IAPA president calls 2016 'extraordinary and turbulent year'


MIAMI, Florida (December 28, 2016)—The president of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), Matt Sanders, described 2016 as an "extraordinary and turbulent" year for the organization and for press freedom in a message to its members.

Sanders, senior director and general manager of Deseret Digital Media of Salt Lake City, Utah, said: "It is evident that we have had an extraordinary and turbulent year in which our members had intense work to protect press freedom and to confront the challenges of digital transformation" of the news industry.

He added that this was a year of great obstacles "in the face of which we knew how to react with success and effort" to defend freedom of the press and that there be guaranteed the public's right to be informed.

Among the most important problems and the actions that the IAPA took to neutralize them Sanders highlighted the following:

· Regarding the violence that cut short the life of 24 journalists the IAPA announced the launch of SIPalert, a digital tool for journalists to denounce threats and seek solidarity. At the same time there was a commitment to continue working before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission regarding 27 crimes against members of the press that remain unpunished.

· Early in the year, at the UNESCO headquarters, the IAPA promoted more commitments by the governments of the world to fight against violence and impunity. It was also possible that an emblematic case from Colombia investigated by the IAPA was admitted by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and a litigation process was established for 2017.

· Regarding Access to Public Information the IAPA brought up this matter in a conference in Paraguay together with UNESCO and supported the adoption of the law in Argentina. Through a conference held in Mexico in 2002 the IAPA helped to promote the need of this type of legislation which led to the adoption of public information laws throughout Latin America.

· On two occasions – something that will again be emphasized this next year – IAPA delegations met with members of the United States government, in addition to sending letters to the Cuban government, so that the issue of freedom of the press does not remain absent from the bilateral agenda.

· The IAPA met with officials of the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank asking to condition the financial assistance to those countries that do not comply with the Inter-American Democratic Charter. In a meeting with OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro the IAPA requested support for measures that would imply the release from prison of journalist Braulio Jatar in Venezuela, and for a consultative opinion of the IACHR concerning Ecuador's Communication Law.

· In October the IAPA announced the launch of the Shield Project, an alliance with Google, with the objective of achieving that all IAPA members be protected against cyberattacks.

· In addition to the more than 100 requests for direct action made to governments to correct press freedom violations the IAPA formulated various amicus curiae briefs, among them to the U.S. government for greater transparency and access to information. Other two cases concerned a court order that violated the professional secrecy of a journalist, and other supporting Google in Europe, for a sanction issued against regarding requests for removal of content in their search engines.

· In promoting press freedom, the IAPA used its best tool, the Declaration of Chapultepec. Accompanied by the Association of Argentine Press Entities (ADEPA) and the Dominican Newspapers Society it committed with their signature the presidents of those countries, Mauricio Macri and Danilo Medina, respectively. Also signing the document were Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto and OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro.

· The Declaration also served as the framework for the organizing of university forums, with Fenshaw College in London, Ontario, Canada, and in Bogotá with the Latin American Education in Journalism Accreditation Council (CLEAP), held along with members, authorities and students of 16 journalism schools accredited by that body.

· Faithful to its mission to foster press freedom through independent and sustainable media the IAPA held various activities in favor of digital transformation, among them seminars, forums and conferences. The SIPconnect meeting in June in Miami, more than 30 webinars and in-person seminars, including the meetings in Punta Cana and Mexico City, which benefitted some 2,500 members of the press, were important contributions to the professional training of editors, managers, newsroom leaders and reporters.

· This year the IAPA also has forged several alliances with companies providing services to put at the disposal of its members monetization tools for digital business ventures, at the same time it received support from various companies, among them Google, Protecmedia, Telefónica, Dos al Cubo, Xalok, clicLogix Americas and Marfeel.

· Within its quest to promote value-added for its members stands out the enrollment of 116 new members in the last 14 months, and the contributions of several foundations that have made possible the development of activities of the Chapultepec Program, Scholarship and Digital Transformation programs, among them: John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Dow Jones Foundation, Scripps Howard Foundation and Ellen Brown Scripps Foundation, and James McClatchy Foundation.

· The IAPA authorities continue working hard on a plan of reorganization and strategic planning of the institution, with the objective of continuing to be a relevant and useful organization in accordance with its mission of defending and protecting press freedom.

· As part of that reorganization the IAPA sold its former headquarters building and since March this year has moved to its new site, located in the building of The Miami Herald/El Nuevo Herald in Miami, Florida.

The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida.