Report of Enrique Santos Calderón
Report of Enrique Santos Calderón Midyear Meeting Asunción, Paraguay Exactly 15 years ago we held the Midyear Meeting in Guatemala with the good news of a recently-adopted Declaration of Chapultepec which cried out for there to be a free press, a fundamental condition for societies to resolve their conflicts and protect their liberty. There could have been no more visionary and wise focus of this Declaration that today celebrates its 15th anniversary and which has become the Magna Carta of press freedom, endorsed by nearly all the heads of state of the Americas. That is the framework in which we open this Midyear Meeting that is being held amid a global economic crisis that causes us to reflect. But also to demonstrate that the IAPA continues on a good footing in its march in defense of the fundamental principles of journalism. For this reason, together with thanking our Host Committee, thank you so much, Aldo Zuccolillo and the other members of that committee for the support you have given, but especially thank you very much to this fantastic membership of the IAPA which amid the crisis is showing the world the strength of our organization, the oldest and most important in the Americas in the area of journalism and the free flow of news. As we said so rightly in Madrid some months ago, the commitment of the IAPA members to our platform is the best way to support the advance of democracy throughout the Americas. The trends in the problems that the press faces have not changed: we see that the increase in physical violence unleashed against journalists and attacks on media outlets continues; we see that in many countries there is a deterioration in relations between governments and the press; and there persists in others the inappropriate use of public funds on the part of governments to apply pressure and discriminate through placement of official advertising and enactment of laws on access to information. To this situation the IAPA responds with concrete facts: We have been physically or through the presence of representatives of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information keeping a close watch following every attack committed in the Americas. We went to Lima, where we held a positive Chapultepec Conference and received the support of Peruvian members of Congress of all parties who pledged to adjust to the current legislation regarding access to public information, while at the same time endorsing the Declaration of Chapultepec. We were in Nicaragua, a country where the government and the press strongly clash and while the government of Daniel Ortega closed its doors to us we did carry out our agenda and held interviews with leaders of the local society. We complained of the direct threats against the press and we called for those convicted of murdering two journalists to have to serve their full sentence, rather than being released from prison on parole. We were given a pledge by the Supreme Court deputy chief justice that he would review the original court decision. The Global Coordinating Committee of Press Freedom Organizations, which held a meeting in New York in December last year that we attended, at the request of the IAPA called for greater guarantees for freedom of the press and of expression in Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. This was during the meeting held to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our Press Freedom Committee chairman, Bob Rivard, traveled to Bolivia to take part in a press forum and to see at first-hand what the press is facing in that country, one with the biggest problems of government-press confrontations in the hemisphere. The agenda of recent months has also been focused on supporting moves for adoption of laws on access to public information and decriminalization of libel. On a positive note, access laws were adopted in Chile, Guatemala and Uruguay. But another black mark is the continuing scourge for our societies of crimes being committed against journalists or the elimination of the messenger. A total of 13 members of the press were murdered in 2008, and in first few months of this year there have been four more such crimes two in Mexico and one each in Paraguay and Venezuela. Our Impunity Committee is continuing with its hemisphere-wide campaign denouncing these terrible assaults on freedom of the press and calling for those responsible to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. The work in the Impunity area is an example for everyone. We were the first organization to undertake it and it is a key part of our daily agenda. We have sought to have justice done in hundreds of cases of the murder of news men and women that continue to go unpunished. With this objective, in addition to nearly a hundred in-depth investigations, we submitted 23 cases to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, among them the case of Paraguayan journalist Santiago Leguizamón, in the hope that the inter-American system could help have these cases solved and that justice be done. Mr. President of Paraguay, allow me at this time to call for a minute of silence for all our colleagues who have lost their lives in the battle to inform. Thank you all. It is worth going into some depth about this work that our organization is carrying out, especially through the Rapid Response Unit which together with our Impunity Committee investigates and denounces. As in November last year in my own country, Colombia, where at a Judicial Conference organized by the IAPA we showed that more than 70% of murders linked to the profession of journalism remain unpunished and virtually no mastermind has been convicted or jailed. I would like now to refer to a very positive aspect of our work. It has to do with the document that we adopted at the Madrid General Assembly Aspirations of the IAPA. As you know, it is a text that has been debated and developed by the organization over the last three years and whose aim is to satisfy the need for a definition about the way in which the press should assume its responsibilities in the democratic societies of the 21st century. This spiritual guide to good journalism, so to speak, has been widely promoted, first among those attending the Conference that we held in Costa Rica, where it was discussed in its first draft form, and then among all the officers of the IAPA, national press associations, universities and schools of journalism, and the entire IAPA membership. This plan will continue in each of our General Assemblies and Midyear Meetings. This very afternoon you will be attending a panel discussion in which the Ombudsmen, or defenders of the readers, are going to present their points of view on how to gain credibility, what are the complaints and comments that they hear and, above all, how this work helps to raise the quality of newspapers based on the principle that the readers are each newspapers Supreme Court. Another major project has been concluded and is now in the promotional stage. It is the novel public advertising campaign, created to make the public at large aware of the importance of freedom of expression in a democratic society. The campaign, titled One word can make a thousand changes in your life and you have the right to say the next one, comprises novel ads, with the background of photos of world leaders who are presented as examples of great achievements in the world of ideas, principles and sports. The campaign is fully under way among media belonging to the IAPA. We cannot say that our work has been a complete success in all aspects. The crisis, which we referred to at the outset, has been a setback, especially in the United States. Our presence has to be reinforced in that country where the press has been buffeted by low advertising revenue and staff reductions and dismissals. Despite this, we are redoubling our efforts to continue counting on the support of United States newspapers that have always stood by the IAPA. Something similar we have felt in Brazil, where following this meeting in Paraguay we will be carrying out a new mission to get together with leaders of that countrys press. Despite the bad tidings, we can confirm that our finances are on a sound footing and that the membership remains loyal to the IAPA. I don't want to end these remarks without referring to a key development that we have welcomed. Principle 7 of the Declaration of Chapultepec states that placement or withdrawal of official advertising should not be used to reward or punish media or journalists. For a long time we have observed that bad practice in various countries, most notably in Argentina. Today we can say with great satisfaction that we have been witness to how a court ruling in Argentina has required the government to grant advertising to the newspaper Perfil, giving it 15 days to comply. This put an end to government discrimination against that media outlet and a number of others and consolidates case law that the Argentine Supreme Court ruled on regarding advertising, prohibiting governments to discriminate in the placement of official announcements, this ending a long-standing and subtle method used by governments in the region. So we reach the end of my report as President. It only remains for me to say to you that our vigilance will continue and the work against every attempt to obstruct the peoples right to receive free, independent and diversified information will not cease. Thank you very much.