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IAPA president and McCormick Foundation receive press freedom awards

(IAPA/IFEX) - La Jolla, California, April 5, 2010 - The president of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), Gonzalo Marroquín, received international recognition for his defense of press freedom throughout the continent during a special ceremony at the Institute of the Americas in La Jolla, California.

During yesterday's event, the IAPA also honored the Robert R. McCormick Foundation for its generous 17-year support of its Chapultepec Program that allowed the organization to promote core values of freedom of the press through the Declaration of Chapultepec, named for the castle in Mexico City where it was drafted on March 11, 1994.

IAPA executive director Julio Muñoz spoke of the Declaration's significance and how it has permitted a range of multidisciplinary activities to promote freedom of expression.

Edward Seaton, of The Manhattan Mercury and former president of the IAPA and the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), said that "our greatest achievement is to have transformed these principles into a type of First Amendment for the whole continent," He cited accomplishments achieved, including the signature by 54 heads of state, committing them to adhere to the Declaration's 10 principles; Freedom of Information Laws have been passed in nineteen countries, whereas only the U.S. had one in 1994; Congresses have revoked laws that protected elected officials from the media's criticism and Supreme Courts are confronting the impunity that has surrounded the assassination of journalists.

The award was accepted by Clark Bell, Director of the McCormick Foundation's Journalism Program, who praised the work of the IAPA over the years and told the institution "Remain strong, remain aware and remain committed." Also participating in the ceremony were Maria Elvira Dominguez, of El Pais, Colombia, president of the IAPA's Chapultepec Committee, and Susan McClatchy, honorary member of the committee.

The award to the president of the IAPA, was delivered by U.S. ambassador and current director of the Institute, Jeffrey Davidow, who recognized Marroquín for "his leadership in the defense and promotion of press freedom," adding jokingly that "this is not like some other awards, absurd and ridiculous, but a true award", in reference to last week's award to President Hugo Chávez from a university in Argentina.

Marroquin accepted the award at a luncheon at the University of California-San Diego, during the Forum on Freedom of Expression co-organized by the IAPA and ASNE. The forum is part of a week dedicated to press freedom which will continue on Wednesday with meetings of both organizations to analyze the problems the press faces, country-by-country, throughout the Americas.

Marroquin stated the "today, journalism's battle is the fight for credibility", which is the "essence of the profession." He said that he permanent quest for credibility is the natural combatant to the smear campaigns that many governments have unleashed against the press.

He also emphasized that the IAPA is celebrating 2011 as the Year of Freedom of Expression not by fighting against governments, states or illegal groups to vindicate journalists and the media, but with the intention of educating the public and partnering with citizens to understand that there can be no democracy without freedom of expression.

"This award and this year inspire us to make a greater commitment to defend the right of each citizen in this continent to receive information," he said during a ceremony attended by representatives of global organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and intergovernmental institutions such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, represented by Catalina Botero, Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, as well as universities such as the Universities of California, Columbia and Harvard.

Marroquin was chairman of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information of the IAPA before becoming president last November.

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