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President dedicates Chapultepec Declaration signing to murdered Colombian journalists

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, November 4, 2011 - Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos this week became the 60th government leader to sign the Declaration of Chapultepec, an action that he dedicated to those journalists who "have given their lives in honor of the truth and in defense of our freedom."

Santos added his signature to the declaration on November 2 during a ceremony in the Colombian capital, Bogotá, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Association of Colombian Newspapers (Andiarios) and attended by government ministers, officials, journalists, news media executives and, among other personalities, the CEO of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), Christoph Riess, and Milton Coleman, president of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), who was heading an international delegation of that organization.

"Many of our journalists," Santos said, "have died for the truth, but their sacrifice has made the heart of our society to be today more free than ever. We must pay homage to those martyrs for the strength of their convictions and their courage in confronting those who resort to violence . . . we should thank them for their instinct to bark - like heroic watch dogs of society - to alert us when criminals have wanted to do their thing."

Before putting his signature to the Declaration of Chapultepec Santos gave an account of his political achievements, among them - defining himself as a newsman and addressing Colombian newspaper executives - his ambitious Vive Digital Plan, which is aimed at quadrupling broadband connections to 8.8 million from a current total of 4.1 million and from the 2.2 million at the beginning of his term as president in 2010. He also announced that one month ago his government closed the bidding in the National Fiber Optic Project, which it is expected to connect 900 municipalities around the South American nation.

The IAPA's President Coleman, senior editor of The Washington Post, Washington, DC, declared that, while the Declaration of Chapultepec "serves as a constant reminder of the people's inalienable right to seek and receive information, to express opinions and to disseminate them freely, it is the obligation of the authorities to guarantee and foster those freedoms."

Meanwhile, Andiarios President Nicolás Restrepo, editor of the Manizales newspaper La Patria, said that "the printed press has played a key role in the democratic life of Colombia," and Andiarios Executive Director Nora Sanín spoke of the development and role of the Colombian press over the last five decades.

In addition to Coleman the IAPA international delegation was made up of the chairman of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gustavo Mohme, La República, Peru; Chapultepec Committee Chairman Miguel Henrique Otero, El Nacional, Venezuela; Strategic Development Committee Chair María Elvira Domínguez, El País, Colombia; and Executive Director Julio E. Muñoz.

The Declaration of Chapultepec comprises 10 principles that should exist in society so that an independent press can carry out its role in a democracy. It was adopted in 1994 in Mexico within the framework of a hemisphere conference held by the IAPA.

Chapultepec Ambassadors Forum

The IAPA also held, on November 3 in Bogotá, a university forum titled "Press Freedom: Reality, Obstacles and Solutions in Colombia," under the sponsorship of Andiarios and the University of Rosario.

Argentine constitutional lawyer Gregorio Badeni served as "ambassador" before some 200 students, sharing with them his vision concerning the importance of inter-American case law. He declared that "without a free press there is no constitutional democracy and without constitutional democracy there is no free press."

There were also speeches by Coleman and the deputy rector of the university, Alejandro Venegas. The forum, in addition, featured two panel discussions, one on the main threats to freedom of expression, by members of the local academia, and the other by students under the direction of Professor Sandra Ruiz, coordinator of the University of Rosario's Journalism Program.

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