15 July 2011

IAPA calls for increased efforts to ensure press freedom

Miami (July 15, 2011).—On the eve of the visit to Ecuador by an international delegation of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) the organization’s president today called on its members to “redouble efforts on behalf of freedom of the press.”

It deplores murder in Honduras, imprisonments in Peru and Venezuela and restrictions in Argentina

Miami (July 15, 2011).—On the eve of the visit to Ecuador by an international delegation of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) the organization’s president today called on its members to “redouble efforts on behalf of freedom of the press.”

The request by Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, who this weekend will head a mission to Quito to take an on-site look into problems press freedoms is facing, came after numerous complaints received this week, among them announcement of the murder of a radio station director in Honduras, the imprisonment of journalists in Peru and Venezuela, and restrictions placed on the distribution of an Argentine newspaper. 

“While this was a grim week for press freedom in many countries, these developments should not intimidate us,” Marroquín declared, “but rather should spur all of us news media to reinforce our commitment to defending freedom of the press and guarding that essential freedom of the public’s right to information.”

In Honduras murdered yesterday was Nery Jeremias Orellana, 26, director of the community radio station Radio Joconguera in the town of Candelaria, Lempira province. He was intercepted as he was riding his motorcycle by unidentified assailants who shot him in the head. He died at a local hospital shortly afterwards. 

Orellana, who belonged to Popular Resistance National Front, a group supporting Honduras’ President Manuel Zelaya, was the fourth journalist to be killed this year in Honduras, the others being Adán Benítez, Luis Mendoza and Héctor Francisco Medina Polanco. 

Meanwhile in Peru the IAPA said it believed that “there could be political reprisals” behind the prison sentences on libel charges handed down to Hans Francisco Andrade Chávez, former host of the news program “América Noticias,” broadcast by the América TV affiliate in Chepén in northeastern Peru. He was convicted on a defamation charge brought by a public official, Juan Vásquez Romero, who felt offended by statements made by Carla Rodríguez Ortiz, coordinator of a local political part who accused him of having threatened to kill her. 

In Venezuela, the chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, criticized the sentencing of Oswaldo Alvarez Paz, former Zulia state governor and a one-time presidential candidate, to two months in prison on charge of dissemination of false information. 

In addition its having been a “surprising ruling” Rivard said “it appears to be part of a scheme of persecution of opposition leaders and independent media” after Alvarez Paz was sentenced for his declarations to the program “Aló Presidente” aired by Globovisión television that there were serious drug trafficking problems in Venezuela. 

Marroquín and Rivard also expressed solidarity with the president and publisher of the Caracas newspaper El Nacional, Miguel Henrique Otero, who yesterday filed lawsuit against the conductors of the political program “La Hojilla” (The Razor Blade), broadcast by the state-owned television channel VTV, over recent insults made against him and his mother. 

In common with statements by Otero the IAPA officers criticized the privileges that Venezuelan regulatory agencies grant to journalists and state-run programs “that appear to be free to insult,” while zealously pursuing any tiniest irregularity in privately-owned media. 

On a final note, the IAPA condemned the “continual and systematic campaign against the Argentine newspaper Clarín,” which this week was the victim of restrictions placed on its circulation. 

Two newsstands in the Buenos Aires Central Market were prevented from selling copies of Clarín and its sister newspaper Olé, on orders believed to be have been issued by the market’s management and the federal Domestic Commerce Ministry. 

The action was understood to have been taken in reprisal for press complaints about the dirty and abandoned state of the market, which supplies small businesses in the Argentine capital. 

The IAPA officers recalled that restrictions on the distribution of newspapers, as established in the Declaration of Chapultepec and international human rights treaties, “directly contradict freedom of the press and of expression.”

The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.