|IAPA labels Tegucigalpa meeting a success following pledges made by President Lobo|
Miami (August 14, 2012)—The president of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), Milton Coleman, described as “successful” a recent international conference in Tegucigalpa in which Honduras President Porfirio Lobo committed to pursue public reforms to investigate crimes against journalists, ensure their protection and prosecute those responsible in special tribunals.
Lobo’s pledge was given during the Security, Protection and Solidarity for Freedom of Expression Conference organized by the IAPA and the Association of News Media of Honduras (AMC) August 9-10 in the Honduran capital.
During the conference, in which also reviewed were legislative bills for the protection of journalists presented by opposition members of Congress, the IAPA renewed its request that crimes against members of the press be considered as serious offenses and should not be subject to statutes of limitations. This was supported by Frank La Rue, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Opinion and Expression.
Coleman, senior editor of The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., who together with AMC President José Rafael Ferrari inaugurated the conference, declared that “we need to defeat violence,” stressing that “all of us – officials, legislators, judges, journalists, organizations and media – have the obligation to find solutions and commit ourselves to this battle.”
At the end of the presentations and debates the Tegucigalpa Action Plan (http://bit.ly/PmEZIP) was drawn up. The chairman and vice chairman of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gustavo Mohme and Roberto Rock, respectively, described the meeting as “successful,” saying that “this document will serve to provide follow-up to the commitments expressed by President Lobo, as well as other solutions proposed by Honduran legislators and officials.”
Of the discussions and the consensus reached the following points stand out: The creation of a special unit for investigation of crimes made up of investigative police and public prosecutors; the putting into operation of an institutional mechanism for protection of journalists within the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, and the creation of special tribunals to deal with crimes against journalists and human rights.
The Action Plan also took up the commitment of President Lobo concerning making libel, slander and defamation no longer criminal offenses, which gave rise to a productive debate, with pros and cons, among officials and legislators present.
The document also contains the legislative proposals of Congress members Jariet Waldina Paz and Augusto Cruz Asensio regarding protection of journalists, and the pledges of Justice and Human Rights Minister Ana Pineda. Following the debates representatives of the Honduras and Colombia governments exchanged information on follow-up tasks concerning the creation of the special protective unit, limited to the objectives of the conference, relative to seeking consensus on reforms of public policies to combat attacks on the press and the impunity surrounding crimes against journalists in Honduras.
The event was live streaming and was attended by more than 100 participants. Among the speakers were Ramón Custodio, Honduras National Human Rights Commissioner, and international guests Andrés Villamizar, director of Colombia’s National Protection Unit; Duberlí Apolinar Rodríguez, Peru Supreme Court chief justice; Laura Borbolla, Mexico’s Special Prosecutor for Dealing With Crimes Against Freedom of Expression; David González of Colombia’s Foundation for Press Freedom, and Omar Rábago of Article 19, Mexico and Central America.
Rodolfo Dumas, Press Freedom Committee regional vice chairman for the IAPA, and Ana Abarca, AMC executive director, wound up the conference, while IAPA Press Freedom Director Ricardo Trotti explained the reach of the Action Plan and the follow-up that the organization will carry out.
The conference had the generous support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Open Society Foundations; UNESCO; Dromeinter, S.A.; Gildan; Eldi Teleunsa/DV Investment; Grupo Karim’s, and members of the IAPA and AMC.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.