Gustavo Mohme, IAPA president
Homage to Claudio Paolillo
May 3, 2018
World Press Freedom Day
Dear Mr. Jorge Gandini, speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, ladies and gentlemen, legislators, dear Mrs. Adriana Otegui, dear Tatiana, Santiago and Juan Manuel, Claudio Paolillo's children, news media colleagues, dear former IAPA president Danilo Arbilla, ladies and gentlemen:
I would like, before anything else, to thank the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies for the invitation to participate in this relevant, just and emotional homage to our colleague and friend Claudio Paolillo.
"His death frustrates, but inspires" says the emotional video that we have just seen and which we showed for the first time in our latest membership meeting in Medellín – above all today, May 3, the date on which we celebrate World Press Freedom Day.
One could speak to you on this date in extenso of the problems that afflict the people of the hemisphere press, the murders and disappearances, impunity, judicial harassment, gag laws, threats by organized crime, notable challenges that we face from the digital disruption such as false news, the right to oblivion, copyright, network neutrality, etc.
But no, on this solemn occasion I will speak of another facet of history, I will tell you of the battle that takes place silently to confront those wrongs and I will tell you of the commitment of the men who, like Claudio, embody their heroes.
I met Paolillo more than a decade ago within the bosom of the IAPA, I had another decade attending its meetings, I joined that army of journalists of 1,300 media of the Americas motivated by the attacks that we used to receive at that time on the part of the Fujimori dictatorial regime.
The IAPA is made up of not only print media, also television channels, websites, radio stations and individual journalists. CNN en español and RCN of Colombia have just this year joined our membership whose only banner is the defense of freedom of expression.
We Peruvians persecuted at that time find in the IAPA a moral bastion, a space that we turn to in order to get strengths and encouragement to continue with our work. The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization that is run with the support of its members, thus he or she who receives the high honor of occupying a leading role in it will not only dedicate his or her time but also will defray his or her costs in doing so.
This is evidenced in the high degree of commitment of colleagues such as Claudio, there is not any other interest, there is not any other intention, there is no other banner in our beloved institution than to defend freedom of expression in our hemisphere.
And what inspires that unbowed spirit? Well, colleagues such as Claudio, who represents the spirit and sacrifice of thousands of journalists that remain firm despite adversities, and who are not silent even in the most dictatorial regimes such as Venezuela or Cuba, who face imprisonment, torture and in extreme cases death without surrendering. They like the colleagues cowardly murdered just a few days ago in our next stop, Ecuador, stimulate us and compel us.
Claudio stood out as a journalist and defender of press freedom. He left us after occupying the chairmanship of the Press Freedom Committee, an arduous task; through him passed all the cases of all the countries of the Americas. He studied and issued resolutions on all of them and each one of the attacks upon journalists, whatever the offense, day in and day out, without rest.
It is understandable our only weapon is the word. And believe me with it we have seen the fall of infamous tyrannies in these 73 years of institutional life. I tell you it is not an easy task, it is ongoing, it calls for dedication and disposition and I repeat, believe me there is no regime that forever resists the libertarian strength of its citizens. Let us go over the history if we doubt it.
That is why Claudio was undaunted, he counted on the understanding and backing of Adriana and their children, of the weekly Búsqueda colleagues and of his mentor in the IAPA Danilo Arbilla. They shared the cause that he pursued. It is not unjustified that in the IAPA there were coined such phrases following his departure as "He was a press freedom gladiator," "a journalist in capital letters who always offered resistance to those in power," "a man rigorous in handling information," "he was an authorized voice and one with extraordinary clarity to fight for the ideals that we all pursue."
Only death switched off that indomitable spirit, but that same flame continues burning in each one of the hearts of the thousands of journalists of the Americas, those to whom we today pay from this emblematic building our most sincere tribute.
For Claudio, for all those who have departed and all those that are suffering today we reaffirm our commitment and dedication. Today we announce what we promised this morning saddened before his tomb: We will redouble our efforts until having an American continent fully free, comrade in arms.