GUATEMALA CITY (AP) _ Colombia's president accused the news media of helping trivialize violence and turning it into a ``normal and daily spectacle.''

Ernesto Samper told the hemisphere's main press freedom group Thursday that the pursuit of larger audiences has led the media to expand their coverage of violence _ and has inadvertently helped perpetuate it.

While saying curbing the media is not the answer, Samper told the Inter-American Press Association, ``the simple conclusion is that journalists cannot be isolated spectators of violence or neutral communicators.''

Earlier Thursday, the media group, meeting in the Guatemalan capital, criticized the unsolved killings of six journalists in Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala. It has formed a special team of investigators to look into their killings.

IAPA president Gabriel Cano called the slayings ``the extreme system of press censorship.'' His brother, Guillermo Cano, is one of dozens of journalists killed in Colombia over the last decade.

A suspect in his slaying was recently arrested, Cano noted.

Former Nicaraguan President Violetta Chamorro told a panel that the 1979 killing of her husband, La Prensa editor Joaquin Chamorro, stiffened her resolve to defend freedom of the press during her term.

``With the moral authority of my experience, I'll say that those in government have the responsibility of being the first to set an example for society by practicing an absolute respect for the press,'' she said.

``And they also have the obligation to persecute and punish those who commit crimes against journalists,'' she added.

More than 200 journalists have been killed in the Americas in the past 10 years.