10 April 2008

IAPA concerned at ongoing wave of violence against journalists


IAPA concerned at ongoing wave of violence against journalists


MIAMI, Florida (April 10-, 2008)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today voiced renewed concern at an escalation of violence unleashed against journalists in recent weeks, expressing outrage at the murders of newsmen in Panama and Mexico and attacks in Paraguay and Haiti. It called for government action to ensure “protection of the people’s right to information.”


In its recently-drafted conclusions on the state of press freedom, made public in Venezuela on March 30, the IAPA repudiated the murder of three journalists in Mexico, one in Argentina and another in Honduras, the abduction of reporters in Colombia and Mexico and the forced exile of several newsmen from Colombia, Haiti and Honduras. All these events occurred between October 2007 and March 2008.


Gonzalo Marroquín, chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, declared, “What is needed is for the governments concerned to take concrete action to protect journalists, not because we are seeking any special privileges for this group in particular but because when an attempt is made on the life of a news man or woman it is a bid to inhibit a message, for silence to prevail, which is at the root of infringing the people’s right to know.”


On April 7 the shooting deaths were reported of Mexican female reporters Teresa Bautista Flores and Felicitas Martínez, aged 24 and 20 respectively, who worked for La Voz que Rompe el Silencio (The Voice That Breaks the Silence), a radio station in the Trique indigenous community in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. In an ongoing tense political climate the year before last two other journalists were also murdered there and the premises of a number of media outlets were the scene of attacks.


In Panama in the early hours of April 8 news photographer Eliecer Iván Santa María Ríos was murdered for motives that are still under investigation, with the IAPA calling for swift and harsh punishment of those responsible. He covered gossip and nighttime activities for the daily El Siglo in Panama City.


In Haiti, where people have come out into the streets to protest the high cost of living, three local reporters were injured as they covered the demonstrations. From the neighboring Dominican Republic it was reported that United Nations peacekeepers sought to disperse the protestors by firing rubber bullets and tear-gar in major clashes outside the Presidential Palace in Port-au-Prince. The injured journalists are Jean Jacques Augustin, a photographer for Le Matin, Leblanc Macaenzy, a Channel 11 TV cameraman, and Yves Joseph, a photographer for the newspaper Haiti Progrés.


In Paraguay, radio reporter Alfredo Avalos was seriously injured on the night of April 8 in Curuguay, 187 miles northeast of the capital, Asunción. He worked for 105.1 San Isidro FM radio station, for which he reported on drug trafficking on Paraguay’s border, and was also a city council member. In the armed attack, carried out by unidentified assailants who fled on a motorcycle, his wife, Silvana Rodríguez, was killed.