Speech: Alberto Ibargüen

Inter American Press Association InterContinental Hotel, Miami October 14, 2007 Alberto Ibargüen Thank you. It is a very great pleasure to be back with you my friends, journalists whom I have admired throughout my professional life. I am also delighted that you are here in my city, in Miami – which is not, and never will be, the capital of Latin America as some mistakenly say, and which is not even the capital of Florida, but which is, and with the passage of time will continue being even more so, the place where both those from the north and those from the south of the Americas feel equally comfortable and at home. Welcome! I do not want to let this opportunity pass without remembering Mr. Andrés García Lavín, who died a few months ago. For me, Andrés represented the best of the IAPA, a realist who was always optimistic and happy, ready to do anything to protect his freedom of expression and that of his beloved Mexico, and his family. We shall never forget him. I think it is appropriate to also remember another great man of times past, he who was the chairman of Knight Newspapers, president of the IAPA and chairman of the Knight Foundation. I refer to Lee Hills, who, more than any other individual, is the one responsible for the way in which brothers Jack and Jim Knight established their foundation. Knight and the IAPA have had very close ties since more than 50 years ago, when the foundation granted its first journalism scholarships through the IAPA. A relationship that lasat more than 50 years is something to be celebrated, and we do so with pride. And to celebrate it we have with us here today colleagues from Knight, among them Eric Newton, Gary Kebbel and José Zamora. Here also are Eduardo Hauser, a member of the Journalism Program advisory committee, and Rosental Alves, Knight Professor at the University of Texas. My comments today will be brief and with your permission I will continue in English, as it is to the American press that I wish mainly to address my remarks. Any society where criminals can murder a journalist with impunity is a society in danger of tipping into chaos. Democracy requires order and information. If you can stop the source of reliable information, it is only a short step to the elimination of the communal respect for law that free and open societies require for their very existence. Clearly, no part of the world is truly secure. Witness the general repression in Cuba, the mass repression in Myanmar and the recent murder of a journalist in Oakland, California. Or consider the conditions of press freedom in Russia, Iraq, Algeria or the Philippines. But everyone in the Inter-American Press Association can take pride in the fact that in Latin America there is a successful effort, a program that represents our hopes for the future. This organization can be proud that it, among all other media groups in the world, has pioneered the fight against Impunity. IAPA’s Impunity program is being looked at across the globe as an example of a way to fight back against those who would try to silence an essential voice in a democracy…the voice of a journalist. Let’s remember that not long ago, in the 1980s, when a journalist was killed in the Americas, nothing happened. Nothing. • No investigation. • No arrest. • No prosecution. • No conviction. We suffered an “impunity rate” of 100%. At the end of the 1990s, after 5 or 6 years of this program, the Impunity rate was cut to 79 percent. Today, impunity is down to 57 percent. What does that mean? It means that the simple idea works: that we should do what we know how to do: journalism, advertising and speaking truth to powerful people. It means that when a journalist is killed, justice is now a possibility. A rapid response team investigates. Your advertising campaign spreads the word. Delegations meet with governmental leaders. People are arrested and prosecuted. The results? • Today, right now, there are 82 people in jail, including some masterminds, because of the Impunity project. • Today, more than 1,000 journalists have been trained to survive in dangerous situations, because of the Impunity project. • Today, major legal changes have eliminated the statute of limitations of the murders of journalists in Columbia, Brazil and Mexico. That’s the good news. But as everyone here knows, there is also bad news. The underlying conditions of civil war, organized crime and shaky judicial systems have not gone away – and the murder of journalists continues. And they will continue until the rule by law wins over rule by violence. What should we do? As you may know, the leadership of IAPA/SIP asked Knight Foundation not only to continue to support your effort to end impunity, but to expand the program. Alejo Miró Quesada, Rafael Molina, Diana Daniels, Jack Fuller, Gonzalo Marroquín, Danilo Arbilla, Enrique Santos, Jorge Fascetto, and Edward Seaton asked us to continue supporting this project. We discussed it at length with Julio Muñoz and especially with Ricardo Trotti and concluded that we agree. And so I am delighted today to announce that Knight Foundation will make a grant to IAPA to carry on this fight for the next five year in the amount of 2.5 million dollars. With this grant, our total contribution to IAPA will have been $9.3 million, over time. If this seems like a lot, compare it to the hundreds of millions that the enemies of free speech and free press routinely spend and compare it the cost of silence. We think it’s a wise investment. This gift from Knight Foundation will further expand the campaign against those who would kill Latin American journalists by making impunity “everybody’s problem.” The next stage of this project will recruit our most natural allies to the cause: judges. IAPA has laid the groundwork for the expanded campaign. Funded by Knight Foundation, you organized the Hemispheric Conference on the Judiciary, the Press, and Impunity in July in the Dominican Republic. The conference evaluated alternatives to confront impunity, such as increased prison terms for those who kidnap or kill journalists, transferring crimes against journalists and judges to federal jurisdiction and eliminating statutes of limitations. Twenty-one justices and dozens of leaders, lawyers, legislators and media representatives agreed that discussion forums between judges and journalists are needed to better understand the challenges faced by each group. In a declaration of principles, the participants agreed to: • “emphatically repudiate’’ violence against journalists, • investigate and punish attacks on freedom of speech and crimes against journalists and officials of the justice system • hand down sanctions with greater effectiveness without jeopardizing judicial independence • pursue legal reforms • promote forums and seminars for the media and the judiciary to seek mutual understanding, and • continue public education campaigns. There will be follow-up sessions organized by the Inter American Dialogue, also funded by Knight Foundation. The opportunity here is to enlist judges in the fight against impunity. This past decade judges, prosecutors and other justice officials have been killed for work-related reasons in Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela and the United States. Why are the judges sympathetic to the murders of journalists? Because the same people who would kill journalists as an attack on civil society also kill judges as an attack on civil society. In Colombia, for example, 62 judges and prosecutors have been killed in the past decade, exceeding the 54 journalists who have been murdered. This all came home to me years ago when, with Jack Fuller, Enrique Santos and others we were visiting with the Chief Justice Colombian Supreme Court. I had just made the case that the murder of a journalist not a simple homicide but a crime against society because it silences a necessary voice in a democracy. The Chief Justice listened attentively and his shoulders drooped as he said, “I know exactly what you mean. I feel the same way every time they kill one of my judges!” There is a commonality of interest here between media and the judiciary, each with their independent function, each necessary to functioning democracies and each under severe attack. As an independent evaluation by Susan Philliber said of the Impunity project: “While the IAPA has the data to show progress … even after 11 years there is not enough sentencing, enough training and enough policy changes to stop attacks against journalists. This work will need to continue.’’ And so we shall. • As for specific outcomes expected, here are the main ones: IAPA will • expand its campaign by making impunity “everybody’s problem’’ • get the support of judges, prosecutors, editors, citizens and others, raising the public profile of its Impunity project through $8 million in donated ad space. • organize 12 delegations to targeted countries • organize 12 judicial and legal forums • present eight new cases before the Inter-American judicial system • organize the 2011 Hemisphere Conference on legal reforms • directly train 1,000 journalists in safety practices, conduct investigations and widely distribute educational materials on that topic in all media, and • increase web traffic to www.impunidad.com to at least 50,000 unique monthly visitors, and link to other impunity efforts, including the Committee to Protect Journalists’ work. Simply put, we believe the arrest rate will increase and we believe that when this new grant is complete, in the year 2011, for the first time in recent history, justice for murdered journalists will become not just possible but probable. Last, and certainly not least, we ask that you join us in applauding the IAPA staff, the Impunity committee, yourselves for having stuck with this program and made the advertising campaign successful, and most of all for the brave journalists of the Rapid Response Unit. We are proud to be your partners in this fight.