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Writers From Around the World Gather to Address Attacks on Journalists in Central America and Mexico

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In response to increasing concerns over the state of freedom of expression and crimes against journalists in Central America and Mexico, PEN International is holding a major summit in the region to establish a strategy to combat impunity and attacks against journalists from the 13-24 of February 2015.

Prominent writers from PEN’s global membership, led by International president John Ralston Saul, will take part in a series of high profile events to address these challenges. The delegation will include PEN Argentina president Luisa Valenzuela, PEN Brazil president Cláudio Aguiar, Secretary General of Guadalajara PEN Rita Gracián, PEN Guatemala vice president Karla Olascoaga, PEN Honduras president Dina Meza, PEN Mexico President Aline Davidoff, PEN Nicaragua president Gioconda Belli,PEN Nicaragua honorary presidents Ernesto Cardenal and Sergio Ramírez, San Miguel de Allende Vice President Victor Sahuatoba, and Mexican-American writer, Sandra Cisneros.

The targeted violence against journalists and the repression of freedom of expression in Central America and Mexico is alarming. This summit will bring together writers from PEN’s worldwide membership in the region for the first time. Journalists must be able to carry out their work without fear.’ PEN International President, John Ralston Saul.

The safety of journalists is an essential condition for the realisation of the universal right to freedom of expression, with a clear responsibility for States to protect journalists and writers. Unfortunately, this responsibility is neglected far too often in Central America and Mexico, leading to a climate of violence, impunity, fear and self-censorship.

Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala suffer critical violations of their press freedom, making the region one of the most dangerous areas in the world in which to practice journalism. Violence, instability and increasing intolerance for dissent caused by organised crime and institutional corruption is leading to a disturbing rise in violence against journalists.

Protecting journalists and freedom of expression in Central America and Mexico has been a key campaigning issue for PEN for many years. This mission includes a strategy summit of Central American and Mexican PEN Centres in Managua followed by a summit  in Mexico City of PEN Centres from South, Central and North America, as well as delegates from the Caribbean, Europe and Asia.

Key  issues are:

Honduras: With at least 46 journalists killed since 2003 and a record of near total impunity for these crimes, attacks on journalists continue to rise.  As the security situation continues to deteriorate, dozens of journalists have been killed and many more continue to work in a climate of fear and self-censorship. For more information on PEN’s work in Honduras click here.

Nicaragua: Three decades after a revolution swept the Sandinistas into power, the government of President Daniel Ortega considers private media enemies and has moved forcefully to curtail their influence. The government employs a range of tactics to marginalize and censor the press. Reports of harassment, threats, legal accusations, and the use of government agencies to apply pressure and intimidate journalists are common. For more information on PEN’s work in Nicaragua click here.

Mexico: At least 67 print and internet journalists, bloggers and writers have been murdered in the country since 2004. Impunity continues to prevail in almost all murders and disappearances of journalists. The police and judicial investigations into these murders are often slow, superficial and paralyzed by cumbersome bureaucratic procedures. For more information on PEN’s work in Mexico click here.

Following years of campaigning and in a worsening security situation, the timing of PEN’s mission is vital to safeguard the protection of journalists in the region.

Journalistic independence and free speech will only flourish when the culture of impunity looses its grip. This mission will see PEN stand united with fellow writers, journalists and friends across the region against this stranglehold.’Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee, Marian Botsford Fraser.

To view this in Spanish click here.

For more information please contact: Sahar Halaimzai: Sahar.halaimzai@pen-international.org

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