03 May 2010

World Press Freedom Day - Message from Alejandro Aguirre, IAPA President

Miami (April 30, 2002)— On this May 3, World Press Freedom Day, we will honor the memory of all those journalists killed while carrying out their duty and express our most heartfelt sympathy to the children, spouses, parents and colleagues who are mourning their losses.
IAPA Message World Press Freedom Day* Alejandro Aguirre, Diario Las Américas, Miami, Florida President of the Inter American Press Association Miami (April 30, 2002)— On this May 3, World Press Freedom Day, we will honor the memory of all those journalists killed while carrying out their duty and express our most heartfelt sympathy to the children, spouses, parents and colleagues who are mourning their losses. Our thoughts go out to the families of the 27 journalists murdered and the seven who have gone missing over the past 12 months; in their names and those of all victims our efforts will continue directed at fighting violence and impunity. Our May 3 launch of our first online degree course coincides with this important date. Titled “the Extent of Organized Crime, the Practice of Journalism in the Face of Violence,” the course is offered in conjunction with the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM) through August this year. It is our expectation that the journalists taking the course will acquire new tools and discuss ideas on how to battle, from within our newsrooms, the deaths or disappearances of colleagues. We are confident that this experience will help us to be better journalists and, with the same commitment and quality, practice more cautious journalism. In the coming months we will also hold meetings in Mexico with editors and publishers, based on the conviction that solidarity among news media is the most effective way to demand legal and judicial changes of governments, to protect not only journalists’ lives but every person’s right to information. Founded on this principle, we recently presented President Porfirio Lobos of Honduras a series of recommendations for combating violence since seven journalists have been murdered in that Central American country in the past 12 months. Included among the suggestions, taking as an example the experience of Guatemala, is an agreement with the United Nations to set up an international mechanism to investigate and prosecute in cases of murdered journalists. We also proposed the creation of a special jurisdiction to deal with offenses against free speech and press freedom, and the opportunity for open discussions with the judicial and legislative branches of government to pave the way for the adoption of concrete measures. We are requesting these same actions in Peru, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil – in all other countries where violence is a major issue. On a positive note, during the last few months seven persons have been convicted and sent to prison for crimes against journalists, one each in Colombia and Mexico and five in Brazil. In the case of Brazil, we submitted two new cases to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) –the case of Nivanildo Barbosa Lima and Jorge Vieira da Costa. In the country’s Bahia state, the local government held a public ceremony to honor the memory of 10 journalists murdered during the 1990s, among them Manoel Leal de Oliveira, whose family finally received reparations. We had submitted this case to the IACHR in 2000. Meanwhile, in Colombia, although the number of journalists murdered has decreased, it is our hope that efforts will be increased to advance investigations into 16 shelved or suspended cases that are in the hands of several public prosecutors’ offices around the country. We cannot fail to mention Cuba, where the climate of censorship and intolerance by the government keeps 26 journalists behind bars, some of them seriously ill. In addition to general business to be discussed during November’s IAPA General Assembly, to be held in Mérida, Yucatán, our special focus will be the ongoing, in-depth discussions on violence and our efforts to find collaborative alternatives for dealing with this scourge. The victims of violence during this last period are: in Mexico Evaristo Pacheco Solís, Jorge Ochoa Martínez, José Luis Romero, Valentín Valdés, José Alberto Velázquez López, José Emilio González Galindo, Bladimir Antuna García, Fabián Ramírez López, Norberto Miranda Madrid, Juan Daniel Martínez Gil, Ernesto Montañez Valdivia, Martín Javier Miranda Avilés, Eliseo Barrón Hernández and Carlos Ortega Melo Samper; in Honduras Georgino Orellana, Manuel Juárez, José Bayardo Mairena, Nahúm Palacios, David Meza, Joseph A. Hernández Ochoa and Gabriel Fino Noriega; in Colombia Clodomiro Castilla Ospino, Harold Rivas Quevedo and Diego Rojas Velásquez; in Brazil José Givonaldo Vieira; in El Salvador Christian Poveda, and in Guatemala Marco Antonio Estrada Orla. And the whereabouts remain unknown of Ramón Angeles Zalpa, Marí Esther Aguilar Cansimbe and another five journalists from Tamaulipas. For them and in their honor commitment of support remains firm. *World Press Freedom Day, which is celebrated each May 3, was established in commemoration of the Declaration of Windhoek, a document containing fundamental principles of the defense of press freedom drawn up in 1991 during a meeting of African journalists hosted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).