27 January 2006

Mexican journalists are united, Nuevo Laredo seminar shows

Event ends with agreement on federalization, no statute of limitations and stiffer penalties in crimes against journalists
Event ends with agreement on federalization, no statute of limitations and stiffer penalties in crimes against journalists MIAMI, Florida (January 27, 2006)—More than 120 journalists took part in a two-day seminar in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, titled “Drug Trafficking: Investigation and News Coverage,” organized by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) wound up the meeting today with adoption of the following text: Nuevo Laredo Conclusions (Seminar on “Drug Trafficking: Investigation and News Coverage” Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico, January 27, 2006) The Seminar ratified the concern at the failure to act by the authorities, at various levels of government, when confronted by the advance of organized crime throughout the country, in the border region in general and in the Nuevo Laredo area in particular. The climate of violence that this situation is generating counts among its main victims the people’s freedoms, especially freedom of expression. One of the effects of this of most concern is an increasing level of self-censorship by the media and individual journalists. The views expressed by speakers and participants in this seminar all underscored the need for the Mexican government, in its respective branches, to move forward more decidedly in bringing about and administering justice more rapidly and effectively in prosecuting crimes against journalists, and in passing new legislation that provides protection for press freedom and free speech as tools for society to thrive. The event ratified the demand contained in the Declaration of Hermosillo for crimes against journalists to be made federal offenses, that they not be subject to any statute of limitation and that punishment for this kind of crime be stiffened. In addition, the meeting confirmed the initiation of the “Fénix Project,” which will be carried out by journalists from various newspapers conducting investigations into the murder of colleagues for merely doing their job. The aim of this initiative is to bring more pressure to bear on the authorities assigned to these cases, to look further into what inquiries the victims were carrying out and to shed light on who the culprits might be. Those participating in the seminar agreed on the following principles: · It is the responsibility of the media to provide greater protection to their journalists, as well as improved conditions for independent journalism to exist. · There must be a review of security measures at newspaper premises to the benefit of the journalists and all other workers there. · A mechanism for coordinating with authorities should be created in order to improve communication in regards to matters of security, both physical and in terms of vigilance in the case of special coverage or cases arising from high-risk situations. · It is a journalist’s professional and ethical duty to design a personal strategy to protect his own safety and his work through relevant mechanisms, depending on the circumstances he finds himself in. The available literature, especially on the Internet, facilitates such a task. · The ability of journalists to do their job and of news companies to prosper is directly linked to the raising of technical, work and ethical standards in the profession. It is recommended that the media and journalists deliberate more extensively on the objective aspects related to this process (training, ethics, salaries, working conditions, style books, codes of ethics, etc.). · The tremendous challenge that organized crime represents in the country makes it essential for media and journalists to know more about the issues involved in this phenomenon, so as to be able to come up with strategies or codes of conduct in covering it. · It is the responsibility of the media and journalists to encourage greater public awareness of the importance of freedom of expression as a human value that is not the heritage of journalists alone but something that fosters the common good. · Freedom of expression is not just for journalists. Society has given them the responsibility of observing and protecting it. The media and journalists must ratify their commitment in this regard every day.