Miami (May 18, 2012)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today urged the governments of Mexico, Honduras and Colombia to act with speed and commitment in putting an end to the wave of violence against journalists and ensure the physical safety of members of the press and the unfettered practice of journalism. This request was made amid the wave of journalists’ abductions that have occurred in those countries in recent weeks.
The most recent case occurred yesterday (May 17) in Ciudad Obregón, in the Mexican municipality of Cajeme in Sonora state, where Marcos Ávila García, 39, a reporter covering security and justice matters for the newspaper Regional de Sonora, was abducted.
Four armed and hooded men forced Ávila to get into a vehicle, eye-witnesses reported. His whereabouts remain unknown. A tragic outcome is feared in light of the recent wave of violence in Mexico, where four journalists have been killed in recent weeks in the state of Veracruz; six reporters had to move out of the state, and another was kidnapped. The identity of the latter has been withheld to prevent any further reprisals.
The chair of the IAPA’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Gustavo Mohme, said the various governments concerned had a principal responsibility in “promptly investigating the acts of violence against the journalists, determine who has been carrying them out, and punish those guilty of these crimes.” He added that if they did not act speedily, many of those kidnapped could end losing their life.
In this context, Mohme, editor of the Lima, Peru, newspaper La República, also mentioned the abduction and subsequent murder of Honduras journalist Alfredo Villatoro, whose body was found on May 15. Villatoro, a respected public figure in Honduras, was the host of the newscast “Diario Matutino” broadcast by HRN radio in Tegucigalpa.
The President of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo, met yesterday with news agency and international media correspondents in his country. He acknowledged deficiencies and the lack of resources to realize effective investigations, including in the cases of crimes committed against 14 journalists since he assumed the presidency in 2010.
The IAPA also asked the government of Colombia to act with speed and commitment in putting an end to the wave of violence, particularly in the case of Roméo Langlois, correspondent of France 24 television channel, who was kidnapped on April 28 as he was accompanying the Army while doing a documentary on the war on drug trafficking. The journalist continues to be held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The Langlois case has aroused national and international debate concerning news coverage in danger zones and the lack of guarantees for reporters to do their work in such conditions.
In this regard, Mohme declared that for the IAPA “it is also necessary that there exist a strategy of unity among journalists, news media and press organizations and that they present a common front against violence.”
According to statistics compiled by the organization so far this year, 10 journalists have been killed in four countries in the region in cases where their work as members of the press is presumed to be the motive for the crimes. The journalists killed in Brazil are Décio Sá, Paulo Roberto Cardoso Rodrigues, Mário Randolfo Marques Lopes, and Laécio de Souza; in Haiti, Jean Liphete Nelson; in Honduras, Alfredo Villatoro, and in México, Gabriel Huge, Guillermo Luna, Esteban Rodríguez and Regina Martínez.
So far this year, two journalists in Mexico, one in Colombia and another in Honduras have been abducted. In Mexico, organized crime has also been held responsible for holding some journalists against their will for several hours to intimidate them.
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. The IAPA Impunity Project is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and has the mission of combating violence against journalists and lessening the impunity surrounding the majority of such crimes. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org; http://www.impunidad.com