Journalists and universities unite against attacks on the press in Latin America (Interview)

In Puebla, Mexico, 22 universities debated and proposed solutions to the problem of impunity in attacks on the press at the Hemispheric Conference of Universities.

The conference took place in Mexico "because it's the country most in need at the moment," said Ricardo Trotti, director of the Inter American Press Association's (IAPA) Impunity Project, told the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. "But all over the world, the advance of organized crime and corruption have increased the violence against journalists," Trotti added.

At the end of the conference, participants released the Declaration of Puebla. The Declaration proposes decriminalizing defamation in Latin America, that authorities investigate attacks on journalists, and that there be stiffer penalties when public officials are guilty of these attacks. The document also calls for a special investigative unit to address cases where freedom of expression is threatened.

"As long as impunity continues, obviously, so will the killing of journalists," said Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Inter-American Press Association, during the conference.

Ricardo Trotti from the Impunity Project spoke with the Knight Center about the conference:

Why does impunity persist in crimes against the press in Latin America?

Trotti: First, it's a lack of political will. Second, there are no adequate legal structures to combat violence against journalists and third, because there is not a greater outcry from the public on these types of crimes. There's more awareness than years past but it's still not common knowledge.

Why hasn't the media used its influence to inform the pubic about threats against the press?

Trotti: The public doesn't have more awareness on this topic because the media is constantly updating information and has not abused its power to support what's convenient for them. They've not been able to communicate that when freedom of the press is affected, everyone's affected

Will there be financing to implement the conference's proposals?

Trotti: Some initiatives do not need financing, only the will of the universities to develop them. It requires universities to adapt what they're doing now and adjust their resources to better promote freedom of the press.

Besides the Declaration of Puebla, what was the result of the Hemispheric Conference?

Trotti: To establish an agreement between the universities to create a common space for these institutions to help combat violence against the press through legal reforms, raising consciousness and studying how to reform the curriculum to include legal, judicial and security topics in the education of future journalists.