Report by Robert J. Cox

Report by IAPA President Robert J. Cox to the Midyear Meeting Casa de Campo. Dominican Republic March 18, 2002 The central core of our work - defense of freedom of the press - continues to be the number one issue on our agenda. We have made good progress toward the achievement of this goal, but there are still journalists who continue paying a high price to defend that freedom. In recent months, eight more journalists have been killed for doing their job. I especially want to call your attention to the murder of Daniel Pearl, chief correspondent for South Asia of The Wall Street Journal, who was kidnapped and then murdered. His name is part of a list of heroes of freedom of the press that includes Orlando Sierra Hernández and Alvaro Alonso Escobar of Colombia, Félix Fernández García of Mexico and Brignor Lindor of Haiti. I would like to ask for a minute of silence in memory of those slain journalists. Despite these tragedies, in Guatemala, with the reopening of the Irma Flaquer case and the acknowledgement by the government of its responsibility, we have begun to win the battle against impunity - and we not going to stop. In January, we went to Bolivia where President Jorge Quiroga and Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo , on an official visit there at the time, together signed the Declaration of Chapultepec before an audience of more than 1,200. We welcomed President Quiroga's remarks when he officially announced that he would make sure that constitutional reforms respect the public's right to know and other essential measures to protect pres freedom. In Caracas, we observed a different situation when we arrived there in February on the next stop in our tour of forums on the Declaration of Chapultepec. We found the press and journalists under attack. We witnessed threats and attacks on news services. We saw that legislators that support Chávez are seeking to introduce laws and mechanisms to control the press, including a dangerous law on news content. Our agenda in Caracas was pretty extensive and most of the reporters we met with said they had been threatened and been subjected to physical and verbal abuse and other attempts at intimidation by members of the Bolivarian Circles who echo President Chávez's constant discrediting of the press in his radio addresses and other remarks. Our forum ended with a poor rating and a demonstration that not one of the 10 principles of the Declaration of Chapultepec is being complied with in Venezuela. Although President Chávez refused to meet with our delegation, we made him responsible for the lack of press freedom in his country. The IAPA agenda is firm and we are continuing to make progress. We are using the Declaration of Chapultepec as our principal weapon against attacks on the press. In the months to come we have scheduled a Hemisphere Conference in Washington, D.C., to bring judges and journalists together on the issue of press freedom. Meanwhile, our central work from our headquarters in Miami is in constant evolution. We are very thankful for the continuous support of the McCormick Tribune and Knight Foundations, staunch supporters of our main projects. I am very thankful to all our members that have been with me on the various missions. We move all over the hemisphere and our mission and our work reach wherever we need to defend the basic principle of freedom of the press. Once again, many thanks for your support. I am convinced that together we can make a difference in the vital task of defending press freedom.