Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Condemning Violence Against the Media in Mexico and Elsewhere

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

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Independence, Diversity and Self-Confidence - Trinidad and Tobago

We have been around long enough as an independent state to understand that the raising of our own flag on August 31, 1962 had value and potential in excess of political self-determination and a notion of economic choice.

For one, the ability to determine constitutional and legislative values and to command indigenous human and natural resources unfolded as both opportunity and as intrinsic challenge. Small states finding their way in the world, under crippling pre and post-colonial circumstances, have consistently been found to be haplessly subject to such conditions.

The offshore orientation of the economy is now widely acknowledged and accepted, and undoubted vulnerabilities on account of geography, limited capacity and a lack of self-confidence have taken intractable root. There is now little doubt that political independence has neither brought us true freedom nor has it led to a trough of sustainable prospects for a future as a sovereign state.

It is not that we have been hopeless at political negotiation or that we have been unable to prosper, in relative terms, through economic decision-making. In many respects, we have conducted our affairs at a high level of civility and we have covered much developmental ground. Our score card on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is impressive.

Up to this point, Eric Williams, CLR James, William Demas and Lloyd Best are absolutely indispensable if we were to understand some key paradoxes. There is an established pathway that leads us to an understanding of how and why we have failed to advance the gains of political independence yet thrived in important ways. Economic determinism, political under-achievement and cultural insufficiency feature prominently and are irresistible subjects to ponder even in the face of the statistical high-points.

The fact that cultural, political and economic institutions have under-performed is however difficult to deny. There is yet no grasp of the changing “peoplescape” and certainly no sense of an economic destiny over which we have an adequate measure of decisive control in the final analysis. The political parties and their vital organs, in the absence of official life-support, are moribund and particularly useless in pursuit of the broader, civic self-determination that separates free people from those who are not.

The resort to authoritarianism and paternalistic dependence and control remains impulsive and few are to be found who consistently patrol the boundaries of rights and freedoms. As a consequence, important questions of state-sanctioned killing, free expression and independent jurisprudence are subject to official “vaps” and sycophantic advocacy capable of 180 degree shifts. In this respect, political complexion has made no difference.

To move us forward, new levels of understanding are needed which concede that the Trinidad and Tobago of 2010 is not the same country we came up with in 1962. The challenge of managed diversity, to cite one important example, is certainly not the same.

In many respects, it makes sense that a Ministry of Multiculturalism exists. But there is yet no evidence that the relevant political and administrative managers and functionaries understand the true nature of the challenge. This government ministry, perhaps above all others, has the greatest potential to move the development of the country forward.

This has nothing to do with financial support for entertainers or official dicta that seek to regulate taste or repairs to the National Academy for the Performing Arts. It has to do with acquiring a proper understanding of the changing nature of our society and the value of the global interface to which we are now - and have always been - inextricably attached.

There are few greater manifestations of under-development than our failure to recognise this important point. Cultural policy cannot be founded on xenophobia nor can it be built on static notions of what comes together to constitute what some would wish to describe as a “national culture”. The current nonsense of proposed regulated media content, ostensibly to “protect” national cultural products, falls far short of a proper understanding of this.

The fact is the channels of so-called cultural imperialism have the potential to offer net gains if we choose to be more confident and more independent.

Because these points are not understood, the potential of some features of our economic diversity is not correspondingly recognised. How, for example, have some of our newest arrivals sustained what appears to be a glut of food establishments throughout the length and breadth of the country? How have others, from not so far away, been able to preserve artisanal skills which they deliver at lower cost and at a higher level of productivity?

There is, as well, the lost potential of our Caribbean engagement at the hands of our own parochialism and xenophobia. To what extent, for example, is the Caribbean paradigm envisaged when we define “national culture” and our wealth as a people? We do not understand the value of such a stock of assets at our peril.

Instead, we are finding it hard to accept the fact of our changing collective face. The durability of our political independence needs to be matched by a much higher level of self-confidence and a willingness to negotiate much wider spaces. Some individuals, manufacturers and banks understand this much better than players in other sectors.

In the end, our independence has to be pursued and achieved with a much higher understanding of who we really are and what we desire for ourselves.

(First published in the Trinidad Guardian - Tuesday August 31, 2010)

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