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Explosive device blows up outside newspaper office in Chile; IAPA angered at attacks on media, journalists

(IAPA/IFEX) - MIAMI, Florida, November 2, 2011 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed alarm at attacks on news media and journalists in Argentina, Chile and Honduras and renewed its call on those in power in the Americas to ensure the safety of the press so that it can carry out its role freely and in an independent manner.

IAPA President Milton Coleman, senior editor of The Washington Post, Washington, DC, declared, "Although on this occasion there were no fatal victims what is needed is for the authorities to be increasingly aware of the dangers which media and journalists are facing." He added, "If corrective action is not taken and press freedom is not ensured, experience shows us that the risk is that the press will resort to self-censorship, to the detriment of the public's ability to receive reliable and independent information."

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gustavo Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, said that "only a prompt investigation and punishment of those responsible can dissuade those who resort to violence, who seek to intimidate the media and journalists to prevent them from bringing crimes and corruption out into the open."

The IAPA officers were referring to the following incidents: In Chile an explosive device blew up outside the building of the La Tercera newspaper, published by the Copesa Group in the capital, Santiago, early yesterday (November 1) morning, destroying windows but with no injuries reported. According to local media a security camera showed two people who stayed in the area for just 50 seconds, presumably placing the device. No organization has claimed responsibility for the attack on the Copesa Group, which also owns the newspapers La Cuarta and La Hora. It was expected that the authorities would shortly be able to identify and arrest those responsible and thus determine what the motive was.

In Córdoba, Argentina, on August 27 a vehicle carrying a news team from Canal 12 television was shot at in a suburban area of the city. Reporter María Gracia Martín and cameraman Raúl Vicessi were not injured in the attack, which occurred as they were filming the outside of a house of a woman who had been interviewed as a victim of harassment and attacks. A suspect was detained.

Then in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, journalist Eddie Andino from Canal 6 television was attacked on October 28 as he was driving home. At least four assailants traveling in another car at around 9:00 p.m. shot at him some 20 times, wounding him in the legs and back. He said that when he shouted at his attackers that he was from the television station, they stopped shooting and fled. Andino is now out of danger and recovering from his injuries at a local clinic.

So far this year five journalists have been killed in Honduras, of a total of 21 throughout the Americas.

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