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Video tutorial stresses freedom of expression, information access in Latin America

Video tutorial stresses freedom of expression, information access in Latin America

Renata Johnson | July 17, 2009

A video tutorial series in Spanish that focuses on freedom of expression and access to public information educates about the situation in Mexico and also aims to generate regional debate on freedom and access.

The videos can be used in workshops, seminars, and panels on freedom of expression and access to information in Latin America, as these issues are current concerns for the entire region, said journalist and communication expert Benjamín Fernández to the International Journalists' Network (IJNet).

In addition to writing the script and presenting the videos, Fernández, who is a Knight International Journalism Fellow, also works on other projects for Fundación para la Libertad de Expresión.

IJNet spoke with Fernández to learn more about the series' proposal and to introduce the themes in the videos, which will be also be featured weekly on IJNet.

IJNet: How did the idea for this project come about and what is the goal? BF: The idea is to stimulate a debate among actors in the issue of permanent construction of freedom of expression, which is not a right unique to journalists but to society as a whole. The videos aim to present facts and create discussion on to what extent something can be done. We want to connect the following two ideas: 1) freedom of expression with its challenges, risks, and limitations, 2) and the access to information that we consider essential to make [freedom of expression] possible. Who is the target audience for the video series? It is intended for everyone who is part of the democratic system where journalistic work is developed. The material is also a valuable resource for universities because classes can make use of elements in the videos that will help put in context, as well as provoke, valid ideas on freedom of expression and access to public information.

Are the tutorials relevant for all of Latin America or only Mexico? Although the materials focus on Mexico, the cases that we cover work for any country in the region that is affected by violence, inequality, discontentment, low wages and other mechanisms that limit the exercise of freedom of expression and the press. There are also positive cases such as the Mexican law on transparency and access to public information, in effect since 2003, which instigated society to look at government and journalists in a different way.

Which countries do not guarantee these rights in their laws? It would be easier to say which countries have laws on access to information: Mexico, Honduras, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile.

What other advances are necessary regarding these two issues in Mexico and Latin America? To regulate constitutional mandates such as in the case of Paraguay, which continues to wait -- since 1992 -- for a law in this regard, and to use the standard to produce better journalism - rigorous, investigative, and serious - which is what society expects from us.

A recent survey by Mexico's Universidad Iberoamericana showed that people are willing to sacrifice their right of press freedom for a better economy. What is your opinion regarding this way of thinking? You are talking about the argument published in the UNDP (Lima 2004) study. Much emphasis is given to the criticism of the obvious limitation of governments' management in the region, in the midst of the emergence of new voices with scores of demands that cannot be met. This generates discontentment, anxiety and doubts regarding democracy itself. I think the only way to face these problems in the political system is with more democracy. And this means better quality of information, better access to public sources, and a rigorous freedom of expression that promotes debate that strengthen the democratic system. Who is sponsoring this project? Fundación para la Libertad de Expresión and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), through which I am working on this Mexico project as a  Knight International Journalism Fellow.

The first video is available here:

  • Derecho de acceso a la información y la democracia”

For more information about Fundación para la Libertad de Expresión or to make a complaint, visit (in Spanish) http://www.fundacionparalalibertaddeexpresion.org/. To learn more about Knight International Journalism Fellowships, visit http://knight.icfj.org/.

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