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President Porfirio Lobo commits to press freedom

(IAPA/IFEX) - Tegucigalpa (February 18, 2010) - Honduran president Porfirio Lobo Sosa today declared his belief in freedom as a fundamental right for human beings, social and political systems and backed his commitment by adding his signature to the Declaration of Chapultepec before an enthusiastic crowd of 400 students at the Central American Technological University (UNITEC).

At the university forum "Press Freedom, Reality, Obstacles and Solutions," organized by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), President Lobo, in a brief and relaxed speech after meeting with students, said that his government would defend the rights of every citizen to freedom of expression and punish officials who failed to make official information available.

Lobo asked the news media to join him in respecting the people's right "to be free and to fight so our people suffer no restraints." He also called for support as the National Pan - a strategy for economic recovery in Honduras - gets under way. Lobo was elected on November 29 last year and took office on January 27. He succeeded Roberto Micheletti, who became president of Honduras following the coup that toppled Manuel Zelaya on June 28 last year and gave rise to a tense political crisis in the Central American nation over the last half year.

IAPA Vice President Gonzalo Marroquín, who introduced Lobo to the audience, spoke of the setbacks a people suffer when freedom of the press is restricted by authoritarian governments that believe themselves owners of the truth and seek to control information.

Marroquín, editor of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Prensa Libre, warned that "we media are not the owners of the truth, but seekers of the truth." He went on to refer to the "traps" that journalists face by some of the wording contained in laws and offered the example that information must be accurate and responsible, words which obfuscate the real objective which is to control and limit the media.

IAPA Executive Director Julio E. Muñoz and Fernando Peña, assistant rector of UNITEC, formally opened the forum which turned into a celebration of democratic values by the students.

Muñoz referred to the IAPA mission by speaking of the defense of press freedom and the need to recognize it as a fundamental human right, as set forth in the Declaration of Chapultepec, and of the importance of instilling these principles at the university level where the leadership of tomorrow is formed.

A highlight of the forum was the student panel that discussed the need for respect and truth as essential values that must be practiced by the news media.

Student Aida Predal spoke of the importance of freedom of expression in their lives and for the development of society. For her part, Andrea Vallecillo asked news media to fulfill its duty to educate the people. José Reyes spoke of an honorable Honduras today, the need to "respect ourselves", and for the media to respect and foster all points of view.

The students, who belong to the UNITEC's Debating Society, an extracurricular activity, stressed that communication must be governed by ethical values and that it is the government's moral duty to advance higher education as a right of all Hondurans, without distinction of social class.

Asdrúbal Aguiar, professor of International Law at the Andrés Bello Catholic University in Caracas, Venezuela, stated during his remarks that "there is no democracy without freedom," explaining the scope of the Declaration of Chapultepec as an instrument that requires states and governments to respect freedom of the press and ban censorship. "The principle behind people's trust is that we all respect the ideas of others."

Muñoz invited the students to take part in the contest for the IAPA's "Freedom of Expression in Real Time Award" by submitting their multimedia entries over the Internet ( http://www.declaraciondechapultepec.org ) explaining whether or not there is freedom of expression and press in their community.

In addition to Marroquín and Muñoz, the IAPA was represented by Jorge Canahuati, chairman of the organization's International Committee, an executive with the Honduran newspapers La Prensa and El Heraldo; Press Freedom Director Ricardo Trotti, and Asdrúbal Aguiar, representing the "Chapultepec Ambassadors" program whose objective is to promote in universities throughout the Americas the message of the Declaration of Chapultepec, a 10-point document on freedom of expression and the press.

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