30 October 2012

October 2012, Sao Paulo


Report of the Impunity Committee (April – October 2012)

The financial sponsorship of the project by the Knight Foundation ended in June this year. Several proposals have been presented, one of them to UNESCO, and talks are continuing with the Knight Foundation, although this foundation would consider only offering a small donation in order to continue with the program until more funds are obtained from other institutions.

In July the activity of the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) journalists was reduced. The investigators in Brazil and Mexico are continuing to work on a partial basis and in the case of Colombia this will be taken into account to handle specific coverage.

The work strategies of the Impunity Project remained solid during this latest stage, concerning urging governments to make administrative, legal and judicial changes to guarantee the safety of journalists and justice in murders of members of the press; investigation; public awareness campaigns and training. To ensure effective compliance with these strategies we rely on timely denunciations of murders and other violations; apply constant pressure through the distribution to authorities of hundreds of IAPA resolutions in which urgent action is requested; the public campaign of ads and banners in print and online media; the holding of seminars and conference for journalists and media representatives; promoting a dialogue between delegates of the branches of government and the press, and in-situ visits to countries concerned.

The report on work carried out between April and September 2012 comprised the following:

- Since the Cádiz Midyear Meeting 10 journalists were killed and another two went missing. (Killed: José Noel Canales, Alfredo Villatoro, Honduras; Víctor Manuel Báez Chino, Marcos Antonio Ávila García, Gabriel Huge, Guillermo Luna, Esteban Rodríguez and Regina Martínez, Mexico; Décio Sá, Brazil and Byron Baldeón, Ecuador. Disappeared: Miguel Morales Estrada and Zanne Plemmons, Mexico.)

- In Mexico, Congress in June 2012 approved making crimes against freedom of expression and the right to information federal offenses (constitutional amendment), a step that the IAPA had been seeking since 1997, also backed by national and international fellow organizations. For the constitutional amendment to enter into effect adoption of secondary laws has been urged.

- In Mexico there was enactment in April 2012 of the Law for the Protection of Persons Defending Human Rights and Journalists.

- In Mexico, national and international press organizations, including the IAPA, signed a joint declaration that urged the government of Veracruz state – where the majority of murders of Mexican journalists have occurred this year – and the federal government to provide effective protection to journalists and media; solve the crimes and put an end to impunity.

- In Honduras, President Porfirio Lobo committed to pursue pubic reforms to investigate crimes against journalists, ensure their protection and bring before special courts those responsible, during the conference “Security, Protection and Solidarity for Freedom of Expression,” held by the organization August 9-10, 2012 in Tegucigalpa.

- In Honduras, as a result of the Tegucigalpa conference bilateral meetings were begun between the Secretary of State in the Honduras Departments of Justice and Human Rights, Ana Pineda, and the director of Colombia’s National Protection Unit, Andrés Villamizar, regarding protection and safety of members of the press. The two government officials were invited by the IAPA to be speakers at the forum.

- At UNESCO, the 2nd United Nations Inter-Agencies Meeting for Approval of an Action Plan for Protection and Safety of Journalists and on Impunity is scheduled for November 22-23, 2012 in Vienna, Austria. The IAPA has been actively participating in the meetings held in September 2011 and March 2012 by UNESCO. During the meeting on March 22 this year in Paris what was noteworthy was the blocking by the Brazil delegation of the United Nations proposal on safety of journalists.

- In Brazil, the Chamber of Deputies has since June been holding public hearings with press organizations to discuss a legislative bill to make crimes against the press federal offenses.

- In Brazil, the RRU-Brazil is organizing a trip to the interior of the country to follow up new elements arising from the legal proceedings in the case of Manoel Leal de Oliveira, submitted by the IAPA to the IACHR in 2000.

- Paraguay, there is the consent and an interest on the part of the new government to move ahead in the discussions with the IAPA – with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) acting as intermediary – on a possible amicable agreement in the case of the 1991 murder of Santiago Leguizamón. The IAPA submitted this case to the IACHR in 2007; in 2011 contacts were initiated in Washington, DC, with representatives of the government of Fernando Lugo, and this process stalled following his ouster from the presidency in June 2012.

- The five resolutions on impunity adopted at the Cádiz meeting in March were sent to 41 authorities of Brazil, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico and Peru.

- In this period there were distributed 22 press releases on matters concerning the Project in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras and Mexico.

Concerning justice, in this period:

- Argentina o An 18-year prison sentence handed down for the murder of Adams Ledesma en 2010. The crime was not believed to be linked to his work as a journalist. September.

- Brazil o 12 persons are charged with the April 23, 2012 murder of journalist and blogger Décio Sá. September o A 19-year prison term is handed down for the 1989 murder in Brazil of Maria Nilce Magalhães. July

- El Salvador o A 30-year prison term is handed down for the April 25, 2011 murder of cameraman Alfredo Hurtado. June

- Honduras o A 28-year prison term is handed down for the April 20, 2010 murder of Jorge Alberto "Georgino" Orellana. The crime was not believed to be linked to his work as a journalist. September o A person is arrested for the May 10, 2011 murder of Héctor Francisco Medina Polanco. August o Thee persons are arrested and charged with the May 9, 2012 murder of Alfredo Villatoro. June

- Mexico o A person is arrested for the October 27, 2006 murder of American journalist and documentary producer Brad Will. June - - Peru o Two persons were acquitted on appeal of the April 21, 2004 murder of Alberto Rivera. May

The main activities carried out in this period were:

- The conference “Security, Protection and Solidarity for Freedom of Expression” August 9-10, 2012 in conjunction with the Honduras Association of News Media (AMC). From the conference emerged the document “Tegucigalpa Action Plan” in which there were included the commitments of Honduras President Porfirio Lobo to pursue public reforms to investigate crimes against journalists, ensure their protection and prosecute those responsible in special courts, as well as several legislative bills to ensure the safety and protection of members of the press.

- The seminar "Reporting Under Risk in Brazil: Tim Lopes, 10 Years Later” held in Rio de Janeiro May 31-June 1, in which 80 journalists took part.

In this period the Project investigated/created and posted on its Web site the following:

- Brazil: Interview with Lúcio Flávio, investigative reporter an environmental specialist having received a death threat.

- Brazil: Follow-up of the case of the murder of Paulo Roberto Cardoso.

- Brazil: Follow-up of the case of the murder of Maria Nilce Magalhães.

- Brazil: Follow-up of the case of the murder of Décio Sá.

- Brazil: Follow-up of the case of the murder of Luiz Carlos Barbon.

- Brazil: Report on public hearings in Congress on making crimes against journalists federal offenses.

- Colombia: Update of the case of Orlando Sierra, murdered in 2002.

- Colombia: Update of the case of Álvaro Alonso Escobar, murdered in 2001.

- Colombia: Investigation into the March 2012 murder of Argemiro Cárdenas Agudelo.

- Mexico: Investigation into the murders of Regina Martínez, Gabriel Huge, Guillermo Luna, Esteban Rodríguez and Víctor Manuel Báez, committed in Veracruz during this period.

- Mexico: Follow-up and drafting of report for debate in the Mexico Congress on proposal for making crimes against journalists federal offenses.

- Brazil: Videos of discussion panels during the seminar "Reporting Under Risk in Brazil: Tim Lopes 10 Years Later," held May 31-June 1, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4AJpl7M3A8Q http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kwyT2taMlg http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_hbYNebYbQ&feature=relmfu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yP0L9h5suFA&feature=relmfu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0vnbkrjp4U&feature=relmfu

- Updating of the blog Geography of Risks with the support of scholarship-winning student from the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico, http://geografiaderiesgos.blogspot.com.

- Updated issue of the pamphlet “Commitments to Combat Crimes Against Journalists and Their Impunity” - Institutional and inter-governmental documents.

- The videos on Brazil on the YouTube Impunidad channel, http://www.youtube.com/ProyectoImpunidad, were promoted and put at the disposal of various universities in Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul and Brasilia, whose journalism and communication schools are considering using them in their courses as a source of information and experiences that can be discussed in the lecture rooms.