Gustavo Mohme Inauguration

Official Opening Ceremony of IAPA Mid-Year Meeting Report by IAPA President, Gustavo Mohme, La República, Lima Peru


Good morning, Mr. Mayor, special guests, dear colleagues from IAPA, friends, and the Host Committee - made up of Luis Miguel de Bedout, María Elvira Domínguez, Roberto Pombo and Werner Ziztman, all of whom I want to thank, along with the team from the Colombian Media Association, for helping us fulfill the dream - shared with Luis Miguel, of bringing the IAPA conference to Medellin.

I have to admit that the city of Medellin – with a history of difficult decades, made a pleasant impression with its culture, the warmth of its enterprising citizens and its beauty. This is not fake news, it's a reality.

It is my duty to present the semiannual report on the work that IAPA has been doing in the Americas over the past six months, but first it is my responsibility to talk about other important events that we are currently sharing in the distance.

As you know, the eighth Summit of the Americas opens today in Lima, my city, and we are present there with an announcement that expresses one of our greatest concerns: the fate of two totalitarian countries - Cuba and Venezuela, which must return to democracy.

Under the title, "A historic obligation" we have articulated how the governments of the Americas continue to witness the total deterioration of freedom of speech and of the press in Cuba and Venezuela, whose regimes continue to violate the human rights of their citizens and disrespect the essential principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

We are aware that in recent years the international community has taken note of the flawed socio-political climate in Venezuela and that many nations have not recognized the Constituent Assembly and will not recognize any leaders emerging from fraudulent elections. Therefore, we believe that this consensus should be used to promote more drastic measures to prevent the regime from attempting to perpetuate itself in power with its back turned to the progress of its citizens.

No government in the Americas is free from abuses, corruption, and censorship, but in countries with democratic systems with separation of powers, independent judges, transparency mechanisms, and free press, there are checks and balances to build better democracies.

We are convinced that the Intermediate Democratic Charter cannot remain as a decorative statement, but must be a call to action, especially at this eighth Summit, whose motto is "Democratic governance in the face of corruption." This situation offers the right framework for presidents and heads of state to feel obliged to work together to rescue democracy in Cuba and Venezuela.

I want to tell you that we will take advantage of this meeting in Medellin to design strategies that will arm us with the necessary instruments to face adversity. One of the main difficulties at the moment is the kidnapping of our three Ecuadorian colleagues from the daily El Comercio - Javier Ortega, Paúl Rivas and Efraín Segarra, at the hands of an off-shoot of FARC opposed to the peace process - that remains illegal and armed.

I want to tell Carlos Mantilla - director of El Comercio, to his team, as well as to the Ecuadorian journalists, that we will not fail in seeking their release. We will insist that President Juan Manual Santos and his Ecuadorian counterpart, Lenín Moreno, work together to free our colleagues.

I would also like to refer to the ever-present tragedy we face each semester as we review the situation of press freedom on the continent. Unfortunately, 11 journalists have been killed since we met at the end of October in Salt Lake City. They are:

• Leobardo Vázquez Atzin, Pamela Montenegro del Real, Carlos Domínguez and Gumaro Pérez Aguilando, from Mexico;

• Laurent Ángel Castillo Cifuentes and Luiz Alfredo de León Miranda, from Guatemala;

• Jefferson Purity Lopes and Ueliton Bayer Brizon, from Brazil;

• Carlos Oveniel Lara Domínguez, from Honduras;

• Samuel Rivas, from El Salvador, and

• Efigenia Vásquez Astudillo, from Colombia.

• Also, Vladjimir Legagneur - a journalist from Haiti, has been missing since mid-March.

Also our dear colleague and associate, Claudio Paolillo joined the list of martyrs after an early departure.

Let us honor them all, their families and their companies, with a minute's silence.

Thank you very much.

As you know, IAPA does not abandon the cases of fallen journalists. And within so much tragedy, there are some achievements to celebrate. The greatest, perhaps, and one that could be included in the history of our institution - as those battles against the New Order of Communications, the 1985 advisory opinion of the Inter-American Court, or the democratic rescue of several countries by fighting for the respect of press freedom, may happen in the next few days if the Inter-American Court decides in favor of journalist Nelson Carvajal, from Pitalito - in this Colombian land, a case we have litigated and taken to the international level.

This ruling is particularly important because it will allow us to continue to fight for justice in relation to other crimes in the Americas. Also, as you know, we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the case of Guillermo Cano is not forgotten, and take this opportunity to reiterate our commitment in this regard to his nephew, Fidel Cano - director of El Espectador, to his family and to all the journalists from El Espectador and Colombia, who know that the Cano case is emblematic and very close to IAPA.

Also in these months, we tended to the case of Gerardo Bedoya - who worked in El País, of Cali, murdered in that city in 1997, and maintained a cordial communication with his relatives - thanks to the support of our vice president, María Elvira, and also an honorable communication with the Colombian government. We are also working hard on cases from Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia and my country, Peru.

All the cases I have mentioned were investigated by IAPA in the last two decades and submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Our aim is to ensure that they do not go unpunished, that the families and victims are dignified, that investigations are restarted and that the protection systems for journalists are improved. That is something we refreshed in November when our chairman of the Commission on Freedom of the Press and Information, Roberto Rock, was in Buenos Aires to commemorate World Day Against Impunity.

As you can see, our semester was very busy. Earlier this year we went to Washington and - in conjunction with the Committee of Reporters for Freedom of the Press of the United States, met with congressmen, journalists, executives and opinion leaders to whom we expressed our concerns about the state of freedom of the press and expression in the United States, particularly the negative impact of the continued outbursts of President Donald Trump on the media and journalists.

Also in Washington, we met with OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro to better understand the lines of intergovernmental action to combat authoritarianism in Venezuela.

In the digital context, we recently organized a conference in Lima to better understand the negative impact that the right to be forgotten is having on freedom of expression and the media, here in Colombia as well as in Peru, Argentina, Chile and other countries. This issue will be discussed at length in the panel on Sunday morning.

Our idea now is to see how we can incorporate the new challenges posed by the digital divide in the context of freedom of expression that transcend our Declaration of Chapultepec. This will allow us to have a clearer road map for continuing to defend press freedom in all areas, regardless of the platforms where violations are committed.

We are also creating a digital platform so that our partners can better interact with each together to share and learn about our industry's success stories, whether it be about the efficiency of our newsrooms, the quality of the content and the monetization of the content.

We are also devising public education campaigns so that we can warn the public about the importance of distinguishing fake news from true facts. In turn, we are trying to elevate the press freedom dialogue and create communities via the publication of IAPA content on our own digital platforms. I tell you that we've been pioneers, and I am proud of the analytics that show that the public dialogue on press freedom has intensified via La República in conjunction with IAPA. I hope that many of IAPA's media partners will also be able to give this same option to their readers and users.

For the next semester we have a lot ahead of us. In May we hope to be in the Dominican Republic before the CIDH because we have requested hearings on the issue of press freedom in the U.S.A. and on the case of Guillermo Cano. I also accepted an invitation from Uruguay for May 3 - World Press Freedom Day, to honor the memory of our dear friend Claudio Paolillo.

In July in Miami, after the World Cup - which I hope will go very well for Peruvians, Colombians, Uruguayans, Brazilians, Panamanians and Argentines, we will have our SIPConnect digital mega-conference, and I hope we will soon be able to announce another conference to review the digital issues that have emerged in the fight for freedom of press and expression.

I also hope that the government of Ecuador - as well as other governments, will receive us during these months so that in October we can arrive in Salta with the mission accomplished, and greet Sergio Romero and his team from El Tribuno and all our colleagues and Argentine partners who will be waiting for us there.

As I promised when I was honored to assume the presidency for the second time, we remain committed to strengthening our institution, because it is the best way we can defend and promote freedom of the press and of expression, a mandate that our predecessors left us more than 70 years ago.

I want to emphasize that we have an excellent program here in Medellin and I thank you all for coming from so far, which only demonstrates the commitment and call that unites us all to defend press freedom.

Finally, I would like to leave you with an optimistic view in face of the many problems that affect our freedom of press and expression. The attacks, the deliberate distortion of reality and the post-truth era are not really bad news, but the justification of our existence as an institution, they ennoble our job and force us to strengthen our mission and work.

Thank you very much

(After the applause)

Finally, I would like to take some time to once again express our gratitude to someone who is no longer with us and whom I want us to remember and honor. Video please (4 and a half minute video about Claudio Paolillo).