Discourse - Andrés García Gamboa

Speech by Incoming IAPA President Andrés García Gamboa Novedades de Quintana Roo, Cancún, Mexico at the IAPA 58th General Assembly, October 29, 2002, Lima, Peru DEAR COLLEAGUES LADIES AND GENTLEMEN FRIENDS ALL, Assuming the presidency of our Inter American Press Association is one of the highest distinctions I have ever received. It does me great honor, and obligates me to do a job I can only do successfully with each of your support. I attended my first meeting of IAPA members over 30 years ago in 1970. It was a reception at the home of Rómulo O’Farrill Jr. in Mexico for those attending the 26th General Assembly. There, I met a number of distinguished journalistic figures in the Americas. My first general assembly was the 30th, held in Caracas, Venezuela, in 1974. It brought me closer to this great association, and I had the opportunity to get to know many people better and gain an appreciation for their abilities. I have retained a fondness for Venezuela, where I recently took part in the IAPA’s work to defend our colleagues being unjustly harassed by an authoritarian leader. My father, Andrés García Lavín, became president 20 years after a distinguished Mexican, Rómulo O’Farrill Jr., and I do so 20 years after him, coincidentally in this lovely city of Lima, where my father passed the gavel to Horacio Aguirre. Since then, I have had the privilege and opportunity of contributing to the IAPA’s work as it strives to defend freedom of expression and press freedom. At the same time I have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, the company and shining example of many colleagues and friends who, through their honesty and integrity, have prepared the ground and nurtured the seeds of freedom of expression. Some of them are only with us today in spirit and memory, and their spirit and memory will always be our guide: Germán Ornes, Raymond Dix, Lee Hills, Julio Mesquita, John Watkins and others. I am keenly aware that today, as I assume ultimate responsibility for our much-loved Association, the press and other media in many countries of the Americas are troubled and in crisis. I mentioned Venezuela, but journalists in at least five more of our sister nations are targets of violence, threats, incarceration and murder. Specifically, I want to speak to our colleagues in Cuba laboring under the tyrannical government of Fidel Castro, as they have for decades. Let me say to them that the IAPA will never abandon them, and that we reaffirm our commitment to support and defend them until the final triumph of their cause, which we share. Our much-loved IAPA has grown tremendously over the years I have been a member and fought for its ideals, and it is no exaggeration to say it is the most important regional institution in the world. We have reached this point through the help and contributions of many people, public institutions and private companies, such as the Robert McCormick Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the World Bank Institute, the Inter-American Development Bank, the MacArthur Foundation, the United Nations and UNESCO. I again acknowledge with thanks their valuable cooperation and support, which we hope they will continue to provide in the very near future. IAPA initiatives such as journalist training, the new phase of the Chapultepec Project, the fight against impunity through the Unpunished Crimes Against Journalists Project, the Rapid Response Unit in cases of attacks on colleagues, the training activities of the International Press Institute, and the scholarship, award and accreditation programs are all growing. Our relationship with the World Bank continues through a program involving lawmakers, to help create the better climate for freedom of expression our countries need for democracy. We are determined to carry on all these programs with the involvement of a steadily growing number of members, because one of our most important actions will be to make our Association increasingly more open. We are certain that the Inter American Press Association will grow ever stronger and more successful, as we give more and more members, especially newer ones, the opportunity to contribute through their work to the shared ideals that come down to us from the founding fathers. With the same goal in view, we will encourage all efforts to bring in as many new members as possible in countries throughout the Americas, especially the United States and Canada, whose support we dearly need. Another goal of mine, in the spirit of the unity of purpose that has always driven IAPA activities, is to strengthen bonds of friendship and real cooperation with organizations defending press freedom and the freedom of information throughout the world. This is certain to enhance the effectiveness of our efforts to make these democratic ideals a reality. I ask for your advice, your constructive criticism and your help in fulfilling my duty to the IAPA. I make the same request to my dear parents, my brothers and sisters, and my beloved wife and children. My pledge to you today is to carry on the fight for basic freedoms in the Americas, as the hemisphere’s most illustrious journalists resolved to do at a historic 1942 meeting in Mexico. Thank you.