Conference condemns Basque media attacks

 Attacks on journalists by Basque terrorists have been condemned at an international conference and compared to the assault on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The condemnation came in a resolution passed at a conference last Friday in Bilbao by delegates representing more than 200 publishers, journalists and free press advocates from 25 countries. The resolution condemned "without reservation" the "outrageous and cowardly" attacks on the media by Basque terrorists.

It stated that the murders of press executives and the bombing of media enterprises in Spain were the work of terrorists pursuing the same "fanatical logic" as those who wrought mass destruction in the US.

"The catastrophe in the United States is evidently perpetrated on quite another scale than the regular acts of terrorist murder and destruction in Spain," said the closing resolution of the Conference on Terrorism Against the Media.

"The roots of this violence and the motives of the killers are, however, essentially the same and follow a similar fanatical logic: to pursue political ends not by debate and the free flow of information and ideas, but by terrorising and eliminating the people, institutions, and guarantors of democratic society."

In a message to the conference, the President of the European Parliament, Nicole Fontaine, said: "The Parliament, and myself, consider the fight against terrorism in Spain a priority of the European Union because terrorism denies the fundamental rights and the democratic principles on which our Union is founded."

The conference was planned before the attacks on the US to focus on terrorism against the media, particularly in Spain’s Basque country, where the terrorist organisation ETA has made media and their staff a priority target.

The resolution concluded: "In these tragic days of new and unprecedented terror against humanity, it is more urgent than ever to stand resolute against, and to condemn, every single violation of the fundamental, democratic principles which govern the civilised world."

In addition to focusing on the escalation of attacks against the media in the Basque region, the conference also examined violence against the media in Algeria, Colombia, Indonesia, Israel and Northern Ireland.

The resolution expressed "total solidarity with journalists and media in the Basque country in their dangerous and courageous work" and called on all political parties to denounce all forms of violence against the media.

The conference was organised by the World Association of Newspapers, the World Editors Forum, the Spanish Newspaper Publishers Association (aede), supported by the Federation of Spanish Press Associations (FAPE).

In May, ETA killed Santiago Oleaga Elejabarrieta, the financial director of the daily El Diario Vasco. It was the eighth killing attributed to the ETA this year. The group killed one of the leading journalists in the Basque region, Jose Luis Lopez de Lacalle of the daily El Mundo. He was shot twice in the head and twice in the chest outside the door of his house in the town of Andoain on 7 May last year.

By Jon Slattery

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