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Marking World Press Freedom Day, WiPC releases "Declaration in Defense of the Freedom to Write in the Americas"

PEN and authors from across Americas condemn violence against journalists in Latin America and call for end to impunity around murders and disappearances in Mexico

(WiPC/IFEX) - 21 April 2009 - To mark World Press Freedom Day 2009, the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN releases the 'Declaration in Defense of the Freedom to Write in the Americas', endorsed by over 50 authors throughout the region. The Declaration condemns the persistent attacks on against writers and print journalists in Latin America - particularly Mexico, where in the last five years alone 20 journalists have died and four others disappeared - and calls for an end to the impunity surrounding these cases. PEN urges its members and others to publicize the Declaration and to send as many appeals as possible to the Mexican President now and throughout the year.

More than 50 writers from across the Americas have signed the following Declaration, including Ernesto Cardenal, Lydia Cacho, Noam Chomsky, Junot Diaz, Ariel Dorfman, Franciso Goldman, Raúl Rivero and Derek Walcott:


Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights, every citizen possesses the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to speak and write freely and the right to seek and receive information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers.

Every great achievement in literature, from fiction, poetry and drama, to essays, memoirs and journalism, is the result of the full exercise of this right.

On the 40th anniversary of the American Convention of Human Rights (also known as the Pact of San José, Costa Rica), we celebrate the impact that these rights have had on our lives and our societies, above all in the fields of literature and journalism.

However, we are deeply troubled by persistent attacks on writers and journalists in the region that violate these protections, undermine freedom of expression and imperil the right to access information and ideas circulating freely around the world.

In 2008, the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN recorded 191 attacks against writers and print journalists, the majority of which occurred in Latin America. From January 2004 to December 2008, 37 writers and print journalists were assassinated in Latin America, 20 in Mexico alone, the others in Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Haiti and Peru. Four journalists have disappeared in Mexico, while in other countries countless others have been threatened with death.

It is clear that many of these writers were attacked for their work. Writers, particularly journalists, who criticize the authorities or expose the activities of criminal gangs are frequently targeted, harassed, threatened, kidnapped and murdered for what they publish. Often those responsible for these crimes escape justice, official investigations stall or lapse into silence, and the crimes remain unpunished.

Although the culprits frequently remain unknown, it is widely accepted that non-state actors are responsible for many of these violent attacks against journalists, particularly drug traffickers, paramilitaries and other criminal groups, and even state agents operating outside of the legitimate authority of their offices.

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To read the full declaration, see:

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