Miami (March 7, 2011) - Greater freedom of speech and the press to strengthen democracy were called for in a unanimous voice by journalists, civic leaders, academics and university students during a forum organized last week by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) in Managua, capital of Nicaragua.
The forum "Freedom of Expression, Reality, Obstacles and Solutions" held on March 4, brought together over 300 university journalism and law students from Managua and Leon. Collaborating in the organization were the University of Commercial Sciences (UCC) and the Violeta Barrios Chamorro Foundation.
Taking place in an election year in which the government of President Daniel Ortega continues to pressure the media and journalists through political and economic channels, Francisco Chamorro, director of El Nuevo Diario, Nicaragua and regional vice president of the IAPA’s Committee for Freedom of the Press and Information, warned that officials’ intend to create a climate of self-censorship to further their own aspirations.
Jaime Chamorro Cardenal, editor of La Prensa, another opposition newspaper in the country, said the most obvious censorship is the disappearance of local television and radio newscasts, many of which have been bought and are being run by relatives of President Ortega.
In the most anticipated presentation, a group of journalism and UCC law students related their experiences, highlighting the need to live in a free and just society, which also means "demanding greater moral commitment from the media in order to have the responsible distribution of information "
Argentine lawyer, Adrian Ventura, of La Nacion ,Buenos Aires, acted as the "Ambassador" of the IAPA's Chapultepec Project, urging young people to seek new freedoms to be able to "live in full democracy", and journalists to use the inter-American Human Rights System when complaints are not taken up by the local courts.
During the opening ceremony, Gilberto Bergman, UCC Provost, defended the use and teaching of new technologies in the struggle for press freedom while Cristiana Chamorro, of the Foundation, celebrated the 85th anniversary of La Prensa, drawing a parallel between the importance of free journalism reporting on abuses by governments of different ideologies throughout this period. For his part, IAPA Executive Director Julio Muñoz highlighted the significance of the Declaration of Chapultepec which demonstrates the close relationship between press freedom and democracy, and the obligations of officials to protect free expression
Fabricio Altamirano, CEO of El Diario de Hoy, El Salvador and member of the IAPA Executive Committee concluded the event by stressing the responsibility of each future leader to safeguard the freedoms and diversity and plurality of opinions, as individual rights and democratic duties.
Finally, Ricardo Trotti, Director of Press Freedom, gave details about the assassination of Nicaraguan journalists Carlos Guadamuz and María José Bravo in 2004 which have not been fully clarified and which are under an IAPA demand to government officials that these crimes not go unpunished.
The IAPA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to defending and promoting press freedom and freedom of expression in the Americas. It is comprised of more than 1,300 publications in the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, USA. For more information, please visit http://www.sipiapa.org