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IAPA protests international journalists' eviction from airport

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami (January 21, 2010) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today expressed concern at an order by the U.S. military to reporters camped at the Port-au-Prince airport in Haiti to leave the area. The organization called for the reversal of the order so as to permit journalists access to sources and facilities in order to transmit information and for their right to free movement to be respected.

Since a devastating earthquake struck the Haitian capital on January 12 members of the international press have been camping out at the international airport, which is currently run by the United States at the request of the Haitian government. The location provides access to electricity and the Internet, allowing them to send out information when they might not be able to do so from other locations due to the precarious condition of the city's infrastructure.

IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre, managing editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper "Diario Las Américas", declared, "Under limited circumstances, such as natural disasters or even war, it is necessary for the authorities to ensure that journalists can do their job without interruption." He added that, "while understanding that the scene of this catastrophe is very difficult, it should also be understood that the flow of information is important, indeed essential."

For his part, the chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Robert Rivard, said that, while the members of the military had assigned "safer" areas for the reporters, he was concerned that "this measure was taken abruptly and without further explanation or valid alternatives for the journalists to continue reporting."

The eviction order, announced yesterday afternoon, called for the journalists to leave the airport by 8:00 a.m. today. At the request of news media several governments began contacting the Haitian authorities and the U.S. military to reconsider the deadline and provide appropriate locations for reporting to continue.

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