Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Internet and Plenty More

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Internet and Plenty More

Article excerpt

Reporter safety still tops summit issues

Bogota, Colombia - The summit kicked off with the compelling, oratorical reading voice of Colombian Nobel Gabriel Garcia Marquez - recently returned to newsroom rank and file after decades dedicated to book-writing. Soon after, Mexican journalist Jesus Blancornelas - this year's UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Freedom of the Press Award winner - movingly narrated his narrow escape from death at the hands of drug traffickers as an investigative journalist on the Mexico-U.S. border.

Last week in this teeming Andean capital, journalists, press and human rights organizations, and UN officials from more than 20 countries met to take apart and then put back together the many issues surrounding freedom of the press in today's world. And if the dramatic, first- person accounts of the two veteran Latin journalists brought this intense gathering to a pin-drop hush, there was also energetic debate on everything from assuring safety for reporters in war zones to the Internet's potential for hopscotching around censors.

Besides being a direct victim of violence intended to silence his reporting, Blancornelas also lost a colleague to the mafia, in 1988. The crime remains unsolved. "Unpunished Crimes Against Journalists" occupied the first session of the two-day event, including what one panelist called "a tragic road trip around the world" - case studies on journalists slain in the Philippines, Russia, Algeria, Tanzania, Brazil, and Colombia.

Regarding these crimes, Danilo Arbilla, of Uruguay's Busqueda, gave voice to the tenor of the gathering. "When a journalist is assassinated," he said, "we are not talking about a tragedy for the members of a certain trade. It is an issue that affects the entire society."

Later on in the same session, one young journalist from the host country was overheard commenting to another in the hallway during a break: "Dead journalists? We've got plenty! What else can we talk about here?"

The comment demonstrated both the defense mechanism that is black humor in a country now four decades into the Western hemisphere's longest- running internal conflict, which has also placed it tops on the global top ten of journalists assassinated, with 10 last year and 125 in the last 20 - and the earnest desire to have the media be part of solutions to such conflicts. …

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