October 17, 2007
American news media leaders criticized policies against the press by the governments of Cuba and Venezuela.
A Miami gathering of American news media leaders Tuesday demanded the release of jailed journalists in Cuba and criticized the Venezuelan government for assaults and ''acts of intimidation'' against journalists there.
The complaints were part of more than 20 resolutions issued by the Inter American Press Association at the end of its annual General Assembly. The group's members are news media owners and journalists from the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean and Canada.
In the case of Cuba, the IAPA called the situation ''alarming'' and demanded the unconditional release of 27 jailed journalists, free access to the Internet and an end to the government's control over the media. It also noted that in the past six months there's been a crackdown on illegal satellite TV dishes.
The resolution urged IAPA member media outlets and others ''to publish or air content to express solidarity with independent journalists who are behind bars or who suffer persecution or censorship as a result of their work as journalists'' in Cuba.
On Venezuela, it approved a resolution ''to file complaints with international organizations for the human rights violations committed by the regime of President [Hugo] Chávez'' and to condemn his ``totalitarian, dictatorial character.''
The increased scrutiny on Cuba and Venezuela was welcomed by members, many of whom said that despite some recent gains, freedom of the press continues to be endangered in Latin America.
''It's a very risky profession,'' said Iris Adames, 44, a freelance journalist from Boca Raton who formerly worked in Panama as a journalist.
Argentina's Jorge Fascetto, a past IAPA president, said he believes the situation has gotten worse for journalists in Latin America.
''The problem is not just the murders,'' he said, noting that nine journalists had been killed around the region in the last six months. Most of the killers have not been arrested. ``The problem is also the impunity. Impunity is terrible.''
The IAPA's new president, Earl Maucker, editor of the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, pledged he would continue trying to visit Cuba and Venezuela to study freedom of the press on the ground.
''We are not going to give up yet,'' Maucker said. ``It is our responsibility to nurture the common thread of democracy, even when it doesn't seem possible.''
But while having a news bureau in Havana has afforded Maucker the opportunity to visit Cuba and meet with Cuban government officials on numerous occasions, he had to concede that the goal is a challenging one.
CUBA NOT INTERESTED
''They have made it clear they have no interest in a visit from the Inter American Press Association,'' he said. ``But we cannot turn away. We must be proactive. We have an obligation to reach out and seek common understanding.''
Maucker said his more immediate goal is to go to Venezuela, where the IAPA had planned to meet again in March to discuss press freedom around the region. He said several Venezuelan hotels had canceled reservations for IAPA members.
Venezuela's populist President Chávez regularly lambastes the privately owned news media around the region as owned by ''oligarchs'' and recently denied a license renewal to a Caracas TV station that had been highly critical of his policies.