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IAPA calls for political will to combat impunity at UNESCO conference

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami, September 13, 2011 - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today demanded more political will by governments to reform public policies to effectively combat the impunity surrounding crimes against journalists and called on them to create programs for the protection of members of the press. The forum was sponsored by the United Nations' Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at its headquarters in Paris, France.

Jorge Canahuati, chair of the IAPA's International Affairs Committee, took part in today's session, "United Nations - Inter-Agencies Meeting: The Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity," which will continue tomorrow and is expected to come up with a plan of action for inter-governmental agencies to confront the worldwide absence of safety for journalists and punishment for offenses against freedom of expression.

Canahuati, CEO of OPSA group, Honduras, declared, "In Latin America we are losing the battle for the safety and protection of journalists. Murders have multiplied and impunity continues to expand." He said "the situation is grave" adding that the greatest frustration in the Western Hemisphere "is the indifference and lack of action on the part of many governments."

"Governments are aware of the problem," he said, "they diagnose it, they talk about solving it, but they don't have the determination and the political will to reform public policies, administer justice or create protection programs."

Canahuati also considers that the greatest challenge faced by the United Nations, UNESCO and other regional bodies such as the OAS is "getting each government to assume responsibility and carry out the necessary reforms of public policies, whether it be through constitutional or penal code amendments, or legislation of new laws that create security and witness protection programs, or the establishment of special prosecutors' offices and special jurisdictions to deal with cases of violence against the press and freedom of expression in general."

He said the program to combat impunity that the IAPA has supported in the Americas for more than two decades includes, among other recommendations, that crimes committed against journalists be free of any statute of limitations, that penalties for such crimes be strengthened and that special jurisdictions be created for the prosecution of offenses against freedom of expression.

Attending the forum in addition to the IAPA were representatives of the following invited organizations: International News Safety Institute (INSI); ARTICLE 19; Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA); Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA); Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI); African Union Commission (AUC); Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); Organization of American States (OAS); International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM); International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX); International Federation of Journalists (IFJ); Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ); Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), as well as special rapporteurs for freedom of expression and freedom of the press from the United Nations, Frank la Rue; from OSCE, Dunja Mijatovic; from the OAS, Catalina Botero, and from the African Union, Faith Pansy Tlakula.

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