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IAPA welcomes legal reform facilitating battle against impunity

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, January 18, 2011 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) praised legal reform in Colombia that will be more effective in reducing the impunity surrounding crimes against journalists by increasing the statute of limitations in such crimes to 30 years.

Law No. 1426, enacted by the Executive Branch on December 29, 2010, "amends Law 599 of 2000 with regard to punishable conduct against the legally protected welfare of human rights defenders and journalists." It increases the statute of limitations in violent crimes to 30 years from the previous 20 years for kidnapping, torture and homicide cases.

IAPA President Gonzalo Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, expressed the organization's approval of "this measure that will help reopen many cases in danger of being shelved, forgotten, set aside or simply subject to brief statutes of limitations due to a lack of due process. It raises the hope that justice will be served."

Legal reform followed recommendations made by the Association of Colombian Newspapers (ANDIARIOS) and the IAPA in their study "Rewarding Injustice: A Review of Impunity in Crimes Against Journalists in Colombia." The study, presented by the two organizations at a forum held in Bogotá in 2008 and at the IAPA's Justice and Hemisphere Conference: The Judiciary, The Press, Impunity in the Dominican Republic in 2007, called on Colombia's legislative and judicial branches to introduce policy reforms to combat impunity, such as the elimination of sentence reductions applied in some convictions for journalists.

Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, chairman of the IAPA's Impunity Committee and president of Mexico's El Universal newspaper, said: "The Colombian legislative and executive branches have made important strides as the leader in this battle on behalf of press freedom - steps which we hope will be mirrored by governments such as those of Mexico and Honduras, where crimes against journalists and impunity are the biggest problems facing the press."

IAPA officers also praised the Colombian Attorney General's Office for its declaration on July 2, 2010, making the 1986 murder of journalist Guillermo Cano a crime against humanity, setting aside the statute of limitations and pledging to reopen 27 murder cases throughout the country, many of them shelved or suspended.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, in a November speech to the IAPA General Assembly in Mérida, noted that murders of journalists in his country have dropped by 90% in the past eight years. Figures compiled by the IAPA show that 125 journalists have been killed in Colombia since 1987. The majority were committed between 1988 and 2003.

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