Conference on Press Freedom, Safety of Journalists and Impunity in MERCOSUR
UNESCO Office in Montevideo organized a sub-regional conference to celebrate the World Press Freedom Day 2007 in Uruguay.
The event, which took place on 3 May in Montevideo, Uruguay, gathered some 100 participants and served as a platform for the exchange of information on the situation of journalists in MERCOSUR and associated countries. During the conference, the close relation between press freedom and safety of journalists was explored.
The Undersecretary of the Department of Education and Culture of Uruguay, Felipe Michelini, opened the conference by congratulating UNESCO for the initiative. He indicated the significance of freedom of expression for the fulfilment of the mandates established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and highlighted the importance of adapting the current law on the press in order to guarantee the full exercise of the journalistic profession.
According to Jorge Grandi, Director of the UNESCO Office in Montevideo, "freedom of the press is a fundamental right, and violence against journalists is one of the challenges that the region is facing. In this year's celebration of the World Press Freedom Day in Montevideo, UNESCO invites to identify the dangers the media professionals face today and to discuss the measures to be taken to improve the safety of journalists working in the countries that do not give sufficient value to freedom of expression".
The repression and violence against journalists was stressed as one of the major worries in the region. The relationship between the journalism and the power was also discussed.
The Battle of the Silence, a documentary on Orlando Sierra, a Colombian journalist killed in 2002, was presented to the participants. This crime remains unpunished.
The round table on Journalism of Investigation, a Profession in Danger exposed several examples of the journalistic reality in Venezuela, Bolivia and Paraguay.
To promote the safety of journalists in the region three working groups draw a list of actions to be undertaken, among which are:
- involving the public opinion into the topic of freedom of expression,
- strengthening unions of journalists,
- revaluating the profession,
- introducing an Ombudsman system to observe freedom of expression and to defend the rights of journalists.
During the closing session, the UNESCO Adviser for Communication and Information in MERCOSUR and Chile, Günther Cyranek, highlighted the role of freedom of expression in interactive media as part of an inclusive democratic culture in knowledge societies.
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