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IAPA makes recommendations to President Porfirio Lobo to combat violence against journalists

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, April 27, 2010 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today urged Honduras' President Porfirio Lobo, during his visit here, to consider five concrete recommendations for the adoption of "new legal and judicial instruments" to produce greater effectiveness in combating the wave of crimes against journalists in his country.

Among the suggestions that were in the letter that IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre, editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, handed to President Lobo at a meeting held this afternoon in Miami, was an expression of the need to adopt international mechanisms similar to those that the Guatemalan government had adopted in agreement with the United Nations that paved the way for the establishment of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG).

President Lobo thanked Aguirre and promised to consider the IAPA recommendations, while stressing that "my government is respectful of human rights and we are concerned at the violence unleashed by organized crime against journalists and all the people of Honduras."

He recalled that he had requested help from other countries such as Colombia, United States and Spain to investigate the crimes against journalists and declared that he was leaving "a space open" to continue the dialogue with the IAPA. "We need your help and I am grateful that we have your support," he said at the conclusion of the meeting, in which Communication and Strategy Minister Miguel Angel Bonilla, Public Works and Transportation Minister Miguel Pastor and IAPA Press Freedom Director Ricardo Trotti also took part.

The IAPA recommendations came as a result of the organization's concern at six murders of journalists having been committed so far this year and three others in 2009, and the Honduran authorities having been unable to determine the motives or identify those responsible. The suggestions are also based on the request for assistance that Lobo has made to the international community on the issue.

In the letter, Aguirre, editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, says that "our recommendations are not motivated by a desire for special protection for journalists, but rather in the spirit of shielding freedom of expression, with the understanding that when a journalist is killed in reprisal for his professional work that not only infringes the right to life but also every citizen's right to freely receive information."

The recommendations are:

1) Establish already proven criteria for international oversight with the support of the United Nations, similar to what has been established by the government of Guatemala with the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), an organization whose objective is "to provide technical assistance to the institutions of the judiciary, with the aim of putting the Justice Department and the National Civil Police in a better condition to fight against organized crime."

2) Create – despite this kind of international cooperation which should also be requested of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – special prosecutors' offices within the Justice Department to investigate offenses committed against freedom of expression within the framework of attainment of human rights.

3) Urge legal and judicial reforms that enable the creation of a special jurisdiction to deal with those offenses that are committed against anyone in the exercise of his or her freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

4) Call for amendments to the Penal Code to make crimes committed against freedom of expression more serious offenses as an effective way to dissuade violence.

5) Urge through yourself and the corresponding mechanisms that the Honduras Judicial Branch take into account the Declaration of Principles of the Hemisphere Conference: The Judiciary, The Press and Impunity of July 20, 2007, which was attended by more than 20 chief justices from throughout the Americas, during which it was agreed "to provide spaces for discussing, with specialists and members of civil society, the possibility of encouraging legal reforms that would enable those responsible for attacking freedom of expression to be put on trial and convicted more effectively," as well as "to recommend the implementation of the new criminal proceedings model" and "to encourage the branches of government in the various countries and at several levels to use international and inter-American instruments that provide conceptual and regulatory tools to effectively punish those who attack freedom of expression and obstruct justice, without prejudice to the independence of judges."

Finally, Aguirre declared how important was the resolution adopted by the Organization of American States on June 2, 1998, which "urges the member states to strengthen the measures needed for the investigation and punishment, in accordance with their domestic law, of assaults upon freedom of expression and crimes against journalists," and expresses the need for such crimes to be "investigated promptly and punished harshly" as established in Article 4 of the Declaration of Chapultepec, a document that was signed and committed to by President Lobo.

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