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Journalists provide global prescription for fighting violence and impunity

(WAN-IFRA/IFEX) – 5 April 2012 – Jointly organised by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), ARTICLE 19 Mexico and Central America Office, and the Institute of the Americas, the March 26-29 event titled, "Different Worlds, Similar Threats," gathered 25 experienced journalists from 14 countries in La Jolla, California. The goal is to promote safe reporting and identify measures for reducing the violence and impunity affecting journalists in their respective regions.

Discussions revealed an urgent need for effective government measures to protect practicing journalists worldwide. "Today, in countries like Mexico, Honduras, Pakistan or Russia, journalists face actors and groups ready to kill them, in total impunity, simply for doing their job," said Cynthia Cárdenas, ARTICLE 19 Legal Programme Officer. "Authorities in every country around the world are responsible for guaranteeing journalists' safety and for sanctioning those who attempt to curtail their freedom of expression."

In light of the current crisis in Mexico, where a wave of violence sparked by the conflict between organised crime and government forces has cost the lives of dozens of journalists since 2006, participants issued a call for more solidarity within the profession. "Mexican journalism is undergoing one of its darkest periods," said Rodrigo Bonilla, Press Freedom Missions Manager at WAN-IFRA. "Effective mechanisms to promote solidarity and better protection for journalists are urgently needed and should be multiplied within and between each media outlet."

The presentations and workshops revealed that caution and responsibility are particularly important when exercising journalism in violent environments. "We succeeded in creating a space in which journalists were able to analyse the exercise of their profession," said Lynne Walker, Vice President of the Institute of the Americas. "Participants understood that ethical practices and a higher degree of alertness are key practices that need to be promoted within each newsroom."

Prominent journalists including Javier Darío Restrepo (Colombia), Marco Lara Klahr (Mexico), Umar Cheema (Pakistan) and Elena Milashina (Russia), attended a range of workshops that addressed safety, legal protection and information security. Delegates also met with journalists from ZETA weekly newspaper during a one-day visit to Tijuana, Mexico, to learn first-hand the dangers facing daily newsgathering in the country.

The "Different Worlds, Similar Threats" workshop was sponsored by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Freedom House, USAID and the Latin American Development Bank.

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