Local October 24, 2020 | 7:27 am

Abinader: Dominican Republic is on the side of freedom of the press and democracy

Abinader’s categorical defense of freedom of the press in the country


President Luis Abinader declared yesterday, during the signing of the Chapultepec and Salta Declarations, that independent journalism constitutes “a shield to protect democracy and all freedoms,” emphasizing that freedom of the press is essential in democratic systems, as is the separation of powers, sovereign justice and freedom of association.

After signing the declaration, the president committed to working for “a fuller, more transparent, fairer and freer democracy.

Abinader warned that power must know that orderly and reasoned criticism, which only the media and journalists can exercise, “is fundamental because, without it, arbitrariness, injustice, and fear would soon arrive.

The signing of these agreements took place in the Salón Las Cariátides, of the National Palace. It was done virtually by the president of the Inter-American Press Society (IAPA), Christopher Barnes.

“Today here, with this signature, we say to all the citizens of the world that the Dominican Republic chooses a side: that of freedom and democracy,” said the head of state emphatically.

At the signing ceremony of the document were present the regional vice-president of the IAPA’s Press Freedom Commission, Miguel Franjul, and Persio Maldonado, president of the Dominican Newspaper Society and director of El Nuevo Diario.

Also, the directors of the newspapers El Día, José Patricio Monegro; Inés Aizpún, of Diario Libre, and Enmanuel Castillo, director of La Información.

In his message, the president recalled that journalism serves many purposes and that he especially likes “the old and endearing definition that said its function is to form, inform and entertain,” adding that “it also serves to guarantee the balance of power that is so necessary for a democracy and that guarantee is materialized in criticism.”

Abinader continued talking about power and pointed out that the orderly and reasoned criticism “that only the media and journalists can exercise” is fundamental “because, without it, it would not take long to reach arbitrariness, injustice, and fear.”

He went further by stating that abuses of power are not an exclusive feature of authoritarian regimes because “they can and do happen in democracies as well.

“It is a poison that spreads rapidly with devastating effects,” he said.

And to counter that, he said that “the best antidote is the separation of powers and freedom of expression exercised by the media and therefore by free journalism.

“Without freedom, there can be no true order, stability, and justice. And without freedom of expression, there can be no freedom. Freedom of expression and the search for dissemination and reception of information can only be exercised if there is freedom of the press,” he said.

Fake News and digital
On the technological advances and the adaptation of traditional media to the digital, Abinader recalled when social networks emerged and their use became widespread “I heard someone say that the world had changed forever because anyone with a cell phone with Internet access was a journalist and that the media would soon lose their role as instruments for social communication.

However, the president said about this conception that it was a mistake in the face of disturbing phenomena that challenge journalism’s excellent practices.

“There are phenomena as disturbing and dangerous as the ‘post-truth’ or the ‘fake news’ so that we are aware that we cannot allow this mistake to go any further,” he said.

“A person with a cell phone in their hand who records the images, or the sound of a certain event is someone who has a cell phone. But he is not a journalist who will sort out the events, contrast them with all the sources he can tap into and put the facts into context to offer them to his readers, listeners or viewers,” he added.

Signed statements
The Chapultepec Declaration originated in 1994 in Mexico City, when political leaders, writers, academics, newspaper directors, and citizens from all over the Americas gathered there with the idea of drafting a document containing the ten fundamental principles necessary for a free press to fulfill its essential role in democracy.

The Salta Declaration, adopted by the IAPA in Argentina in 2018, establishes the principles of freedom of expression in the digital era.

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