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Mexican editors, publishers call for government action

(IAPA/IFEX) - Durango, Mexico (February 17, 2010) - Newspaper editors and publishers from the Mexican states of Durango, Coahuila, Sinaloa and Sonora called on federal and state authorities to provide greater guarantees for the safe practice of journalism during a forum held yesterday by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA).

After an intense discussion of how to provide news coverage against a background of violence, and considering the fact that three of the 11 journalists murdered in Mexico last year were killed in Durango, 25 editors and publishers drew up a number of lines of action that they set out in the Declaration of Durango (see http://www.impunidad.com/upload/declaraciones/det_sp_26.pdf , in Spanish only).

The document presents national and state authorities with a complaint about the lack of action in combating the generalized climate of violence, and cites such broad measures as the need to make crimes against journalists federal offenses, as well as specific acts such as the creation of a united front - among police, public prosecutors' offices and the Army - so that news media may have timely and transparent access to information about acts of violence.

The forum is part of a project in which IAPA's Impunity Committee works with editors and publishers in the interior. At the forum, the discussion centered on the self-censorship generated by violent reprisals that the press faces from organized crime, the press' responsibility to find innovative methods to enable it to carry out its mission, and ways to further self-regulation and journalistic ethics.

IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre and the chairman of the organization's Impunity Committee, Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz, conducted the debate which concluded with a call for unity among newspapers to continue creating joint strategies and methods of protection. In addition, there was a report on IAPA's commitments for training in Durango and other states beset by violence and for the presentation of issues raised by the editors and publishers with the federal government and international agencies.

Yesterday the IAPA mission also met with Durango Governor Ismael Hernández Dera, of the PRI party, Attorney General Daniel García Leal and Government Secretary General Oliverio Reza Cuéllar, among other local authorities, to discuss the status of press freedom in the state and the problems generated in recent years by the illicit drug trade and other organized crime activities.

The IAPA expressed concern to the governor for the lack of justice in four specific cases in his state - the disappearance in 2008 of Enrique Rodríguez of El Correo de la Mañana and the deaths in 2009 of Eliseo Barrón Hernández of La Opinión-Milenio, and Carlos Ortega Samper and Antuna García, both of El Tiempo of Durango.

The governor agreed to appoint a review panel made up of the State Attorney General and the IAPA's Rapid Response Unit whose objective will be to look into the state of the investigations and legal proceedings in the four cases.

In addition to Aguirre, managing editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, and Ealy Ortiz, of El Universal, Mexico City, the IAPA's international delegation was made up of Robert Rivard, San Antonio-Express-News, Texas; Juan Fernando Healy, Periódicos Healy, Mexico; José Santiago Healy, Diario San Diego, California; Roberto Rock, El Universal, Mexico; Executive Director Julio E. Muñoz and Press Freedom Director Ricardo Trotti.

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