REGIONS:

IAPA laments "tragic year for journalism", urges Ecuadorian president to respect press freedom

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, July 29, 2011 - Officers of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) concluded that "the state of freedom of the press in the Americas has further deteriorated this year" as a result of violence by organized crime and the legal harassment of independent journalists and the news media.

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, and Carlos Pérez, publisher of the Ecuadorean daily El Universo, called on the government of President Rafael Correa "to cease persecution of the press" and withdraw a lawsuit against El Universo after executives were sentenced last week to three years in prison and ordered to pay damages of US$40 million to the president.

Pérez, who was sued along with other executives of the newspaper and a former columnist, said, "President Rafael Correa is trying to take away our editorial independence," adding that "[the president] says there are three subjects that are untouchable: his family, his honor and September 30th," the latter being a reference to the police rebellion last year.

"I agree," Perez said, "with the first two items, but September 30th isn't 'owned' by the president - it's an historical event belonging to all Ecuadorians and it is our duty to talk about it, discuss it and investigate it."

During a press conference following the meeting of its Executive Committee at the organization's headquarters in Miami, the IAPA expressed its "intense alarm and concern" over the murder of 19 journalists during the first seven months of 2011," which the chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, editor of the San Antonio Express-News, Texas, described as "the most tragic year in the last two decades for the Latin American press."

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