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IAPA, Mexico Supreme Court forum encourages adoption of inter-American legal standards

Call for such legal tools made to upcoming legislature so the courts can act against violence, impunity

(IAPA/IFEX) - MIAMI, Florida (August 17, 2009) - A judicial forum organized by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and the Mexican Supreme Court wound up successfully on Friday, having urged the application of inter-American legal standards to resolve conflicts concerning freedom of the press and achieving a concerted decision to bring about conferences on the culture of legality and the value of freedom of expression.

On officially opening the "1st National Forum on Freedom of Expression and of the Press: International Case Law and Standards" Mexican Supreme Court Chief Justice Guillermo Ortiz Mayagoitia said, "Dependability, truthfulness and opportunity are no longer solely a matter for the government, but a responsibility of the state, of the press and of civil society."

For his part, IAPA 1st Vice President Alejandro Aguirre declared that "an unwavering justice system is the best guarantee for freedom of expression and of the press to exist in a true democracy." Aguirre, managing editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, mentioned the organization's concern at the violence unleashed against journalists in Mexico and the great degree of impunity there, calling it "a vicious cycle that violence feeds upon."

The three-day forum held at the headquarters of the Mexican judicial branch of government and in which jurists, academics, lawyers, reporters and editors took part, had as its main objective the creation of awareness concerning the application of international legal standards in view of the legal gaps existing at the local level. To this end the IAPA called on prominent jurists as speakers, such as Sergio García Ramírez of Mexico, current member of the Inter-American Human Rights Court, and former justices of that court, Héctor Fix Zamudio and Asdrúbal Aguiar.

At the event opening, after Aguirre urged that "all the mechanisms be articulated so that justice can promptly, rigorously and equitably applied," Juan Francisco Ealy Jr., managing director of El Universal, representing the IAPA's Impunity Committee, issued a call for the new legislature convening in September to again take up bills such as the one seeking to make it a federal offense with increased liability to infringe free speech and press freedom, so as to provide the courts with a legal framework that enables them to act effectively against the violence and impunity assailing journalists and news media.

Among other speakers were Supreme Court Justice José Ramón Cossío Díaz; Juan Méndez, Special Advisor on Crime Prevention at the International Criminal Court; Eduardo Bertoni, former Inter-American Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression; Adrián Ventura, constitutional lawyer and journalist with the Argentine newspaper La Nación; Supreme Court Executive Secretary Alfonso Oñate Laborde; Luis Raúl González Pérez, general counsel of the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM), and, among others, Ismael Eslava Pérez, UNAM director general of Legislation Studies.

All the speakers agreed on creating awareness of "the need for a legal system to be devised in line with the new features of inter-American case law so there can be a more vigorous defense of the public's right to know and to be well informed, turning these into conceptual and executive tools that enable a better defense and promotion of the principles of freedom of expression and of the press," as stated in the forum's conclusions.

Taking part on behalf of the IAPA were Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, president of El Universal and chairman of the organization's Impunity Committee; Roberto Rock, vice chairman of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information; Juan Fernado Healy, the committee's regional vice chairman and president of Periódicos Healy of Hermsillo; Gonzalo Leaño, editor of the Guadalajara newspaper Ocho Columnas, and editors and publishers from various Mexican states, as well as IAPA Executive Director Julio E. Muñoz, Press Freedom Director Ricardo Trotti and Chapultepec Project Coordinator Sally Zamudio.

For this forum the IAPA had the valuable support of the MacArthur Foundation and John S. and James L. Knight Foundation of the United States.

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