30 April 2011

April 2011, San Diego


Report of the chairman of the Impunity Committee Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz Friday, April 8, 2011, 2:10 p.m. Marina Ballroom, Marriott San Diego Hotel and Marina San Diego, California Intense work to put an end to impunity Since our meeting in Mérida we have been working intensively with the objective of tackling the large number of challenges that impunity throughout the hemisphere has presented to us. The outcome since October is difficult to summarize, because it consists of important advances and relevant achievements but also painful episodes that continue raising our indignation. We have begun a change in direction in our strategy to strengthen the role of civil society in the defense of the lives of journalists, which should for the wider public also represent the defense of the freedoms of all. In recent days we wound up one stage in this effort, which included intensive promotion on social media and a song and lyrics contest on the issue of impunity, posted on our Web site, www.impunidad.com, which is now more attractive and interactive. The response has been great. But the challenge to out task continues to be colossal. Since our meeting in Mérida five journalists have been murdered. They are: Rodolfo Ochoa Moreno, Carlos Alberto Guajardo and Luis Emmanuel Ruiz Carrillo in Mexico; Merardo Moreno in Paraguay, and Henry Suazo in Honduras. The whereabouts of Noel López Olguín of Mexico remain unknown. I would ask you to observe one minute of silence in memory of these colleagues and as a demonstration of the demand that these cases be solved as rapidly as possible. Since the Inter American Press Association began compiling figures regarding this kind of assault throughout the Americas 24 years ago the number of journalists murdered or gone missing has amounted to 384. Each one of them is an additional reason to strengthen our efforts, a clear call against their being forgotten. In these efforts in favor of remembrance and justice we can report some concrete progress. In recent days in Colombia the Attorney General’s Office ordered the preventive detention of two politicians for their allegedly having masterminded the 2002 murder of journalist Orlando Sierra. This is an emblematic case for the IAPA. Additionally, just last month the courts in El Salvador convicted 11 people for being involved in the murder of news photographer Christian Poveda. Since we launched the anti-impunity campaign in 1995 we have followed up hundreds of cases of colleagues being killed. In this period a total of 137 persons have been sent to prison on charges of carrying out or being complicit in this kind of crime, which not only takes father, husband or son from his family but violates society’s right to be informed. Another part of our task has to do with the promotion of legal reforms that would bring about tougher and more effective prosecution of these kinds of criminals. A significant action along these lines also occurred in Colombia, where on December 29 an amendment to the law was adopted, increasing the statute of limitations to 30 years in cases of crimes against journalists, a step forward that is based on recommendations we had been making since 2009, with the support and participation of the Association of Colombian Newspapers. In Peru on November 5 the judiciary decided to create a special jurisdiction to handle cases of the murder and abduction of journalists, a demand that we had been making together with the Peruvian Press Council. In Honduras following two meetings President Porfirio Lobo accepted our recommendations to seek external aid and asked for the help of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Colombian intelligence services and the government of Spain to solve four of nine murders of journalists committed in 2010. In Brazil we are expecting good news concerning a legislative bill that would stiffen penalties for crimes against the press in the Penal Code. And in Mexico we are still waiting for the government of Felipe Calderón to comply with the commitments made to us last year to pursue making crimes against journalists federal offenses and to set up a federal mechanism to give greater protection to journalists under threat. As I mentioned to you earlier, we have concluded extremely successfully the “Lend Your Voice For Those Who Have No Voice” contest. The promotion had the support of songwriters and performers from throughout the Americas who responded to the invitation to them to take part in the contest. The objective, I repeat, has been to carry this debate and this reflection to people at large. Since November, when we began this new experience, we received more than 150 highly creative videos of people singing and lyrics “donated” by songwriters from all corners of the world – artistes from Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador and the United States, as well from Spain, Greece and Equatorial Guinea all responded with their talent and empathy with this objective. Our Web site recorded more than 250,000 visits from 180 countries around the world, and tens of thousands of people supported the contestants with their votes. I would like to express gratitude for the commitment of many of our member newspapers for their support of this campaign and promoting it on the social media. I invite all of you to visit our Web site and hear some of the songs that motivated so many participants. The song “No temas” (Don’t Be Afraid) by songwriter Juliana Castro of Argentina was declared the winner by an adjudication panel put together for this purpose. This is our first anthem for our project. Let us listen to it. We are enormously amazed at the first results of this effort, which has already managed to connect, sensitize and inspire hundreds of thousands of people to the anti-impunity cause and in defense of liberty. We want it to be millions who join us in this demand. If we manage to get civil society’s voice heard more strongly, that voice will require the politicians to do more work on protection of journalists and warn those who resort to violence that the community supports its news men and women and watches over their safety. On another matter I would like to announce to you that in late August in Puebla, Mexico, we will be holding the Hemisphere Conference: “Public Policies To Combat Impunity.” For this occasion we are calling together students and academics from 25 universities in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Venezuela, among other countries. We are convinced that through academic research, and the intelligence and passion of young people and their teachers major contributions and recommendations can be made concerning legal reforms on behalf of a more effective battle against violence and impunity. We are sure that this effort will also benefit the leaders of the future to better understand our profession and the market that they will shortly enter. We will be shaping the next apostles of this cause. I should mention at the end – not because it is less important – the work that we are carrying out before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, whose role is to extend a protective mantle for those cases that have exhausted all legal resources in their respective countries but which are in a dead-end street due to corruption, irresponsibility or lax attitude of authorities and judges, all that which feeds the phenomenon of impunity. So far we have brought before that Commission the results of 27 investigations into unsolved crimes. We need more support on the part of the Commission, more determination, for justice to be finally done and prevent impunity continuing to feed a vicious circle, with more violence and more outrages. Thank you all for your support and solidarity in this effort that demands so much of us and at the same time nourishes us so much. Many thanks.