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Latin American and Caribbean journalists issue “Austin Declaration” demanding official action on attacks against media

Obtained by AlterPresse from Austin, Texas on 20 September 2010

AUSTIN, Texas — Distinguished investigative journalists and members of media support organizations from 20 countries in the Americas and Europe strongly condemned the killings of journalists and attacks on media by organized crime, particularly in Mexico. They insisted that international organizations and governments in the Americas assume their responsibilities to guarantee the rights to life and information that are included in their constitutions.

The “Austin Declaration” was issued by participants of the 8th Austin Forum on Journalism in the Americas, conducted Sept. 17–18, 2010, at the University of Texas at Austin. The annual gathering, which focused this year on coverage of drug trafficking and organized crime, was conducted by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at UT Austin and the Open Society Foundations programs on media and Latin America.

The Austin Forum began Friday (Sept. 17) with the news of the shooting death of 21-year-old Mexican photography intern Luis Carlos Santiago, who worked for El Diario in Ciudad Juárez. His 18-year-old fellow intern, Carlos Manuel Sánchez, was injured in the attack.

"Since we started organizing this annual meeting in Austin of journalists and journalists organizations in 2003, this is the first time that the participants decided to issue a public declaration at the end of the meeting," said Professor Rosental Calmon Alves, director of the Knight Center. "And it is not surprising that something so extraordinary has happened, considering the gravity of the situation facing journalists in Mexico and other countries of the hemisphere, especially those who cover drug trafficking and organized crime, which were the themes of the Austin Forum this year."

"The declaration shows the international outrage at so many attacks on journalists and the news media of Mexico and other countries. It also shows the solidarity that all participants of the Austin Forum wanted to send to the journalists and their families, especially in the regions that are most affected, like Ciudad Juárez and other cities close to the border between Mexico and the United States," Alves said.

The Austin Declaration reads as follows :

“Renowned investigative journalists from throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, who gathered at the University of Texas at Austin for the 8th Austin Forum on Journalism in the Americas, organized by the Knight Center, declare their strongest condemnation of the killings of journalists, and attacks of any kind against the media, that are being unleashed by organized crime in Mexico, and that have been committed for years amid the negligence of the government.

“From Mexico to the Southern Cone, drug trafficking and organized crime have become the biggest threat against democratic society and life. In other countries, such as Guatemala, Honduras and Colombia, the media and journalists are under fire. Freedom of expression and the right of citizens to be informed are in grave danger throughout the region. Confirming this has been the point of all the participants’ presentations at the Forum.

“The participants of the Austin Forum, from various media, declare their decision to take action, denouncing the impunity with which the bands of organized crime are operating, and insisting that international organizations and governments of the region – particularly Mexico – recognize the urgency of the moment and assume their responsibility to guarantee a minimum of two rights included in their constitutions. The rights to life and to information must be restored.

From Austin, we send this demonstration of our solidarity with all our colleagues in danger.

Sept. 18, 2010, Austin

• Juan Javier Zeballos, Asociación Nacional de la Prensa (Bolivia)

• Mauri König, Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo

• Mónica González, CIPER Chile

• Ginna Morelo Martínez, Consejo de Redacción y El Meridiano de Cordoba (Colombia)

• Álvaro Sierra, University for Peace, Costa Rica

• Giannina Segnini, La Nación, Costa Rica

• Mónica Almeida, El Universo, Ecuador

• Carlos Dada, El Faro, El Salvador

• Benoît Hervieu, Reporters Sans Frontiers Bureau Amériques, Francia

• Claudia Méndez Arriaza, El Periódico, Guatemala

• Gotson Pierre, AlterPresse, Haiti

• Byron Buckley, Association of Caribbean Media Workers y Press Association of Jamaica

• Marcela Turati, revista Proceso y red Periodistas de a Pie (México)

• Marco Lara Khlar, Insyde (México)

• María Teresa Ronderos, Verdad Abierta, Colombia

• Mike O’Connor, Committee to Protect Journalists

• Óscar Martínez, El Faro, El Salvador

• Samuel González, criminal justice consultant, México

• Carlos Chamorro, El Confidencial, Nicaragua

• Dilmar Rosas Garcia, Centro Latinoamericano de Periodismo, Panamá

• Osmar Gómez, Foro de Periodistas Paraguayos (FOPEP)

• Gustavo Gorriti, IDL Reporteros, Peru

• Luz María Helguero, Red de Periodistas de Provincias del Perú

• Ricardo Uceda, Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), Peru

• Tyler Bridges, journalist

• Paul Radu, Romanian Center for Investigative Journalism

• Ana Arana, Fundación MEPI, México

• Bruce Bagley, University of Miami

• Bruce Shapiro, Dart Center for Trauma & Journalism, United States

• Cecilia Alvear, National Association of Hispanic Journalists /Unity -Journalists of Color (U.S.)

• Judith Torrea, blog Ciudad Juárez : en la sombra del narcotráfico

• Luis Botello, International Center for Journalists

• Ricardo Trotti, Inter-American Press Association

• Steven Dudley, InSight / Organized Crime in the Americas

• Javier Mayorca, El Nacional, Venezuela

• Algirdas Lipstas, Open Society Foundations, Media Program

• David Holiday Open Society Foundations, Latin America Program

• David Sasaki, Open Society Foundations, Latin America Program

• Gordana Jankovic, Open Society Foundations, Media Program

• Miguel Castro, Open Society Foundations, Media Program

• Sandra Dunsmore, Open Society Foundations, Latin America Program

• Lise Olsen, Investigative Reporters & Editors and Houston Chronicle, United States

• Donna de Cesare, University of Texas at Austin

• Rosental Calmon Alves, University of Texas at Austin

• Kristel Mucino, Washington Office on Latin America y Transnational Institute

• Ricardo Sandoval Palos, International Consortium of Investigative Journalism/Center for
Public Integrity (U.S.)

• Gabriel Michi, Forum del Periodismo Argentino (FOPEA)

• Dean Graber, University of Texas at Austin

• Summer Harlow, University of Texas at Austin

• Ingrid Bachmann, University of Texas at Austin

• Mónica Medel, University of Texas at Austin

• James Ian Tennant, University of Texas at Austin

• Joseph Vavrus, University of Texas at Austin