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International press organisations concerned at deterioration of fundamental freedoms

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, June 21, 2011 - The Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations wound up last Friday its semi-annual meeting in Vienna, Austria, with an expression of concern at the undermining of press freedom and free speech in the Western Hemisphere, calling on governments and international agencies to guarantee and safeguard these fundamental principles.

Representatives of the Committee to Protect Journalists, International Association of Broadcasting, International Federation of the Periodical Press, International Press Institute, World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, World Press Freedom Committee, and Inter American Press Association (IAPA), during the one-day meeting discussed the main problems facing freedom of the press in the world and adopted several resolutions on the issue, among them one referring to the deterioration in freedom of expression in the Americas.

Claudio Paolillo, co-chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, reported to the Coordinating Committee that Ecuador is one of the most disturbing cases in the Americas, not only "because of the personal conduct of President Rafael Correa who prosecutes and scares media and journalists, seeking millions of dollars in damages," but also because of what can happen following adoption of the referendum, which empowered the government to define news media content.

In addition to Paolillo, editor of the Uruguayan weekly news magazine Búsqueda, the IAPA was represented by International Affairs Committee Chairman 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 resolution:

Deterioration in freedom of expression in the Americas
WHEREAS
freedom of expression and of the press, the right to live in freedom, safety and protection under the law are fundamental principles recognized and guaranteed by international treaties, among them the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights

WHEREAS
in the Americas it has become evident that the enemies of press freedom - organized crime and authoritarian governments - are taking actions to control information and restrict news media, bringing about a climate of tension

WHEREAS
drug trafficking and other illegal activities are the source of violence, abductions, threats and murders of journalists which this year have cost the lives of more than a dozen news men and women, and lack of punishment for these crimes is leading to the serious consequence of self-censorship

WHEREAS
some Latin American governments have passed laws that restrict freedom of expression and the right to receive information, as well as the freedom and independence of news media

WHEREAS
some governments are creating or unduly expropriating news media, turning them into propaganda apparatuses and using public resources as if they were their own or penalizing those who do not hew the official line

THE COORDINATING COMMITTEE RESOLVES
to reiterate its concern at the deterioration in freedom of expression and of the press in the Americas, which does not comply with what is enshrined in the political constitutions and international treaties on human rights, to call on the legislative branches of government to enact specific laws to combat impunity, not to pass legislation that restricts press freedom, as a matter of urgency review and abolish laws that restricts the work of journalists and to ask the judicial branches to be rigorous in investigations and in the full administration of justice to encourage inter-American bodies, such as the Organization of American States, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Union of South American Nations, Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of the Americas, among others, to take concrete action to defend freedom of expression and of the press, not as a privilege for journalists and news media but as a natural right of human beings that should be guaranteed for the full development of democracy and that is stipulated as an essential condition in the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

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