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Press organisations concerned at widespread violence, repressive actions against press in Cuba and Venezuela

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami (December 14, 2009) - The Global Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations today expressed great concern at an escalation of violence unleashed against journalists in the Americas during its half-yearly meeting held on Friday in New York.

After reviewing the state of press freedom throughout the world the Committee paid special attention to more than a dozen recent murders of journalists in the Western Hemisphere and adopted resolutions on the situation in Cuba and Venezuela which criticized the Cuban government for having increased reprisals against the independent press, including bloggers, and the escalation of violence against news media and journalists in Venezuela.

The Global Coordinating Committee is made up of the following organizations: International Association of Broadcasting (IAB); World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), North American Broadcasters Association (NABA); Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ); World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC); International Federation of Publications (FIPP); International Press Institute (IPI) and Inter American Press Association (IAPA).

The IAPA was represented at the December 11 meeting by the chairman of its International Affairs Committee, Jorge Canahuati, editor of the San Pedro Sula, Honduras, newspaper La Prensa, and Executive Director Julio E. Muñoz.

Following is the full text of the resolutions on Murders, Cuba and Venezuela adopted by those present.

MURDER OF JOURNALISTS

WHEREAS
There is noted in the Americas a worsening of violence in general against journalists and in particular an increase in murders and disappearances

WHEREAS
During the year more than 10 journalists were murdered in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico, and in this latter country the whereabouts of a female reporter remain unknown

WHEREAS
The violence against journalists, in many cases unleashed by organized crime, is also allowed to continue by the weakness of the justice system and the impunity that surrounds it

THE GLOBAL COORDINATING COMMITTEE RESOLVES
To call on the authorities of Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico to take exemplary action to ensure the safety of journalists, the unfettered practice of journalism and the public's right to know

To ask the authorities of Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico to pursue investigations into the murders so that they do not continue to go unpunished.

CUBA

WHEREAS
In nearly two years in power the government of Raúl Castro has shown no advance in the matter of circulation of information, freedom of opinion, choices of assembly and respect for the independent practice of journalism

WHEREAS
More than 20 journalists are being held in prison, with sentences ranging from one to 28 years, and several of them are in very poor health without their being granted humanitarian release

WHEREAS
The government has increased repressive actions against the independent press throughout the country, with arrests, fines, seizure of funds and equipment, beatings, besieging of homes, reprisals against family members, limits on movement in the place of residence, interception of mail, blockage of use of the Internet, and bans on attending public events

WHEREAS
Access to the Internet by the Cuban people continues to be restricted and the government is increasing its efforts to block Web sites whose contents it sees as contrary to the public interest and national security

WHEREAS
The authorities have stepped up Internet vigilance and reprisals against an emerging movement of young bloggers who defy the official censorship; on November 6 police officers in broad daylight intercepted and violently beat Yoani Sánchez and other independent bloggers who were attempting to take part in a peaceful demonstration in Havana

THE GLOBAL COORDINATING COMMITTEE RESOLVES
To call for the unconditional release of the imprisoned journalists and governmental respect for the work of independent news men and women in the country

To call for the suspension of repressive actions against independent journalists and bloggers and to protest the arrest and violent beating of Yoani Sánchez and a group of independent bloggers in broad daylight

To denounce the heightening of government control of the Internet and the deliberate blockage of Web sites that disseminate information and ideas out of line with the views of the official media.

VENEZUELA

WHEREAS
In Venezuela there has been a worsening of actions by the government of President Hugo Chávez against the existence of independent news media, the exercise of freedom of expression and the people's access to information, guaranteed under the National Constitution

WHEREAS
Such laws approved and ordered to be put into effect by President Chávez violate basic democratic principles, and freedom of expression and of information

WHEREAS
Those laws favor making dissent a criminal offense, repression, prosecution and imprisonment for political reasons, without due process being observed

WHEREAS
Attacks upon and harassment of independent journalists and news media, radio and television have increased, with the closure of 34 broadcast outlets, threats and multi-million-dollar fines

WHEREAS
Arbitrary legal proceedings continue under way against the privately-owned Globovisión network and its executives and journalists, as well as other proceedings against the publisher in exile of the newspaper El Nuevo País and the magazine Zeta, Rafael Poleo, and that journalist Gustavo Azócar remains in jail

THE GLOBAL COORDINATING COMMMITTEE RESOLVES
To denounce the fact that the laws going against democratic principles that President Chávez has approved and which are also contrary to international standards violate human rights, freedom of expression and access to information

To denounce and reject the legal accusations against Guillermo Zuloaga and Rafael Poleo, as well as the imprisonment of Gustavo Azócar

To protest the repeated threats to and political persecution of journalists and news media.

Inter American Press Association
Committee to Protect Journalists
International Press Institute
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Press Freedom Committee

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