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Military and journalists at IAPA meeting call for closer relations

(IAPA/IFEX) - The following is an abridged 28 April 2008 IAPA press release:

Military, journalists call for closer relations at IAPA meeting

MIAMI, Florida (April 28, 2008) - Members of the armed forces and journalists representing different countries at a meeting organized by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) discussed their respective missions and the natural tension that exists between them; they also exchanged views on the classification of information, access to records, suitable coverage of military matters and creation of opportunities for mutual training, all themes that were stressed in the Declaration of Santo Domingo that emerged from the conference.

IAPA President Earl Maucker opened the meeting by asking attendees to set aside any differences that exist between the two groups so there is a direct and open dialogue between them. "There is a natural conflict between the interests of the military and those of journalists," he declared. "All relationships must be based on trust and this meeting seeks to foster that, because what is more important than that conflict is our common objective, which is to serve the community and seek the common good."

The Dominican Republic's Secretary of Armed Forces, Gen. Ramón Aquino, agreed and added "The two sectors - the armed forces and the press - are destined to overcome mutual distrust and to collaborate in a participatory democracy, the main objective of both groups," he said. (. . . )

At the end of the conference, the participants endorsed a declaration drafted by a commission composed of representatives from both camps.

Text of the Declaration of Santo Domingo:

"The first essential thing in military operations is that no information of value should be given to the enemy. The first essential thing in newspaper work and broadcasting is wide-open publicity. It is your job and mine to try to reconcile these sometimes-divergent considerations."
-General Eisenhower in discussing regulations for war correspondents, SHAEF HQ 1944

Participants in the regional conference: "Security Forces and Journalists: A New Era", held on April 24 and 25 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, organized and supported by the Secretary of the Armed Forces of the Dominican Republic, the Interamerican Press Association and the Dominican Republic Center for Freedom of Expression, within the spirit of the Declaration of Chapultepec,

Considering that:
Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 13 of the OAS American Convention on Human Rights, the "Pact Of San Jose, Costa Rica", establish that everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds;
Constitutions in Latin American and Inter-American jurisprudence establish freedom of expression and the right of access to public information;

Recognizing that:
Inherent tension exists between protecting national security interests and insuring the public's right to know;
That open and transparent communication is essential to democracy, good governance and healthy civil societies;
The duty of public security forces is to defend the constitution; the duty of the press is to insure the people's right to know;

The participants in the regional conference state:
Their understanding and mutual respect for the other's essential role in democratic society;
Their agreement to:
- Take all necessary measures to improve lines of communication between their respective institutions;
- Create opportunities to work together to improve the flow of information to the public;
- Promote forums, seminars and training activities between public security forces and the media that will advance mutual understanding and a permanent dialogue between both institutions.

Santo Domingo
Dominican Republic
25 April, 2008

For the full text of the press release and Declaration, see: http://www.sipiapa.org/pressreleases/chronologicaldetail.cfm?PressReleaseID=2104

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