Miami (December 30, 2009)–The president of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), Alejandro Aguirre, managing editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper Diario Las Américas, reviewed what has occurred in the Western Hemisphere with respect to freedom of the press and expression during 2009.
Following is the full text of his New Year's Message:
As we approach the dawn of a new year, I would like to thank every journalist and member of the news media for upholding their mission to inform, oversee, investigate, train and provide guidance to their communities.
Despite the terrible violence unleashed against them in a year marked by violence to the extreme, these men and women have demonstrated remarkable courage in taking up their arms – the tools of social communication – to day in and day out pen and disseminate the news. Many of them confront acts of intimidation and violence with the knowledge that their lives are truly endangered and knowing that in 2009 alone 23 journalists were murdered, 11 of them in Mexico, and that many of their colleagues were threatened, injured, kidnapped, or imprisoned. In Cuba 27 journalists continue to languish in jail.
While some progress was made toward freedom of expression in our hemisphere, in general the balance was negative. Many of the new press laws enacted were designed to provide greater control over independent news media and over the flow of information in their respective countries.
Throughout this period our Association has not remained silent in face of the clear threats that exist in many countries of our hemisphere.
Over the last year we have sent international missions of IAPA members and executives to perform on-site investigations in Nicaragua, Mexico, Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador. In each, we help to create greater awareness of the importance and the need for freedom of expression to enable authentic democracy to become stronger. As a result of our daily monitoring of violations of this freedom, we issued 151 press releases and sent 201 notes to government officials demanding respect for the rights and guarantees that belong to all citizens in general, and to journalists in particular.
Thanks to the support of our organization's more than 1,300 members we carried out 42 activities in a number of countries in the Americas. We held legal and judicial forums, seminars and meetings with government leaders, civil society and academics to impart our message. More than 550 people received industry training, with a special emphasis on the online market.
In addition to the invaluable support of our members we are also supported by our friends in the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, who assist us with the Impunity Project, and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation who back the Declaration of Chapultepec program, the James McClatchy Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and John P. Scripps Foundation.
We have always been grateful to our members and the organizations that support us, but in this year of such financial difficulties, in particular, I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to all those people and institutions that share our vision on freedom of expression and who help us strengthen it in a concrete way.
I would also like to reconfirm our obligation and commitment to maintaining an ethical and responsible journalism.
Given human frailty there have certainly been occasions when we have not fully achieved this goal. But it is also true that since this organization's onset – beginning with the “Journalistic Ethics” that was ratified as its code by delegates to the First Pan American Congress of Journalists in 1926 and then by the Inter American Press Association at its 6th General Assembly in 1950, followed recently by the adoption of the “Letter of Aspirations” which clearly summarizes the conduct that we believe should guide media and journalists – the organization has made it clear just what conduct guides us. Moreover, given the imperfections cited above, we ask for more freedom so that those who observe us also may have the opportunity to disagree with us and show exactly where they think we are in error. This should be done within a framework of greater freedom and not through legal methods or outside the law, both which lead us to self-censorship or to the death of a journalist or a media outlet.
On behalf of our members, our officers and our staff I take this opportunity to revalidate the mission that has guided us for nearly seven decades, reiterating our commitment to continue promoting freedom of the press and freedom of expression in every corner of our hemisphere in this New Year.
And for each of you, my best wishes for a New Year of peace and happiness.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications in the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information go to the Web site www.sipiapa.org