Freedom of Expression in the Western Hemisphere

Press Statement
Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman, Bureau of Public Affairs, Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 12, 2009

A free and independent press is a vital element in any democracy, and plays a key role in the promotion of human prosperity, security and dignity. These are important goals shared by all the nations and people of our hemisphere. We are therefore concerned about recent steps by some in the region to challenge freedoms of speech and independent press. Many of these challenges come from governments that are reluctant to accept the criticisms posed by independent media. Others come from drug trafficking organizations, cartels, and other non-state actors trying to stop the press from highlighting their illegal activities. The United Nations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Global Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations, and Human Rights Watch have all spoken out in opposition to recent acts of violence, harassment and intimidation against journalists and the media.

We call on all governments in the region to reaffirm and abide by their commitments under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the American Declaration, and the Inter-American Democratic Charter, to take steps to uphold the human right of freedom of expression, and to protect the press from intimidation and violence. As President Obama made clear in Cairo, democratic governments must maintain their power through consent, not coercion, must respect the rights of minorities, and must govern with a spirit of tolerance and compromise.

PRN: 2009/586