28 April 2008

Military, journalists call for closer relations at IAPA



Military, journalists call for closer relations at IAPA



MIAMI, Florida (April 28, 2008)—Members of the armed forces and journalists representing different countries at a meeting organized by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) discussed their respective missions and the natural tension that exists between them; they also exchanged views on the classification of information, access to records, suitable coverage of military matters and creation of opportunities for mutual training, all themes that were stressed in the Declaration of Santo Domingo that emerged from the conference.


IAPA President Earl Maucker opened the meeting by asking attendees to set aside any differences that exist between the two groups so there is a direct and open dialogue between them. “There is a natural conflict between the interests of the military and those of journalists,” he declared. “All relationships must be based on trust and this meeting seeks to foster that, because what is more important than that conflict is our common objective, which is to serve the community and seek the common good.”


The Dominican Republic’s Secretary of Armed Forces, Gen. Ramón Aquino agreed and added “The two sectors – the armed forces and the press – are destined to overcome mutual distrust and to collaborate in a participatory democracy, the main objective of both groups,” he said.


The regional conference, titled “Security Forces and Journalists: A New Era,” was held April 24-25 with the participation of military and journalists from Panama, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and the United States. It was organized by the IAPA’s Chapultepec Project together with the Dominican Republic’s Armed Forces Ministry and Center for Freedom of Expression.


The event featured panel discussions on the roles and experiences of the security forces and the news media in each country present. The more than 60 participants then split into roundtable groups to discuss classified information and the military’s new role -- beyond traditional security --  such as confronting organized crime, as well as the need for reporters to be better prepared in dealing with military news sources and for the military, in turn, to have greater respect for the work of the press.


The four roundtables all agreed on the need to hold more working conferences and proposed that a hemisphere meeting of the armed forces and journalists be organized to build trust and credibility between the two groups.


Gustavo Bell, of the Barranquilla, Colombia, newspaper El Heraldo, conducted one working session in which the key issue discussed was the military’s tendency to classify  information as secret. Another discussion group headed by Drew Davis, a United States Marine Corps general, focused on information technologies that are presenting new challenges to the military and on the need for journalists to have more formal training in covering military matters.


Rafael Molina, the immediate past president of the IAPA and director of the Dominican Republic’s Center for Freedom of Expression, said he was confident that “this path that we have embarked upon can be replicated at the hemispheric and national levels; given their new role in the community, members of the military have become a very important source of information, and we journalists must respond by raising the level of quality of such coverage.”


The IAPA through its Chapultepec Project, based on the Declaration of Chapultepec, has also held hemispheric and national conferences with university professors, lawmakers, jurists and Supreme Court chief justices. The project is funded by the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation.


Text of the Declaration of Santo Domingo:


Santo Domingo Declaration



“The first essential in military operations is that no information of value should be given to the enemy. The first essential in newspaper work and broadcasting is wide-open publicity. It is your job and mine to try to reconcile these sometimes-diverse considerations.”

                        --General Eisenhower in discussing regulations for                             war correspondents, SHAEF HQ 1944



The Regional Conference: “Security Forces and Journalists:  A New Era”, held on April 24 and 25 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, organized and supported by the Secretary of the Armed Forces of the Dominican Republic, the Interamerican Press Association and the Dominican Republic Center for Freedom of Expression, within the spirit of the Declaration of Chapultepec


Considering that:


Art 19 of the the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Art. 13 of the OAS American Convention On Human Rights, the "Pact Of San Jose, Costa Rica", establish that everyone has the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds;


Constitutions in Latin American and Inter-american jurisprudence establish freedom of expression and the right of access to public information;


Recognizing that:


Inherent tension exists between protecting national security interests and insuring the public’s right to know


That open and transparent communication is essential to democracy, good governance and healthy civil societies;


the duty of public security forces is to defend the constitution; the duty of the press is to insure the people’s right to know.


The participants in the Regional Conference:  “Security Forces and Journalists”, April 24-25, 2008, state:


Their understanding and mutual respect for the other’s essential role in democratic society;


Their agreement to:


Take all necessary measures to improve lines of communication

between their respective institutions;


Create opportunities to work together to improve the flow of information to the public;


Promote forums, seminars and training activities between public security forces and the media that will advance mutual understanding and a permanent dialogue between both institutions.  


Santo Domingo

Dominican Republic

25 April, 2008