of the press and to ensure that journalists are
protected by encouraging the relevant agencies to investigate and punish those
who are guilty of restricting public information.
The actions that make up violations may have either a public or a private
origin. Whatever their origin, however, the state has a responsibility for the
actions it initiates or carries out, but also for not adopting the rules and
regulations empowering it to prevent and punish violations of freedom of
expression and of the press.
Explanation: The United States Supreme Court held that a prior
restriction of that nature was "the essence of censorship." According
to the court, the true essence of freedom of the press was the protection
against prior restrictions or prior censorship, a philosophy that remains in
effect today. Prior censorship is the best known of the restrictions of free
speech and press freedom. It supposes a control of information before it is
disseminated and, consequently, the possibility of total or partial veto on the
part of the censor. This has been used, and continues being used, by
totalitarian political regimes. As a weapon of restriction of a fundamental
right of man, it is essential to remove it anywhere it may appear and whatever
the grounds used to justify it.
On the basis of this principle, the following definitions apply:
Discrimination in any manner of making access to information difficult or
denying such access, when it is the duty of the state and its agents to provide
it is specifically prohibited by Chapultepec.
Explanation: any action which harms freedom of expression i.e. the
granting of any privilege to news media or journalists in order to stimulate their
praise, or to create bias in their reporting, or to express ideological
commitment to the state or other conduct which damages the reliability and
credibility of information, is contrary to the principles of Chapeltupec.
If any news agency is enjoying special privileges or treatment which is
effectively a bribe from the government which can bias the news agency's reporting
in favor of the government, then the government and the relevant media is
guilty of offences against freedom of the press and humanity.
This principle responds to legal and administrative measures that at times
are used by governments to favor or harm media or journalists. This directly or
indirectly restricts the right to free speech and press freedom.
Explanation: these actions take different forms, such as the
application of discriminatory and abusive taxes and duties to media houses not
sympathetic to the government, placement of official advertising not based on
the criteria of efficiency and fairness but to withdraw this government
advertising to punish media houses from being too militant. Discrimination in
the granting of licenses broadcasting radio ort TV is also not allowed by Chapultepec.
In short, the aim of Principle Seven is to prevent authorities from acting
arbitrarily and in a discriminatory manner in their relations with the media.
This principle of the Chapultepec Declaration is a result of a struggle
begun by the English poet John Milton, in his book "Aero-pag-itica,"
in which he clamored for the freedom to write and publish without any official
Explanation: the principle is this "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."
Freedom of expression and of the press is taken to be, in this day and age, the
right to express creative freedom which affect the public not only through the
media alone but through any technical medium of social communication i.e. the
graphics media, radio, cinema, television, telephone call-in shows,
communication by satellite transmission, computer networks and all other technical
means of communication. But no one is responsible for its performance except
the press itself. To impose any kind of official demands for measuring what the
press does is incompatible with freedom.
When Principle Ten specifies that no news medium nor journalist may be
punished for publishing the truth, truth should be understood to be an ideal to
be achieved, a goal to be pursued. The human condition also allows for a
limited truth, which is not necessarily the truth of everyone else and in no
way the sole and whole truth.
Explanation: the free dissemination of this and other truths must be
preserved, with all their peculiarities and limitations, and fundamentally the
imposition of an official truth must never be accepted. In plural countries
like Guyana this is especially true we have Christians, Hindus, Muslims,
religions we have East Indian, African, mixed, Portuguese Amerindian and
Chinese races in such plural or mixed societies it is not possible to have one
His Excellency Mr. Bharat Jagdeo signed this treaty in 2004 it means
that as of the time of his signing it on behalf of Guyana all our laws even
those in the constitution must be interpreted as being consistent with these
declarations, if our constitution says we have freedom of speech [and it does]
Mr. Jagdeo and his government are obligated to interpret that provision of free
speech according to the 10 principles I have outlined here.