Conclusions

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CONCLUSIONS The 54th General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association convened in Punta del Este, Uruguay, amid an alarming increase in the murder of journalists in the Americas. The assembly received reports that in the previous 12 months, 23 journalists had been killed. The country-by-country reports indicate these totals for journalists killed: Colombia 12, Mexico five, Brazil four and Guatemala two. These numbers are shocking. The most basic and savage means of limiting freedom of the press, murdering the messenger, is a horrible reminder for all of us that freedoms so precious can also be fragile. The IAPA's historic work on impunity continues to focus attention on the issue of crimes against journalists. As reported and documented, the vast majority of crimes against journalists, induding murder, kidnapping and harassment, go unpunished. In many of these cases and in numerous countries, no credible investigations are conducted by law enforcement authorities. The report conduded that there is even increased danger to journalists in provincial towns than in the great urban centers of Brazil. There continue to be other more subtle but serious threats against freedom of the press from governments and individuals. There remain several legislative bills that would seriously impact the freedom of the press. We also see threats to a free press from the court systems in various countries, including the use of excessive monetary awards given to complainants. Court systems are often incapable of handling expeditiously these high profile cases. While there are some court decisions recently that have been positive and other key decisions remain pending, the overall trend we see in legal systems is of serious concern. There remains the feeling that in many countries, public sentiment is turning against freedom of the press and the public in general does not understand the clear relationship between democracy and a free press. While these problems remain persistent and serious, there are encouraging developments to note. On October 6, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights by unanimous decision appointed a special rapporteur for freedom of expression. Named to the position is Argentine attorney Santiago Canton, who had been director of the Organization of American States Department of Public Information. And the IAPA's work with the Dedaration of ChapuJtepec continues to be successful. The contributions to the 10 Principles, written in a hemispheric conference in August in San]ose, Costa Rica, have proved a useful tool in expanding the discussion on each component of the Dedaration. A series of national forums has begun successfully, stimulating insightful discussion among scholars, lawyers and journalists on how an individual country's current laws compare with the Declaration. The Chapultepec project has brought about a historic document that is a compilation of laws dealing with freedom of the press in every country in the Americas. This will be a valuable tool for academics, lawyers and journalists as the Chapultepec project continues its goal of integrating the Principles into the legal systems of every country. We leave the assembly in Punta del Este energized by the many projects and the positive developments we see. But we remain challenged by the many obstacles that remain. The issues of impunity, corruption, legislative measures to limit press freedom and general lack of support for the press will not soon disappear. In recent years we have seen open elections and an increase in overall freedoms in the Americas. Cuba remains the only country in the Americas where there is no freedom of the press or freedom of expression. Cuba has just given permission for The Associated Press to open a news bureau on the island. However, a number of other news organizations want bureaus in Cuba and continue to be denied. As we enter the final days of this millennium, we understand more clearly the focus of IAPA's mission. This assembly heard these words from the distinguished philosopher and journalist from France, Jean-Francois Revel: "Where there is no freedom of the press, there is no democracy." We know that people are not free without freedom of expression and of the press. Our goal is nothing less than to assure every person in the Americas these freedoms.

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