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IAPA welcomes support for naming 2011 Freedom of Expression Year

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, December 14, 2010 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today welcomed the support that the Global Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations gave for the celebration of 2011 as "Freedom of Expression Year" during its meeting in New York on Friday.

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín declared, "The support of our colleagues from around the entire world reinforces our commitment to defend this fundamental human right for there to be democracy, enabling us to pay special attention to the issue in the Americas."

Taking part in the December 10 meeting were, in addition to the IAPA, the International Association of Broadcasting, the International Federation of the Periodical Press, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, th Committee to Protect Journalists, the World Press Freedom Committee and the International Press Institute.

Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, added, "We are in a time of great contrasts, where we can acknowledge that there is greater public awareness of the importance of freedom of expression and better media and technologies for communication, but unfortunately there also exist risks and setbacks caused by those who want to impose silence, whether they be participants in organized crime, corrupt officials or authoritarian governments."

He said that the objective is to send a message throughout the Western Hemisphere in 2011. "We must not forget that freedom of expression in the Americas is facing great enemies - organized crime (especially drug traffickers) and those authoritarian and intolerant governments that want to control information," Marroquín said, adding that these enemies "are really attacking society at large more than journalists and media, because what they are trying to do is take away people's right to information," something that he said is fundamental for real democracy to exist.

The IAPA resolution, endorsed by the Coordinating Committee, involves public awareness campaigns, such as its own Impunity Committee's campaign titled "Lend Your Voice For Those Who Have No Voice" and the Chapultepec Committee's "One Word Can Make A Thousand Changes In Your Life" campaign, aimed at creating a greater understanding of the fact that "when the functioning of a free press is trampled on and restricted, democracy and sustainable development of nations are undermined."

The Coordinating Committee also discussed other resolutions, among them one on the lack of press freedom in Cuba, especially concerning the release from prison of independent journalists on the basis of their being sent out of the country, and another on laws and legislative bills to limit the free flow of information and news media operations in such countries as Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela.

Marroquín announced that in this coming year the IAPA will be continuing to pursue its task of "intensifying joint activities in favor of the promotion of freedom of the press and of expression and the protection of journalists, through the holding of missions, forums, seminars and training programs."

In this regard the IAPA will have a full agenda of activities for 2011, including: a Freedom of Expression Conference at the campus of the Institute of the Americas in San Diego, California, jointly with the American Society of News Editors (ASNE); a celebration of World Press Freedom Day on May 3 in Santiago, Chile; and a Hemisphere Conference on Impunity in early July in Puebla, Mexico; as well as its two half-yearly membership meetings, to be held in San Diego in April and in Lima, Peru, in October.

In addition, IAPA international delegations will travel to countries where legal actions are being taken against the press. Also planned is a series of seminars and webinars focusing on freedom of expression and risks in covering the news, as well as the traditional forums organized by the Press Institute, the organization's educational arm.

At the meeting in New York the IAPA, in addition to Marroquín, was represented by the co-chairman of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information Claudio Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, weekly news magazine Búsqueda, International Affairs Committee Chairman Jorge Canahuati, editor of the San Pedro Sula, Honduras, newspaper La Prensa, and Executive Director Julio E. Muñoz.

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