Interviewee: Hector Garcia
Title: Chair of the Minnesota Editorial Board (state chapter of The American Forum www.mediaforum.org ) and/or moderator & co-founder of The Twin Cities Immigrant Community Roundtable.
1) What are the most current issues with the 1st amendment in the present time?
A. In my opinion, one of the most challenging current issues is derived from the spread of internet use and the impact it has had on the press. How should we balance the 1st amendment (prohibiting government from infringing on the freedom of speech and of the press) on the one hand and on the other hold accountable those who are exploiting this universal access by misstating facts and who are intent on sensationalism or deception? How do we prevent the established press from succumbing to the competition by reducing its professional standards?
2) Is there more freedom of the press today than there was ten years ago?
A. Yes. Freedom of the press has spread to countries where it previously was limited or nonexistent.
Any relations or possible ties to economics?
A. Yes. A globalized economy and trade have informed people in those countries and empowered their populations with resources to express their opinions and to hold their governments accountable.
3)Has politics become a force to be reckoned with here at home and in regions like South America?
A. Politics has always been a force to be reckoned with here, in South America and throughout the world.
4)Is the freedom of the press undergoing restrictions by the U.S Government? How essential is free speech to democracy?
A. As mentioned in A. 1, I believe that standards are being disregarded, which can bring about imposed restrictions. Free speech, in a responsible context, is essential to democracy, which demands an educated population.
5) If any knowledge on countries in South America, is freedom of the press in danger in there region? Do you believe government should regulate and control content published whether it’s negative or positive?
A. I think freedom of the press in Latin America has been under threat for generations because of the limited practice of democracy. I don’t believe government should regulate.
6) In Ecuador a recent report by The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) expressed its concern and criticism of the bill for a new Communication Law sponsored by the government in Ecuador, warning that its articles “will affect press freedom and free speech by breaching inter-American principles on the public’s right to information. Based on this report, are there specific factors, reasons that the media should be regulated? Has the media perhaps lost credibility and objectivity and led to these events?
A. It seems to me that the answer is implicit in your questions. No, the media should not be regulated by government in a way that would limit its objectivity but it should be held accountable for being factual and credible; if it is not, it will invite regulation.
7)Based on your knowledge on Latin America what are some reasons for the press undergoing so many problems in the present time?
A. I imagine the press in Latin America is undergoing many problems because a) the world is experiencing turmoil and unpredictability because of globalization, b) changes are taking place faster than before and information is vastly available to all, regardless of their capacity to use it and of their intent.
8)Why do you think, after reviewing the information on a possible law that regulates the media, is the take away from this issue? Why should citizens here and around the world concern with this?
A. Any extreme position on the part of the government towards the press should be of concern because it threatens democracy and the freedom of speech. At the same time, a responsible press will not invite such extreme and repressive measures by any government. I do not know whether this is the case in your example because I don’t know the details intimately; I am speaking in general terms.
9) Finally, what are your most important conclusions on freedom of the press, the current issues that you think readers should really focus on?
A. Freedom of the press as all freedoms have a corollary responsibility. Unlimited freedom cannot endure; there are always consequences to the choices the press or any human individual and organization make. Freedom of the press will grow and endure in the measure that all who participate in it act responsibly in their stewardship of informing and educating the people.