Tony Vieira's Comments
22 October 2017


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Chapultepec 2
(Aired 15 May 2009)

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 treaty.

Principle One

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 freedom.

Explanation: It is not possible for any society to be democratic and free without having a press that can act with complete freedom. 

Principle Two

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

Principle Three

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 decisions..

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 public.

Principle Four

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.

Principle Five

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.

Principle Six

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.

Principle Seven

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.

Principle Eight

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 license.

 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."

Principle Nine

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.

Principle Ten

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 truth.

    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.