Meeting in Puebla seeks to protect free expression

More than 20 Latin American universities are committed to proposing reforms of public policies to combat the impunity surrounding crimes and violence committed against journalists, according to the Inter American Press Association.

With the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation the association is bringing together representatives from 22 universities from 15 Latin American countries in Puebla, Mexico, this week for a Hemisphere Conference of Universities that will prepare recommendations for reforms.

Among other topics the Puebla meeting is expected to recommend amendments to penal codes in a number of countries, protection for the work of the press through the creation of new agencies, changes in academic curricula, and encouragement of public awareness campaigns concerning freedom of expression.

Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, said he is very enthusiastic about this conference. “We are sure it will create a network of universities in Latin America that will collaborate to improve academic practices and help future members of the press do their job in a safer environment,” he said. He is president of the Inter American Press Association.

Teams of students and professors from Communication, Law, Politics, Sociology and Social Science Schools will discuss the results of research projects they conducted in recent months coordinated by the IAPA. The research focused on the weaknesses and difficulties of the legal, academic, media and press systems in each country. The teams also focused on solutions, so various important recommendations at all levels are expected to be forthcoming.

Costa Rican universities are not represented, according to the conference list.

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