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IAPA and Chilean press association call for defense of press freedom during conference marking World Press Freedom Day

(IAPA/IFEX) - SANTIAGO, Chile, May 2, 2011 - Former Uruguayan President Julio María Sanguinetti declared that "there is no democracy without press freedom" at the start this morning of the Conference on Freedom of Expression organized by the Inter American Press Association and Chile's National Press Association (ANP).

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín, Siglo 21, Guatemala, in opening the event, held as part of celebrations of World Press Freedom Day scheduled for tomorrow, said, "We must defend freedom of the press not as a right of journalists and news media but as an essential privilege of society." In his keynote speech Sanguinetti said that the technological revolution had caused society to take a new look at communication, such as the sovereignty problems between China and Google or the revolutions in Arab countries which began through social networks.

Sanguinetti criticized populist movements for their having placed restrictions on freedom. In addition to referring to the Perón fanaticism in Argentina and that of Chávez in Venezuela he assailed the referendum of Ecuador's President Rafael Correa "for being a super-poll with pre-determined questions" in which support is sought for a governmental policy contrary to press freedom. ANP President Álvaro Caviedes agreed with Sanguinetti that "we journalists have responsibilities and we must hold high standards of ethics." He added that in Chile self-regulation of the media has been an appropriate and effective means of defending press freedom.

For his part, IAPA Executive Director Julio E. Muñoz lauded the contents of the Declaration of Chapultepec as press freedom principles that should be respected in order to uphold democracy. During a panel discussion titled "Censorship and Violence in the Americas" and moderated by Jorge Canahuati of the Honduras newspaper La Prensa, Chilean panelist Mónica González said that the battle against violence is not won with declarations, recountings and listings of numbers of journalists murdered, but with unerring exposure of those who are engaged in organized crime. "Invest in investigative units, in quality journalism," she declared.

Claudio Paolillo, editor of the Montevideo, Uruguay, news magazine Búsqueda, made a review of the different forms of censorship imposed in all the countries of the Americas, of both a political and legal nature, apart from the violence unleashed against journalists and news media.

In the panel discussion "Freedom of Expression in Latin America" moderated by Alejandro Miró Quesada of Cosas, Lima, Peru, María Elvira Domínguez of El País, Cali, Colombia, addressed the impunity surrounding crimes against journalists, mentioning a case close to her, that of Gerardo Bedoya, her newspaper's op-ed page editor, who was murdered in 1997 for having exposed the illicit drug trade.

José Roberto Dutriz of La Prensa Gráfica, San Salvador, El Salvador, spoke of the lack of security in his country "not just on the streets but also in the courts." He reflected on the setback to press freedom implied by judicial harassment, saying what was needed was legal reform to prevent media and journalists being punished for what they write and denounce.

Guillermo Turner of El Financiero, Santiago, Chile, said that freedom of the press must be defended, among other ways through the media maintaining their informational role without stooping to the level of political controversy, in order not to lose credibility.

Regarding Chile's Transparency Law Juan Pablo Olmedo of the Council for Transparency declared that access to public information contributes to the independence of the media and thwarts governmental tendency towards secrecy.

As part of the World Press Freedom Day activities Chile's President Sebastián Piñera is to sign the IAPA-inspired Declaration of Chapultepec, a 10-point list of press freedom principles, at a ceremony to be held tomorrow (May 3) at the La Moneda government headquarters. Piñera will be the 59th president to add his or her signature to the Declaration.

In addition to Marroquín, Canahuati, Paolillo, Miró Quesada, Dutriz, Domínguez and Muñoz the IAPA delegation was made up of Jorge Fascetto (Diario Popular, Argentina), Scott Schurz (Hoosier Times, Inc., United States), Bartolomé Mitre (La Nación, Argentina), Francisco Miró Quesada (El Comercio, Peru), Gilberto Urdaneta (El Regional del Zulia, Venezuela), Marcela Noble Herrera (Grupo Clarín, Argentina), Ulilo Acevedo Silva (Hoy Diario del Magdalena, Colombia), Saturnino Herrero Mitjans (Grupo Clarín, Argentina) and Press Freedom Director Ricardo Trotti.

The IAPA agenda in Chile will conclude tomorrow with a press conference.

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