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Following recent university conference, IAPA welcomes academic commitment to uphold battle against impunity

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, August 31, 2011 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today praised the academic commitment made by Latin American universities during its recent Hemisphere Conference of Universities held in Mexico. During the conference legal reforms to combat violence against the press were recommended, along with changes in degree courses to adapt them to the reality that the press faces today.

More than 60 representatives – students, professors and deans – from 22 universities in 13 countries endorsed the Declaration of Puebla, committing themselves to work on the creation of an inter-university network to share experiences, exchange information and launch forums, conferences and public awareness campaigns about impunity.

Among the most important elements discussed at the conference, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and held August 25 and 26 in the Mexican city of Puebla, inter-disciplinary teams of students from each university presented the results of their research and evaluated public policy reforms. Among those highlighted were: that crimes against freedom of expression not be subject to any statute of limitations, that penalties be stiffened when the perpetrators are public officials, and that programs of protection of and assistance to victims and witnesses to crimes committed against members of the press be created and/or perfected.

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, said that the organization was "pleased to have opened a dialogue and shared responsibilities with the universities and future journalists to identify common strategies on how to put an end to the violence." He added, "The research and proposals demonstrated the talent and creativity of these institutions of learning; they should definitely be taken into account to resolve any problem affecting our journalistic community."

The universities committed to re-evaluate their curricula so that they "adhere to the current reality of newspapers and journalists" and come up with extension courses on the dangers facing the profession. Regarding the media, they called for improved working conditions and salaries, as well as protection procedures, without ignoring professional ethics.

Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, chair of the IAPA Impunity Committee and president of the Mexico City, Mexico, newspaper El Universal, in the opening ceremony in the Barroco Room of the Puebla Autonomous University, issued a call on "the various social sectors to watch over and preserve freedom of the press," adding that such meetings as this one "enable reflection on the challenges and actions aimed at safeguarding the practice of free speech."

Guest speaker José Narro Robles, chancellor of the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM), reported on the university's proposals for national security policies that are currently under discussion. In a message to students and professors he stressed that "awareness cannot be neutral, rather must be committed" and declared that what most undermines press freedom are "fear, authoritarianism and ignorance."

The Declaration of Puebla adopted last Friday calls for greater effort and coordinated work to combat impunity. The four-part document sets down commitments for branches of government, news media, universities and community organizations.

The Universities Hemisphere Conference concluded with a touching reading of the Declaration by Gloria Tovar, dean of the Peruvian University of Applied Sciences, and students Tony Rellano from Nicaragua's University of Business Sciences (UCC); Luciana Kraemer da Silva from Brazil's Methodist University Center (IPA-POA); Angel González from the Dominican Republic's Ibero-American University (UI); Alejandra González Barranco from the Monterrey, Mexico, Technological and Higher Learning Institute (ITES), and César Alberto Moreno Vargas from Colombia's Javierana Pontifical University (PUJ).

Click here to read the full text of the Declaration
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