Matt Sanders address at the opening ceremony

Friday, October 27 - Little America Hotel, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Good morning. To the Lieutenant Governor of Utah, Spencer J. Cox, as well as other respected state leaders; to our dear colleagues from the IAPA who are here with us; to our dear friends: Welcome to Utah, and to the General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association!

One year ago in Mexico, when I delivered my address titled "The Light of Freedom" upon assuming the presidency of the IAPA, I was filled with a huge sense of responsibility as I took the reins of an organization such as this one—a guardian of press freedom in the Americas.

I can now assure you that this has been an unforgettable experience for me and my family. I was able to fulfill my one-year term thanks to each of you without whose work it would not have been possible to meet the many goals we laid out. I feel very proud to have accepted the challenge and to have enjoyed your support. This year has been a major personal learning experience, though I must confess to feeling a bit deceived, as I had no idea that so much was needed in order to be president.

I am also deeply appreciative of my brothers and sisters at Deseret News and Deseret Digital Media for allowing me the room to serve in this capacity, to gain new knowledge and to share my experiences with the IAPA and others in the industry. Special recognition goes out to all the sponsors and organizers of this meeting, which has given us the opportunity to show Salt Lake City—our wonderful home—to our friends visiting us from 20 countries and from other parts of the United States. I would like to give a special thanks to Ricardo Trotti and his team at the IAPA. They are outstanding professionals, and now they are my friends. I also wish to thank Kadee Duclos and her team at Utah Media Group for handling the logistics of this assembly. I also thank the members of the Host Committee for their guidance, work and support in organizing this event. Lastly, I want to thank my family for the support they've given me throughout the many trips I have taken during my time with the IAPA, and for joining me on many of those trips. This has been a great adventure for our family, and I am thankful that you have welcomed us and included us as part of your own family.

I would like to pause a moment now to talk about the numerous natural disasters that in recent months have caused suffering and devastation for millions of people in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, Texas, Florida and California. We take this opportunity to express our support for the victims of hurricanes, tropical storms, earthquakes and fires that have left death and destruction in their wake. I congratulate the journalists and media outlets that, despite the adversities, have done everything possible to keep their communities informed in times of crisis. I would also call attention to the role played by social media, which in many cases has substituted or complemented the journalistic work of traditional media outlets.

In giving a quick overview of my presidency, I would like to underscore one of our most important efforts: our work at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Nelson Carvajal, a Colombian journalist who was killed in 1998. This is the first time that we have participated as an organization before the inter-American court in the case of a slain journalist. By early 2018 we hope to have a ruling that will set a legal precedent, compensate the family members, and empower the fight against impunity and violent crimes against journalists.

We appreciate the cooperation of 14 press organizations that are here with us, such as ADEPA from Argentina, the ANP from Bolivia, the ANP from Chile, Andiarios (now the AMI) from Colombia, and the Panamanian Journalists Forum, among others, as well as the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico and more than 100 entities from around the world that, as members of IFEX, supported the IAPA's efforts at the inter-American court.

While our experience in the Carvajal case was significant, violence continues to be a serious problem for our region. Sadly, since our midyear meeting in Antigua last March, nine journalists have been killed. Eighteen journalists in all have been killed in 2017: ten in Mexico, three in Honduras, two in Peru, two in the Dominican Republic, and one in Guatemala. If to this statistic we add the family members and colleagues of the victims as well as the affected media outlets, the impact on freedom of expression is devastating. We express our sincerest condolences to the families, and we will maintain our commitment to continue demanding justice for each of these crimes.

I'd like to ask for a minute of silence to remember and honor the lives of our colleagues who died for doing their job as journalists.

Thank you.

This has been an intense year for us, and we are looking forward to the future. We have a number of initiatives emerging from the changes we are making and from the strategic plan for adapting to this new reality. For example, we will launch impact projects by renewing the Chapultepec program's commitment to work with Florida International University in Miami on a legal index for each country, which will help identify the biggest challenges in the Americas.

We continue to focus on the possibility of an online mega-newsstand that our members can use as an additional avenue for monetizing content. We are determined to have a greater impact, remain sustainable, and also change our forms of governance and leadership. We have an abundance of initiatives, ideas, and good intentions that we must begin bringing to fruition.

A month ago I participated on behalf of the IAPA in a forum at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., on the issue of democracy in the Americas. I offered the viewpoint that we find ourselves at a very strange moment in civil society in almost all countries, that the number of voices is expanding, fragmenting sources of public information, and through Google we can access any of nearly five billion websites with information related to our search term. On the one hand, the democratization of information and discussion is good. But ironically, at the same time we are consolidating the voices that we choose to listen to through our own social media networks on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram. And instead of fostering greater understanding, connectedness and inclusiveness in our democracies, sometimes we see very important problems among many stakeholders reduced to hashtags and movements that win out by simply being noisier, better organized or angrier. The possibility of success with these movements opens up space for people and organizations of every ideology who would manipulate public sentiment through defamation, misinformation and fake news. So there is a constantly growing threat of state and non-state actors seeking to disrupt or shut down certain organizations through cyberattacks. Indeed, the enemies of freedom of expression have new, highly sophisticated weapons. In this assembly we will have the opportunity to listen to and interact with colleagues, international leaders, and experts with experience combating these dangerous trends, who I am confident will make us think and act in a different way.

At the IAPA we are continuing to focus precisely on these challenges facing us today. In particular, we are addressing the issues of technological disruption and how to improve content and public discussion. Rest assured we will continue our training programs, collaborating with Facebook in workshops on security in social media, as well as with Google on cybersecurity issues.

While we have scaled back our in-person seminars in order to share knowledge with many more people through webinars, which are free and well attended by you all. We seek solutions, whether large or small, that might be helpful and provide guidance for IAPA members to implement them in their own work in a very practical way.

I would also like to draw attention to the SIPConnect conference, which just completed its third year and has already become a touchstone for discussion of issues affecting the digital world. This past June, we were joined in Miami by 226 media executives and journalists from 24 countries, and we will soon begin organizing SIPConnect 2018. As I am always reminded by our Internet Committee chairman and my good friend, Ernesto Kraiselburd, we are eager to show case studies of small and medium-sized outlets that have successfully transformed some aspect of their business. So please let us know if you have any suggestions.

As for membership—a significant pillar of our organization—200 media outlets have joined the IAPA since October 2016, many of them as part of corporate conglomerates in Mexico and Colombia, and we pleased to welcome them to the great IAPA family. And we continue working hard on our strategic plan to adapt the IAPA's bylaws and resources to current times. This has also entailed seeking alternative means of support by forging various agreements with communication technology service providers.

I would also like to point out that during this period we addressed press freedom issues in Mexico, where I participated in the exciting 90th anniversary celebration of El Heraldo de Chihuahua, which is part of Organización Editorial Mexicana, whose journalists have a long track record of courage working amid very serious violence and corruption due to the power of local drug traffickers. On another occasion we met with IAPA members in Mexico City to deal with cases involving killings of journalists, to discuss life insurance for journalists, and to visit officials at the Federal Telecommunications Institute. In Peru, alongside my family and IAPA colleagues, I had the opportunity to meet President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who signed the Declaration of Chapultepec. There we also spoke with other important political figures in Peru about violence and impunity, the decriminalization of defamation-related offenses, media ownership, and a number of legislative bills that would undermine the independence of the media. To fulfill the commitment that was assumed at the Antigua meeting, we traveled to Panama to examine the situation involving the GESE and EPASA publishing groups. And, along with my colleagues from the IAPA, I went to Washington on three occasions this year to address matters related to killings of journalists, cybersecurity, and the status of press freedom in the United States, Cuba, Ecuador, Panama and Venezuela.

None of our work would be possible without the support of foundations such as the Knight Foundation, the Scripps Howard Foundation, and the McClatchy Company Foundation, just to name a few, as well as the generous support of service providers such as Protecmedia, Vincidia, PressReader, Arc Publishing and TV Venezuela, among others. Thanks to all of you. To those that have supported this assembly in Salt Lake City as sponsors, we express our sincere thanks. Please take a moment to visit the booths of our sponsors and exhibitors during our break periods.

This has certainly been an intense year of representing this organization with great pride and respect—in particular, learning from all of you so that our organization may continue, as it says here behind me, "Always Pioneering." This phrase is meaningful in local history and culture, but it also reminds us that we always need to be a pioneer in this very important work.

We are doing much to defend freedom of expression in our countries, but there is always more to be done. You can count on me.

Thank you.