(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, October 7, 2011 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today criticized the decision by five Republican presidential candidates to boycott an electoral debate organized by Univisión, calling it "a thoughtless action that jeopardizes the public's right to be duly informed."
IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín stated in a letter sent today to the candidates that "we are concerned at the damage that this attitude causes in the democratic process that fundamentally requires a full range of measures and information." Over and above the diverse opinions among representatives of the Republican Party and the editorial position adopted by Univisión, Marroquín added that "what deeply concerns us is not only the decision to boycott a news media outlet, which in itself goes against principles of the public's right to information and freedom of the press, but that the decision has been made by people who in the future could assume the same attitude from a seat in the White House."
This week Republican candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain joined the boycott of the leading US Spanish-language TV network that was organized by Florida party lawmakers in a show of solidarity with federal Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American.
The controversy arose after Rubio's office accused Univisión of pressuring him to agree to take part in a program to discuss the issue of migration to the United States in exchange for softening a journalistic investigation concerning his brother-in-law, Orlando Cicilia, convicted in 1987 on a charge of drug trafficking when the senator was 16 years old. Univisión, whose headquarters are in Miami, Florida, has denied the accusation. Amid the controversy it was not immediately clear why the politicians brought up the matter at this time when the investigation had aired on July 11.
"I believe," Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, declared, "that the presidential candidates have acted in self-interest in defense of one of their colleagues in the midst of electoral activities, without considering their responsibility regarding respect for freedom of the press."
In addition to describing the boycott as "thoughtless" Marroquín said asking Univision to fire news editor Isaac Lee as responsible for the matter is out of proportion. "This is an indirect and 'elegant' way of silencing a media outlet, but silencing it in the end."
The boycott was urged in a letter sent to the Republican National Committee by Florida Congressmen David Rivera and Carlos López-Cantera and by the chairman of the Republican Party in Miami-Dade County, Erik Fresen. The politicians also called for a public apology by the network and the dismissal of its news editor.
In a press release and statements to the IAPA Lee denied that he had offered to downplay the information about the senator's brother-in-law or that Univisión would use that information to put pressure on the senator to appear in a program.
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