Speech of the new IAPA President, Alejandro Aguirre.
Thank you I accept this honor with humility and gratitude for those who have placed their faith in me to lead this great organization for the next twelve months. Receiving the presidency from Mr. Enrique Santos, a notable journalists who has brilliantly guided our beloved Association makes this a special day for me. Please give this fine gentleman a warm recognition for his sacrifice and excellent work this year. Becoming president of the IAPA in Buenos Aires touches me deeply. I have had the pleasure of visiting this great city several times and I have fond memories of it. My parents wanted to come with me on this trip, but for reasons beyond their control they could not come. They asked me especially to great each one of you warmly. From a very early age, I met and learned from some of the great leaders of hemispheric journalism, Alberto Gaínza Paz, Tina and Lee Hills, Guillermo Martínez, Andrés García Lavín, and most recently Earl Maucker and Enrique Santos, who guided this association in its most difficult times to make sure that the right each one of us has under natural law may prevail. As we have seen in the last days of intense work, our world is very disordered. There is a great deal of uncertainty about the future of modern journalism Nevertheless with all this uncertainty, the work of our IAPA is clearer and more necessary than in any other time in its history. Our charter explains our mission clearly. Freedom of information is a right inherent in freedom of opinion. National and international information must be received, transmitted and disseminated without any restriction. News reported by the media must circulate within a country or among countries with the same freedom. Measures that restrict this freedom under any pretext are anti-democratic. Political regimes that do not respect press freedom and the right of the people to be informed, or do not make them respected, are not democratic. Today the IAPA is fighting an international movement coordinated to restrict free expression. It is not the first time on our history. We played a key role in blocking the so-called New World Information Order that was backed by anti-democratic governments in the ´80s. With the help of others, we changed the trend of democratic governments that tried to impose obligatory licensing for those who wanted to write for a media outlet. All this was achieved with the leadership of great women and men of our association who took the job of defending press freedom very seriously. And that is what I ask of you today. The active participation of all our members is vital, since our adversaries, who want to exercise power outside democracy, work day and night to control the flow of information and seek new ways to block free expression and the transmission of information and ideas. When the date for the election of this institution approached, Julio Muñoz, with his usual efficiency, prepared a very complete folder with all the information that a new president of IAPA needs to begin his work. I found in the folder several speeches by earlier presidents. I could read the speech by my father, Horacio Aguirre, for whom becoming president of the IAPA in Lima, Peru in 1983 was one of the highest honors of his life. In that speech he mentioned the case of Cuba where at that time it had been almost a quarter of a century since the government swept away all public liberties. Now, more than a half century since it was founded this same dictatorship continues to repress the Cuban people. Many brave people, among them blogger Yoany Sánchez, fight for their freedom, but in reality very little has changed in Cuba. And the little change there has been is insufficient and inacceptable. I don´t mention Cuba because I was born in Miami or because my family is Cuban. I mention it because this dictatorship has given birth to a thousand offspring who are using other methods, clearly abusing the democratic spirit, to achieve similar goals. And the consequences for press freedom will be the same if there is no change in direction. Typical of our times are democratic governments that, while chosen by popular vote, seek ways to restrict the free flow of information and opinion once they are in power. These cases are sad because the experience shows us that this road always leads to absolute authoritarianism. In this country, which I respect and admire, I receive the honor of the presidency of IAPA at a time the government is promoting a law affecting press freedom and the content of information and that strengthens the establishment of a state monopoly. In many of our countries, the threats to and killings of journalists continue to increase. The job of reporting the news is becoming more dangerous. It is important to tell our people that when a criminal kills a journalist, even in a far-off country, it affects us closely every day. So I ask each one of you to redouble your efforts for our IAPA. We have to work energetically in each of our countries so the tradition of free and public opinion, which should be the destiny of America, not become a brief chapter without permanent validity. We believe that the free flow of information is essential for democracy which should be the great achievement of the whole hemisphere. How can we solve the problems of hunger, health, lack of adequate education for our people if the ideas for better solutions cannot be disseminated? I am not referring just to our right to transmit information. I am speaking of the right of people to receive the information they want without interference. I am speaking of the right for two or three people to meet on the sidewalk or in a bar to talk about anything without having to worry about a reprisal from the government or another person; the right to write and publish on a Web page; or the right to take videos for Facebook or one of our own Web pages without fear of censorship or other consequences from the government. All of these examples are part of the same civic right, and one aspect cannot be limited without the limitation of all of them eventually. I want to point out that we do have allies and we can count on officials and members of civil society who serve our shared ideals about freedom of expression. We must recognize them and stimulate them to be more vocal in this matter. I think we have the solution in our institution. We have a good team. We, the great family of the IAPA can show our people in a crystal clear way that we defend a shared right. When one person is censored we all lose. For that reason we have a broad concept of being vehicles of free communication. We have to use the strength of our own media to defend the principles that we defend in all our meetings. I want to thank those who work for the IAPA for their wonderful work and support. I also want to express from this platform my great respect, appreciation and thanks to those who work every day at Diario las Américas in Miami for their contribution to keeping our public informed. Because of them I can be here. And to my family, María, my wife, Alejandro Martín, Laura María and Victoria Marie, thanks for giving me strength and happiness. I ask God for the clarity to face the challenges facing our association. And I thank you again for having confidence in me. I repeat my gratitude with humility and ask everyone for their help in a triumphal march that will consolidate a free and democratic continent for all its people. Thank you.