Pierre Manigault, IAPA President
Presentation of the 2016 Chapultepec Grand Prize
To ALBERTO IBARGÜEN
Sunday, April 10, 2016
Alberto Ibargüen is a man who always reinvents his mission. He not only adapts to the times but moves ahead of them. He is a visionary. He leads the conversation on what role journalism plays and where he wants it to go. He knows intuitively, before others, which are the next steps. But above all, he aligns those around him to move in the same direction, and he has the wisdom to join together with the right people.
He has demonstrated this in his time with the Peace Corps, as editor of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, and in IAPA as a leader in the work against impunity, and now, more than ever, as president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which he has headed for more than 10 years. He has led the Foundation on a path toward a permanent solution for better forms of communication through the marriage of traditional methods and new technologies. Whether it be on behalf of Journalism, the Arts or Civic Culture, his work reflects the dedication and vision of Alberto.
With his leadership there has been a strengthening and empowerment of individuals and journalists for finding innovative formats to relate stories, and generate new avenues, wider and more diverse, through which are reaffirmed the democratic principles of freedom of expression and of the press, such as have been enshrined in the Declaration of Chapultepec and in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
That transition that Alberto experienced between The Miami Herald and the Knight Foundation could not be better described than by one of our members, Anders Gyllenhaal, Vice President of News for McClatchy Company, who worked with Alberto for a lengthy period. Anders said, "Alberto has led with a combination of a great optimism and relentless urgency. His energy and commitment to the cause of journalism, free press and digital achievement are contagious. We all owe Alberto a great debt for all he is doing."
I agree with Anders: Alberto goes well beyond the transformation of journalism in telling stories better and creating impact. Throughout his career he has shown us his commitment to defend the freedom that all journalists should enjoy in order to be able to tell these stories. He has done so during his time in our Impunity Committee, when he was editor of The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald and then – when we all already sensed that he would be the president of the IAPA – in his work with the Knight Foundation.
His work in the Impunity and Press Freedom committees was solid. He expected great achievements but did his utmost for the details. He embarked us on an unparalleled crusade in which we promoted the problem of impunity in all the IAPA media, and we all know that the project had a wide effect. Alberto always repeated that "we journalists know how to do two things well" – investigate/divulge and create impact. But beyond that he surprised himself and was enthusiastic about little details, such as when journalist Diana Calderón of the Rapid Response Unit in Bogotá harshly rebuked the prosecutors in the Nelson Carvajal case for their lack of effectiveness and skill in investigating the case.
Dave Lawrence, former editor of The Miami Herald and a former IAPA president, defined that combination very well: "Alberto blends the curiosity and depth of the best journalists with a lawyerly expertise in getting to the heart of the matter. He is fierce in his advocacy for a free press and free expression. This is a man who serves democracy so well. I am proud to have worked alongside him."
The work on press freedom and impunity, that fourth principle of the Declaration of Chapultepec, has been one of Alberto's great contributions to our association. Thanks to his contribution, and later the generous support that the Knight Foundation gave us, we have had tremendous achievements that bring us closer to good journalism and the mission to defend and promote it.
One of these achievements in a battle that we have waged is evidenced precisely in the case of Nelson Carvajal, a journalist murdered 19 years ago in Colombia. We are now in a fascinating process, although we are aware that delayed justice is not justice. But as this is a fight against impunity, I stress what is fascinating about the process. That Carvajal case, almost forgotten and one of the 29 that we have submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, has passed to the Inter-American Court. There, probably this year, with the support of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, we will be going to court against the government of Colombia.
We are hoping to achieve a just and favorable ruling, that the government must recognize its responsibility, compensate the victim's family members and, above all, we hope that we obtain important arguments by the judges that can serve as antecedents for all the Americas in the fight against impunity.
Alberto, in the name of the Inter American Press Association and the many colleagues who have fallen for defending the public's right to information, we wish to honor you with the Chapultepec Grand Prize, the leading award granted by our association. We are delighted to give it to a colleague. Thank you for all your work and all your support.