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APG urges unity among journalists, alliance with other social organizations, to deal with dramatic increase in press freedom violations

(APG/IFEX) - The following is a 3 May 2007 APG press release:

On World Press Freedom Day, APG expresses its intense concern about the terrifying and unsafe atmosphere in which journalists have to carry out their work, in a country where violence, impunity, uncertainty and lack of unity within the profession reign.

On this day, when we should be celebrating the existence of a fundamental right, we instead have to mourn the irreparable loss of many of our colleagues in Latin America and the rest of the world, who, while carrying out their work of trying to provide accurate information to society, have been murdered in wars or by parallel powers who are setting up territories where impunity prevails and where they impose the law that "those with weapons rule."

In 2006, there were 89 violations of freedom of expression in Guatemala, much higher than the number in the previous year - 34 - which is a worrisome portent, especially because the actions of the above-mentioned parallel powers, as well as the politically-charged atmosphere of the electoral period, may result in a level of violence that will be difficult to control.

Aside from these fearsome self-appointed press censors, there are also politicians who try to impose conditions on journalists. Similarly, there are social groups who, through their efforts at misinformation or manipulation, are springing up as victimizers of journalists.

In recent weeks, colleagues from Quiché and Sololá have been victims of these violators of fundamental rights. We express our solidarity with these journalists.

This is an appropriate day to demand and defend something that legitimately belongs to the whole of society, not only to journalists - the right to freedom of expression and information, and the right to press freedom - which cannot be adequately exercised in our current lamentable circumstances, in which these rights are infringed upon by the shadowy parallel powers referred to previously.

Given that acts of aggression are increasing in number, APG urges for unity within the profession and for the construction of a broad-based alliance with other civil society organizations and the state, as well as accompaniment by the international community. Before, it was state repression that stifled free expression, today it is principally the hired thugs of organised crime that do so. Unfortunately, we journalists continue to be targets.

Signed,

Ileana Alamilla
Benedicto Girón
Carlos Mejía Paredes

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