29 April 2009

World Press Freedom Day 2009 events in the Americas

"One word can make a thousand changes in your life," says SIP. In Nelson Mandela's case, the word was "equality"

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On 24 April, radio reporter José Everardo Aguilar, who often talked about corruption on his radio programme, was gunned down in his home in El Bordo, in southwestern Colombia. To mark 3 May this year, the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN has released the "Declaration in Defence of the Freedom to Write in the Americas".

Endorsed by 50 heavyweight writers, such as Noam Chomsky and Lydia Cacho, the declaration condemns violence against journalists in Latin America and the impunity that surrounds their cases. The situation is particularly dire in Mexico, where in the past five years alone 20 journalists have died and four others have disappeared - PEN is urging you to publicise the declaration and to mobilise as many appeals as possible to the Mexican President now and throughout the year, using the postcard found here: http://tinyurl.com/cn34l8

It's official: Mexico has become the Americas' most dangerous country for journalists. So this year, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) joined the Overseas Press Club to present a panel in New York City to discuss "Mexico's Pitfalls for Journalists" on 27 April for World Press Freedom Day. Panellists, including three experienced Mexican reporters, discussed the risks associated with covering the news in Mexico and on the U.S.-Mexican border, from the drug cartels that target "curious" journalists to press freedom violations by the security forces. See who said what, here: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=30835

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) knows that free expression is a fundamental human right enshrined in international law - and wants to ensure the world knows it too. IAPA is using 3 May to draw attention to its public awareness campaign, "One word can make a thousand changes in your life, and you have the right to say the next one." Download one of six ads, each with a prominent figure in contemporary history (Simón Bolívar, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Pope John Paul II, Pelé and Albert Einstein) and a word or phrase that led to their success when they uttered it. For materials, see: http://www.sipiapa.com/banner/regi/index.php?idioma=us

IFEX's member in Guatemala Centro de Reportes Informativos sobre Guatemala (CERIGUA) punches in with its 2008 free expression report on Guatemala. The results aren't good - besides growing media concentration, independent journalists are at risk from organised criminals, which have penetrated the small country and are one of the greatest threats to free expression. Read about how they have made their mark on Guatemala here: http://tinyurl.com/bpwxhf

Want to know how many kids are enrolled in your local school, or wait times for key health services? Colombia's Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) has released a handy Access to Information Manual, with tips for journalists and citizens on how best to request government info. Download the manual (Spanish only) here: http://www.flip.org.co/documentos/362-manual_acceso.pdf

The World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC), as part of the Movement for Democratic Communication, unleashed a campaign calling on El Salvador's new government to pass laws and policies that "democratise" communication, like an access to information law and a policy outlining equitable allocation of government advertising contracts: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/102849/

What's it like reporting in conflict-ridden Afghanistan? Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, together with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), is hoping to find out with a panel discussion on 29 April. Panellists will explore the challenges facing foreign and local reporters, the pros and cons of embedded reporting and the role of reporting in shaping Canadian public opinion and policy. Speakers include Graeme Smith, a Canadian reporter credited with sparking debate in Canada about the moral and legal parameters of Canada's mission in Afghanistan. See: http://www.cjfe.org/releases/2009/28042009wpfd.html

"The recent conviction of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi in a sham espionage trial in Iran puts a human face on the declining state of press freedom, both in the Islamic republic and the world overall," says Freedom House. Freedom House is launching its 2009 Freedom of the Press survey on 1 May, which will highlight Saberi's case and other emblematic stories. Has media freedom in the 195 countries and territories regressed for a seventh straight year? Find out when the results are released on 1 May at Newseum in Washington, D.C., in front of Freedom House's massive (36-feet-wide!) press freedom map. Bookmark: http://www.freedomhouse.org

What are the "10 Worst Countries to be a Blogger"? With a military government that severely restricts Internet access and jails people for posting critical material, Burma tops the Committee to Protect Journalists' special 3 May report. Then there are the authorities in Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Egypt, who rely on a mix of detentions, regulations, and intimidation to become leading online oppressors in the Middle East and North Africa. China, Vietnam, Cuba and Turkmenistan round out the dishonour roll. See: http://tinyurl.com/cbu4rj

Other activities:

- IFEX interim member the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers (ACM) will be in Grenada on 14-15 May, commemorating World Press Freedom Day in the company of UNESCO Caribbean, as well as the Caribbean Broadcasting Union and the Caribbean Institute for Media and Communication: http://www.acmediaworkers.com/

- Canadian journalists facing threats to their right to free expression, as well as international cartoonists whose work illustrates that right, will be honoured at the World Press Freedom Awards, handed out by the Canadian Committee for World Press Freedom, in Ottawa on 5 May. Media outlets can download copies of the winning and runner-up cartoons, on the theme of "Protecting Privacy?" - a concept used by government bodies to deny releasing information to the public, here: http://www.ccwpf-cclpm.ca/cartoons-2009

- The Center for International Media Assistance gave the floor to the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International News Safety Institute to lead a discussion on the "Dangerous Truth" - safeguarding journalists - on 29 April at the U.S. Congress in Washington, D.C. See: http://tinyurl.com/ow97yv

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