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Press freedom organisations approve resolutions on crimes against journalists, violations

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is a 5 June 2006 IAPA press release:

Press freedom organizations worldwide approve resolutions on crimes against journalists and violations in the Western hemisphere.

Miami (June 5th, 2006) - The Global Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations meeting in Moscow, Russia, yesterday issued a series of resolutions on violence against journalists, their murders and the breach of press freedom in many countries including Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela.

The one-day meeting brought together in Moscow the International Broadcasting Association, International Federation of the Periodical Press, International Press Institute, World Association of Newspapers, World Press Freedom Committee and the IAPA, who supported the resolutions unanimously.

Julio E. Munoz, Executive Director, represented the IAPA at the meeting.

The following is the full text of the resolutions: Impunity - No Statute of Limitations, Cuba, Mexico and Venezuela.

Impunity - No Statute of Limitations

WHEREAS
the majority of the 298 murders of journalists occurring in the past 19 years have not been resolved and that the violence against the press on the part of organized crime has increased in several countries in the Americas

WHEREAS
UNESCO, in its Resolution 29 of November 12, 1997, initiated by Uruguay, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico, and supported by Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, asks its member states to "adopt the principle that there should be no statute of limitations for crimes against persons when these are perpetrated to prevent the exercise of freedom of information and expression or when their purpose is the obstruction of justice", and requests "that governments refine legislation to make it possible to prosecute and sentence those who instigate the assassination of persons exercising the right to freedom of expression"

WHEREAS
the Organization of American States in its resolution of June 2, 1998 on Attacks Against the Exercise of Freedom of the Press and Crimes Against Journalists, called upon its member states "to urge member states to strengthen the measures needed for the investigation and punishment, in accordance with their domestic law, of assaults upon freedom of expression and crimes against journalists"

WHEREAS
the lack of action and/or indifference of the authorities to crimes against journalists being solved generates self-censorship in the media and causes the people to go uninformed, which is a fissure in freedom of expression and freedom of the press

WHEREAS
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes that "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers"

The Global Coordinating Committee resolves:

to call upon the governments to fulfill their commitment to Resolution 29 of UNESCO (1997) and the OAS Resolution (1998), also to adapt their domestic legislation so that it creates a better legal and judicial framework in which to combat impunity.

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Cuba

WHEREAS
in Cuba press freedom has been suppressed for 46 years

WHEREAS
the government continues to hold 25 journalists in prison, among them, 18 are suffering serious health conditions and officials refuse to release them on humanitarian grounds

WHEREAS
prison conditions are unhealthy and overcrowded and prisoners suffer from poor nutrition and lack of medical attention and are forced to live together with dangerous prisoners

WHEREAS
four journalists released in 2004 for health reasons have been denied permits to leave the country and two of them have been subpoenaed by the courts and threatened with being thrown back in jail

WHEREAS
police intimidation, government retaliation, temporary detentions, house arrests and harassment by government security forces prevail

WHEREAS
independent journalists in Cuba work in overwhelmingly poor conditions, without sufficient resources nor access to information technology

WHEREAS
the use of the Internet in Cuba is controlled by the government, which prevents citizens from accessing the Web, the reason for a lengthy hunger strike by reporter Guillermo Fariñas, currently in serious health

WHEREAS
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes that "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

The Global Coordinating Committee resolves:

to demand the unconditional release of all imprisoned journalists and to put an end to government retaliations against the independent press

to call for the issuing of the permit to leave the country for four formerly imprisoned journalists for health reasons and to put an end to government threats against them

to call for free access to the Internet for independent journalists and all citizens that seek to receive and share information and opinions without being subjected to government regulations on the use of the Web.

Mexico

WHEREAS
in 2006 threats, pressures on and harassment of Mexican journalists have spread and increased, mainly in those states in which organized crime has established its principal operations - Tamaulipas, Sinaloa, Sonora, Baja California. Chihuahua, Coahuila, Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Veracruz - and there exist cases of reporters and editors who prefer not to make public accusations out of fear

WHEREAS
these attacks throughout the country have been carried out by members of organized crime and municipal, state and federal officials, who use written messages, oral threats, firearms, the burning of automobiles, deprivation of liberty for hours at a time, beatings and even torture against journalists

WHEREAS
the levels of impunity in cases of attacks on journalists are very high and authorities have not managed to apprehend those responsible and obtain definitive jail sentences in any of the crimes against journalists in the past 20 years

WHEREAS
the Mexican authorities have expressed their concern and interest in carrying out legal reforms that would facilitate the pursuit of those responsible for attacks on journalists

WHEREAS
on February 16 the Mexican government created the Office of Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Journalists and six days later, on February 22, David Manuel Vega Vera was named director of that office but will not be responsible for the investigation of attacks on journalists involving organized crime

WHEREAS
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes that "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

The Global Coordinating Committee resolves:

to call upon the Mexican State and the three branches of government to fulfill their obligation to guarantee the free practice of journalism as a fundamental right consecrated in the Mexican Constitution

to demand that federal and state authorities investigate in depth and provide concrete results about the threats, intimidation, harassments, attacks and murders of journalists

to appeal to the federal executive and legislative branches to carry out the offers made to the IAPA to amend legislation and to seek the necessary consensus to reform the Federal Penal Code, the Federal Criminal Procedures Code and other laws so that crimes committed against journalists, when these result from their practicing their profession, are investigated by the Mexican Attorney General's Office, and that these investigations shall not be subject to statute of limitations and have aggravating circumstances

to ask the Mexican government to grant legal faculties and the necessary economic, human and technical resources to the new Office of Special Prosecutor Office for Crimes Against Journalists, so that it can develop the work in an efficient, expeditious and energetic manner to investigate attacks in which members of organized crime are involved

to ask the federal and state governments to report in a transparent, timely and ongoing manner about progress in their investigations into crimes against journalists.

Venezuela

WHEREAS
in Venezuela restrictions on freedom of expression, the right to information and the practice of journalism prevail, implicit in the new legal framework that the regime has promoted and approved

WHEREAS
attacks, economic pressures and threats against independent media have intensified in a dangerous manner

WHEREAS
the application of the Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television has already generated the "necessary administrative measures" to penalize numerous privately-owned broadcast stations, taking regular radio programs off the air, in addition to the frequent and mandatory simultaneous broadcasting of official programs, which mark the beginning of an escalation of increased penalties and fines imposed by this law, including the revocation of radio frequencies and the closure of broadcast stations

WHEREAS
many journalists have been assaulted while doing their work and the government has arrested, imprisoned, prosecuted or threatened others

WHEREAS
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes that "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

The Global Coordinating Committee resolves:

to condemn the violation by the government of Articles 57 and 58 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in regards to freedom of expression and the right to information

to repudiate the attacks and acts of intimidation by the government against news media and journalists

to remain vigilant to the state of freedom of expression and information in Venezuela.

Inter American Press Association

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