Speech by Gregorio Badeni on Receiving the Chapultepec Grand Prize 2017 from the IAPA
This public presentation before a highly knowledgeable audience is for me a challenge to which I feel various sensations: perplexity for the personally undeserved distinction, pleasure at joining a category made up of such significant personalities of the cultural world, and the duty of honoring the generous decision taken by the IAPA friends in granting me the Chapultepec Grand Prize. To these feelings there is added my gratitude for the so friendly and warm words that constituted my introduction before you.
I have the special satisfaction of being connected with the IAPA for almost three decades. Not for being a journalist but for sharing the objective values of an Institution forged to ensure in the American continent the observance of freedom of expression in general and freedom of the press in particular. Throughout almost 75 years the successive generations that made up the IAPA never gave up in the struggle for the observance of such values and objectives. They assumed the concern of receiving unjust attacks by autocratic governments, mediocre people imbued in totalitarian modes and even journalists that agree with authoritarian conceptions and populism. They knew how to overcome the fear of confronting intolerance, one-of-a-kind thinking, threats and even the most discreditable violence. They assumed then, and now assume, the defense of journalists and news companies with the conviction that they are inseparable. Without a sold economic base there does not exist a solid independent press, and without a solid independent press there does not exist freedom, dignity and progress that uplifts the human being.
I understand the importance of the Chapultepec Grand Prize which represents the need to make concrete the defense of the freedom of expression expressed in the10 Principles of the Declaration of Chapultepec of May 11, 1994, signed and endorsed by innumerable heads of state, political and legal officials, and also by renowned representatives of the most varied areas of democratic culture, and presents the distinctive feature of faithfully reflecting the socio-political thought predominant in the American continent on how freedom of expression should be conceived.
The Declaration was drawn up at the Hemisphere Conference on Freedom of Expression held in Mexico under the chairmanship of former United Nations Secretary General Javier Pérez Cuellar, having been the object of an important regimentation and interpretation between August 16 and 18, 1998 at the Chapultepec Conference on Freedom of Expression held in San José, Costa Rica. I had the pleasure of participating in it and of collaborating with illustrious persons, among them Jack Fuller, Danilo Arbilla, Alejandro Aguirre, Claudio Grossman, Edward Seaton, Andrés García Gamboa, Saturnino Herrera Mitjans, Alejandro Miró Quesada, Tony Pederson, Jorge Fascetto, Bartolomé Mitre. Julio Mesquita, Mario Gusmão, Héctor Amengual, Luis Tarsitano, Jayme Sirotsky, Horacio Aguirre. On the basis of this there was formulated the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression adopted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights as interpretative text of Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights. It was approved in 2000, and on March 2, 2001 the IAPA adhered to its content.
If the history of humanity can be defined as the ongoing history of the fight of human beings for their freedom, dignity and progress we observe that this fight sooner or later ends up with the demolition of the authoritarian barriers that are raised against it. During the course of this the risks and challenges are permanently renewed in a dynamic process. The most varied processes of democratic deconstitutionalization that were produced in the 20th century are being repeated in the 21st century. There is a nominal metamorphosis because while the autocratic conceptions survive freedom of expression and the independent press will be in danger.
Segundo V. Linares Quintana taught in the mid-20th century that freedom of expression is an institutional freedom because without it there cannot exist the tolerance and pluralism that typify the constitutional democratic political system. But also it is a strategic freedom, because on its existence depends the subsistence of the other freedoms. It is the mother of all freedoms and the fruit of human thinking. We well know that violation of it opens the doors that allow the other freedoms to be committed with impunity. Thousands of journalists reviled, imprisoned, tortured and murdered for merely disseminating facts or expressing opinions not shared by the autocrat of the day or the groups of totalitarian power holders are the most eloquent proof of that affirmation.
This pathological situation is seen daily. Today, publicly, everyone claims to be a fervent defender of freedom of expression, but there are many who in the public or private arenas favor censorship and other restrictions when the exercise of press freedom collides with their interests or values. They are autocratic behaviors that claim to impose on the news media what they should report on and how they should inform, behaviors that are still manifested in some countries in the Americas and which, on the fringe of revealing the fear that intolerance carries with it, tend to be carried by groups of intellectuals that with particular arrogance cannot admit the expression of points of view different to those forged by their frenzied intellects. A similar phenomenon we have noticed during the process of globalizatio,, and currently in the process of de-globalization that is spreading over Europe and the Americas as a consequence of theoretical excesses in which have incurred for decades. Perhaps sense be imposed and through n empirical focus we will be able to remedy the errors of the past and return to the path of progress, a task in which the independent press has an inescapable role if we wish to preserve constitutional democracy as the political system.
While it is plausible to verify how, in the course of the 21st century, we are able to disseminate that political system strengthening freedom of expression we are aware that its future development will not be without the dangers resulting from the intolerance and totalitarian spirit of some political conceptions, among them the so much mentioned populism which already, in the mid-20th century, was given by Georges Burdeau the name of empirical Caesarism and by Karl Loewenstein called Napoleonic Caesarism and Latin American neo-presidentialism, in which he included the Gertulio Vargas regime in Brazil and Peronism in Argentina.
In that process we cannot ignore the important technological innovations that are being operated in the mass media and even less flee in the face of challenges that they represent. Let us not forget that in the 15th century printing brought about the start of the Modern Age and that in the 18th century the dissemination of newspapers bought about the massive development of human knowledge, giving birth to the Contemporary Age.
Bartolomé Mitre well says that the successive appearance on the historic stage of news media has always been a liberating impetus – liberating the individual in the face of ignorance, first of all, and after that in the face of political and social domination. It is at the same time a warning for those who aspire to regulate what empirically up to today is technically not able to be regulated, such as social communication networks and the process of convergence.
It is a kind of crossroads in which the Declaration of Chapultepec is not only a document with historic value, which it has, it is an authentic compass that indicates the path to follow in order to preserve the freedom, dignity and progress of people, in line with the lineaments of constitutional democracy and the amazing technological advances made in the social news media that enable the dissemination of facts, ideas and opinions in an agile and effective manner.
This allows us to presume that we are facing a new stage in the history of humanity, which is the Age of Social Communication. This does not admit borders, it is not subjected to the power of the state, nor of the groups of pressure or power, it rejects ideologies and the preconceptions forced by a static view of social life. This stage reflects a growing deregulation of the technical news media which excludes all government interference aimed at limiting the contents of freedom of expression. It is a reality that there is imposed upon us a daily challenge, which is to tolerate and respect the use, and even abuse, of freedom of expression with the conviction that this latter, in the medium or short term, measured with the parameters of that history of humanity, shall never be dismissed by laws but rather have ethics and education to live in the freedom which makes the spontaneous condemnation by society possible.