Speech by Jaime Mantilla
Dear Colleagues and Friends, Something more than thirty years have passed since I attended my first IAPA Assembly. Over this long period of time, I have been able to come to know some extraordinary entrepreneurs, traditional journalists, renowned intellectuals, and, especially, sincere friends who have shared this painful passion in defense of the freedoms of expression and the press. IAPA has been an extraordinary point of reference for me since my early years, throughout the journalism career that I have practiced my whole life. Carlos Mantilla Ortega had the honor of being its firstpresident between 1949 and 1950. Now, sixty-three years later, another Ecuadorian assumes the presidency of this great organization at a time of immense trials that we must confront with unity, decision, and certainty of our convictions. As a member of the Executive Committee for many years, and as chairperson of most of the committees of ourinstitution, I believe that I have learned the values, problems, triumphs and disappointments that have guided this Association in its defense of the liberties of all citizens. I prepared to be present at this General Assembly with great enthusiasm. Unfortunately this enthusiasm, this desire to share this great distinction with myfamily, has been harmed, as I have made the hard decision not to be with you, due to the seriousproblems that both the newspaper that I represent and my country are facing, due to the series of government attacks that I am sure will increase as the electoral campaigns begin at this time. As I explained to the Executive Committee, the independent press of Ecuador continues to be harassed by the government while to the outside world that government announces its unrestricted defense of freedom of expression of an able but irresponsible individual who obtained information fraudulently, and distributed it throughout the world, revealing the dark maneuvers of embassies and governments in a clear act that violates the bases of honest journalism; while within Ecuador there is total disrespect for the human right of freely dreaming, expressing oneself, and sharing different visions of reality. In the report that the vice president of the Committee on Freedom of the Press presented before this Assembly, he shows in detail the true situation of the press in Ecuador, such that I need not refer to it again. In the same way, the reports from delegates from the different countries have been very clear and eloquent. I take on this presidency at a dangerous time for freedoms in our America. The tendency of many governments of differing ideologies and power groups to try to homogenize the thought of free citizens, eliminate contrary expressions, attack the independent media, and frighten and even eliminate those who reveal abuses of power, has increased and tends to become generalized. The intellectuals of the world and those of Latin America have traditionally been the ones who have generated defense of freedoms. Their thoughts have guided many rebellions against powers and governments, both dictatorial and populist. It is lamentable to discover that many of these rebellious thinkers have either disappeared or have given themselves over to defense of the trampling of the same liberties that they previously defended. For this reason the transparent and active work of the Inter American Press Association is vital. We must defend the rights of citizens to free expression from the point of view of the world of journalism. Some years ago, at the initiative of Jack Fuller and Diana Daniels, a comprehensive plan was developed for restructuring and strategic development to adapt our organization to the demands that this world of global interconnection imposes upon us. At the initiative of Milton Coleman and with the superb support of Maria Elvira Dominguez and the group assigned to work with her, and rescuing the various fundamentals of the initial project approved by this Assembly, an interesting document has been prepared that will be the basis to continue this process of redefinition of our visions in a strategy of commitment among all members to make the IAPA an agile, productive organization and a guide for these new times. One of the primary objectives of management that has been established for me is to give full support and follow-up so that this strategic plan may be adopted and allow for the nimble and harmonious development that we all demand. It is necessary and urgent to carry out a profound reform of the concepts of communications, marketing and information within IAPA. For this reason, with the support of our Executive Committee chairman and Julio Muñoz, a contract has been let for the redesign of our websites, so as to make available an effective and proactive system of involvement with the various social networks. This work, which we hope to have finished in three months, will permit greater integration in the organization and will allow us to be much more connected with our documentation, seminars, library, events, denunciations, and actions. One of the themes that this strategic committee has been able to point out as something that impedes greater operability and agility in making decisions of the organization is the unmeasured growth instigated by of the Executive Committee in creating the numerous committees which, although important, sometimes hinder or duplicate agile management and reaction to the various problems and circumstances that we face. After a number of conversations with some of you and with executives of the Association, I have come to the conclusion that it would be good to initiate a process of uniting the efforts of some of the committees, restructuring them, coordinating them, or annexing them to parallel efforts, such that with the commitment of each member to give his time in the management of duties the IAPA will become more dynamic in several ways. Supporting what I have just said, I have decided to create an area of coordination within the scope of the Committee on Freedom of Expression, Press and Information, which will be headed by Claudio Paolillo. This Committee will remain very actively engaged with the Chapultepec Committee, led by Jorge Canahuati with the support of its vice presiden,t Robert Pombo, hoping that with the help and guidance of the regional vice presidents, it will optimize management of the defense and dissemination of all aspects of the principles of Chapultepec. TheCommittee on Impunity will also work in coordination with the primary committee of IAPA, fulfilling the idea expressed above, in one of our major efforts to keep the memory alive of the violations, attacks, and crimes against the media, and follow-up on court cases. It will be chaired by Juan Francisco Ealy, who will have José Alberto Dutriz as vice president. One of the committees that I believe has shown its effectiveness over the short term and that continues working is the Strategic Development Committee. I consider that it is vital for the future of our organization to coordinate and monitor compliance with the proposals that the Executive Committee has presented, for which reason I have asked Maria Elvira Dominguez to continue as chair in collaboration with Fernán Saguier as its vice president. The Finance and Audit Committee, which is being integrated with Fund Raising, must carry out one of the most important jobs of management at present times in which it is necessary to have the effective participation of all members to optimize our scarce resources, review their proper use, and obtain the funds necessary to sustain IAPA operations. In my understanding it is extremely important to unite financial analysis, control and fund raising. For this reason, I have decided to ask Miguel Henrique Otero to chair the Committee, with the support of Bruce Brugman in auditing and Hugo Hollman in fund raising. It is important and urgent for us to develop a special effective and aggressive campaign to increase our membership, especially in Brazil and the United States. I have named Paulo de Tarso, our excellent host at this Assembly, as chair of the New Members Committee, and Cristina Aby-Azar as its vice president. I am sure that the work of Paulo and Cristina togetherwill result in an important increase in members, especially in the two zones of influence. The International Affairs Committee, chaired by Edward Seaton with the support of Carlos Salinas, should do the extremely important job of maintaining our leadership relations with international entities that seek defense of democratic freedoms in the world. The Legal Committee will be represented by the person who has been close to IAPA in recent years and who has been a witness to how populist governments act, supported by legal reforms and against them, to eliminate free expression and independent press. Asdrúbal Aguiar will chairit with the support of Armando González. The Awards Committee, with demands the tough work of analysis of the applications, will continue to be led by FranciscoMiró Quezada, who will have the support of Cristopher Barnes. I consider that the Press Institute may in the short termbe converted into an important generator of resources for the Association, as well as the primary stimulus to unite journalists, editors, and media managers, not only within IAPA, but from around the world. As I mentioned at the beginning of this presentation, with Juan Luis Correa and Julio Muñoz we have worked hard in a short time to set up an agile, sure and capable system on the web. I thank all of you for your confidence, especially those persons whom I have appointed. I am sure that their positive and enthusiastic action will be recognized within a short time. I wish to congratulate Gustavo Mohme, Bartolomé Mitre and Vivian Ann Gittens for their appointments as Second Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer, respectively, and all the colleagues who have been elected to make up the Board of Directors. I am sure that we will be able to work in a very united manner during this period of transformation that I shall try to lead. Over the next few days, we will announce the members of each committee, based on the suggestions of their principal leaders and the commitment of those who agree to participate in them. Before bringing these comments to a close, I wanted to reproduce some thoughts of the great writer and journalist Albert Camus. In 1939, atthe beginning of the Second World Ward and when he had not yet written any of his masterworks, he wanted to publish thoughts in the newspaper that he directed in Algeria to encourage journalists to keep themselves free in such dark times. The text was censored. Last March, a number of cartons were discovered in the Overseas Archives in Aix-en-Provence. Camus, who had been active in Communism, was excluded with his consent because of his defense of equality of rights between Arabs and Europeans. During the time of censorship he published his diary with black marks and cross-outs, but he did not submit to the imposition of censorship. Here are some paragraphs that should lead us to think about the present-day relevance of these thoughts that he tried to share in the dark times of war: Today the question is not how to preserve freedoms of the press. It is to seek how, faced with suppression of these freedoms, the journalist can remain free. The problem is no longer of interest to the community. It concerns the individual. We would like to define the conditions and the means by which freedom cannot only be preserved under difficult conditions, but also manifested. These means are four: clarity, refusal, irony, and obstinacy. Clarity supposes resistance to mechanisms of hate and the cult of fatality free journalism in 1939 (and I would add now) does not despair and fights for what it believes to be true. It does not publish what could encourage hate or hopelessness. Faced with the rising tide of stupidity, they cannot make a barely clean spirit accept being dishonest. It is easy to be sure of the authenticity of a news item In this way the honest journalist must rest all of his attention, because if he cannot say everything he thinks, it is possible not to say that which he does not think or that he believes to be false. Thus it is that a freejournalist measures himself by both what he says, as well as what he does not say. This negative freedom is, by far, the most important thing of all if he knows how to preserve himself because he is preparing for the advent of true freedom. An independent newspaper gives the source of its information, it helps the public to evaluate it, it repudiate brain-washing, it suppresses offenses, it mitigates with comments the standardization of news, and, in a few words, it serves the truth to the human extent of its forces. And we come to IRONY. It may stated as a principle that a spirit that has the taste and the means to impose prohibitions is impermeable to irony. For this reason, irony continues being an unprecedented weapon against those who are too powerful. It completes refusalbecause it permits not only repelling that which is false, but to say often what is true Nine times out of ten, a truth proclaimed in dogmatic tones gets censored. When presented in an amusing way, the same truth gets censored five out of ten times A free journalist in 1939 (and I would add now), thus is necessarily ironic. Buttruth and freedom are demanding lovers, to the point that they have very few lovers This attitude could not be sustained without OBSTINACY. Threats, suspensions, and persecutionsgenerally have the opposite effect to that which is proposed. But there are discouraging obstacles: constancy in idiocy, organized cowardice, aggressive stupidity For this reason obstinacy is placed at the service of objectivity and tolerance These, a set of rules to preserve freedom and then ? Let us not go so fast. If just each person would preserve all that he believes to be true and just, if he would put up a grain of sand to preservefreedom, resist abandonment, and make his will known, it is only in that way that the war will be won. Often against his will, a free spirit in this century expresses his irony. The virtue of the man is in facing that which denies that virtue. Then it is necessary to practice justice and generosity, but these are not expressed except in the already free hearts and in spirits that are even more clairvoyant. TO FORM THOSE HEARTS AND THOSE SPIRITS, RATHER TO AWAKEN THEM, is the task of the modest and ambitious time of the INDEPENDENT MAN. It is necessary to stay there without seeing even further.. History will keep in mind, or not, these efforts, but they will not have been realized. These lines I hope will be an inspiration to all of us, and especially to the team that I am calling on to help me to move ahead in this marvelous mission that has been handed to me.