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Newspaper editors oppose United Nations proposal aimed at undermining press freedom

RESTON, Va. The American Society of Newspaper Editors has expressed its opposition to the proposed "Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities," a plan developed by the InterAction Council to be presented to the United Nations General Assembly. The president of ASNE said this declaration could be used to by governments to restrict freedom of the press around the world.

RESTON, Va. The American Society of Newspaper Editors has expressed its opposition to the proposed "Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities," a plan developed by the InterAction Council to be presented to the United Nations General Assembly. The president of ASNE said this declaration could be used to by governments to restrict freedom of the press around the world.

In a letter to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, ASNE President Sandra Mims Rowe stated:

    Iā€™m writing to express dismay that the United Nations General Assembly may be preparing to consider yet another proposal aimed at giving governments control over the press and establishing a philosophical justification for limiting the right of their citizens to freedom of speech and thought.

    I am referring to the proposed "Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities" developed by the InterAction Council, a group of prominent former heads of state. Although this measure is couched in reassuring words, it is plainly another attempt to revive restrictive notions like those suggested in the discredited New World Information Order.

    The U.N.ā€™s own Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 19) vouchsafes the right of citizens to express their views and obtain information free of government censorship and manipulation. The "Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities" deserves to be filed away as a really bad idea, another example of how governing bodies all too frequently try to restrict and censor the information-gathering and -dissemination process.

    It will be very reassuring to know that the United States plans to oppose this measure vigorously, and I would appreciate hearing from you in this regard.

Rowe is editor of The Oregonian, Portland. Founded in 1922, ASNE is an organization of the main editors of daily newspapers in the United States and Canada. There are currently 850 members.

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