Christopher Barnes IAPA Acceptance Speech

75th General Assembly
October 4-7, 2018
Coral Gables, Florida

IAPA Acceptance Speech

Christopher Barnes, Managing Director of The Gleaner, Kingston, Jamaica

October 7, 2019, The Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, Miami, Florida

It is indeed an honour to be selected to represent this prestigious and reputable organization. I am humbled to follow a long line of distinguished media titans who have led this organisation so well since 1926, (some 93 years ago).

I am most of all pleased to be the second Jamaican to hold this post following in the footsteps of past president Hon. Oliver F Clarke, who has helped to pave the way for many others from tiny little island nations of the Caribbean who punch way beyond their weight. It was Oliver who introduced me to most of you all, and by your reception of me, and through your sharing of fond memories of him over the years, I know Jamaica has a home here in IAPA. I have had an enjoyable 11-year experience with you all. I take the opportunity to send greetings on his behalf and his regrets for not being able to be here.

I stand before you today fueled by the challenges overcome by many presidents and members before me. They have personified bravery in fiercely tackling and toppling authoritarian dictatorships often times sacrificing their personal safety and the safety of their families. I pay homage to all past presidents and executive committee members; we owe them all a great debt of gratitude and a commitment to continue the fight they started.

(Me presento ante ustedes hoy alimentado por los desafíos superados por muchos presidentes y miembros antes que yo. Han personificado la valentía al enfrentar y derrocar ferozmente a dictaduras autoritarias que a menudo sacrifican su seguridad personal y la seguridad de sus familias. Rindo homenaje a todos los presidentes anteriores y miembros del comité ejecutivo; Les debemos a todos una gran deuda de gratitud y un compromiso para continuar la lucha que comenzaron.)

I will go against conventional wisdom and as that you allow me to mention Scott Shurz, Argentina Hills, Ed Seaton and my friend Susan McClatchy who were recognized during this assembly but we have other past presidents here today and I ask them to stand and be recognized. If you ever have a doubt as to the raison d'etre of IAPA you need only look around the room at these individuals and then peruse the book "The Story of IAPA" where you find many accounts from them of game changing events spearheaded by IAPA in its mission to protect press freedom and the power of the collective effort. We owe all of you a debt of gratitude.

The declaration of Chapultepec and the subsequent Salta Declaration provide guidance to IAPA members and media houses globally in their quest for ensuring transparency in governance, the absence of which often leads to dictatorships and suspension of citizens' rights. We act on behalf of the people.

What we as IAPA members have in common is an unrelenting commitment to protect freedom of expression which is an inalienable an essential right to be enjoyed by all citizens of any country. Regrettably we too often these days have persons in power who seek to challenge this right with actions manifesting in range from creating administrative barriers through to murder of journalists with impunity.

(Lo que nosotros, como miembros de la SIP, tenemos en común es un compromiso incesante de proteger la libertad de expresión, que es un derecho inalienable y esencial que todos los ciudadanos de cualquier país deben disfrutar. Lamentablemente, con demasiada frecuencia en estos días tenemos personas en el poder que buscan desafiar este derecho con acciones que se manifiestan en un rango que va desde la creación de barreras administrativas hasta el asesinato de periodistas con impunidad.)

I am encouraged by the array of ages represented in this audience as it shows me that fight for press freedom passes from generation to generation as we continue the legacy left by those forging paths ahead of us. It will be one of my objectives this year to encourage increased participation of the younger cohort among us.

Whilst we are a membership organization, we do not see our work stop at the borders where paid members stop. Our work knows no borders and we work tirelessly and unselfishly for even those who do not yet see the value of our organization.

I know many of you are actively evaluating your memberships against the economic realities of your businesses and based on your assessment of a low probability of having a potentially crippling Press Freedom incident. I encourage all in this room, where possible, to participate in a mission. If there is any doubt about the power of this organization and why the lobby needs continued support your eyes will be opened. My mission to Nicaragua on behalf of Miguel Mora and Lucia Pineda added the final touch which cemented the value of this organization for me. I implore you to see that freedom of the press is on a knife's edge where from one day to the next you are operating your newspaper, radio or tv station without hindrance to having your office raided and being detained by armed forces as my friend Miguel faced.

(Le ruego que vea que la libertad de prensa está en el filo de la navaja, donde de un día para otro está operando su periódico, radio o estación de televisión sin obstáculos para que su oficina sea allanada y detenida por las fuerzas armadas mientras mi amigo Miguel enfrentaba.)

I am a great believer in saving up during the good times for the bad times and I draw from this to encourage all members and soon to be members of IAPA that in your time of greatest need there will be others who remembered your support when they were in their time of great need.

The challenges in my Caribbean bear resemblance to many of our neighbouring Latin American friends and more recently our friends to the North here in the United States and Canada. Though the English speaking Caribbean enjoys a relatively higher press freedom ranking and low incidences of violence, we do face challenges of criminal defamation, access to information challenges, impending data protection legislation, state intimidation, and in some instances self-censorship.

Apart from threat of those who are corrupted by power, press freedom is also under threat from other quarters including, social media and digital which significantly lowers the barrier to entry for information dissemination (a double edged sword), the decline in consumption of traditional media, private sector advertisers who care more about reach and influence than truth ............. the threat is higher than it has ever been.

(Además de la amenaza de quienes están corrompidos por el poder, la libertad de prensa también se ve amenazada por otros sectores, incluidos los medios sociales y digitales, lo que reduce significativamente la barrera de entrada para la difusión de información (un arma de doble filo), la disminución del consumo de los medios tradicionales, anunciantes del sector privado que se preocupan más por el alcance y la influencia que por la verdad ............. La amenaza es más alta que nunca.)

Being a member of IAPA has helped me to keep my company on the forefront of global changes, many disruptive, affecting our industry. IAPA recognizes that a key component of independent media is financial independence and therefore works with similar effort as it does on lobbying, on identifying trends, encouraging experience sharing and introducing new opportunities to its members. There can be no strong, effective and sustainable democracy in the Americas without a strong, and free press. (No puede haber una democracia fuerte, efectiva y sostenible en las Américas sin una prensa fuerte y libre.)

I would like to take a moment to pay respect to my predecessor, the indefatigable Maria Elvira Dominguez. With all the characteristics of a great president she led this organization through a good year. I have a hard time finding, and I am confident that is not only me, a more affable and inclusive person who is driven to lead her team to success. Her years of dedication to the strategic plan development and her great work as president in executing some of the very things identified in the strategy, quite frankly, is the reason why I am standing here and why many others after me will stand here. I will specially mention her fundraising work for the Chapultepec Index project where she has raised over USD300k from generous sponsors from her home country and elsewhere. This project, executed correctly, will add to the sustainability of this great organization. Allow me to mention as well the #exprésate campaign which seeks to create awareness about the rights and duties that users, media, journalists, digital platforms and governments have in the digital era.

I am sure you will also join me in singling out Roberto Rock for the yeoman work he does with the freedom of the press committee, the heart of our activities, having taken over from our beloved Claudio Paolillo.

To the committee presidents and the executive committee members, please don't go very far as it is not lost on me that the real work happens at that level. I will be calling upon you for support.

We also have great partners with whom we work together in advancing the cause of press freedom and justice for those aggrieved by transgressions. We work close with the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR) the Organisation of American States (OAS), The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), international press institute (IPI), the Robert F Kennedy Human Rights and so many others. I thank them all for their continued partnership, for sharing the vision and I look forward to working with them.

To the secretariat in Miami and including Ricardo, Paola, Marta, Ed and Margarita; you are the glue that keeps IAPA together. It is no easy feat coordinating the activities of your errant members and especially whilst collaborating with the host committee led by Alejandro Aguirre planning August occasions such as this 75th Annual General Assembly we have experienced in the last 3 days; absolutely stunning and well organized; I look forward to working with you.

To our sponsors, who are too many to mention, it takes special organisations and people to contribute to a cause which searches for truth even where sometimes our work affects your own business. Without your support and belief in the important work we do, we wouldn't be here today and press freedom would suffer a fatal blow.

Finally, I am thankful to the persons who have allowed me to be at this podium which starts with my family but goes beyond to my coworkers, who do most of the heavy lifting, and to friends like you in this audience who have given your support.

Ladies and gentlemen, I assure you that, complete with my less than acceptable, and embarrassing, command of the Spanish language I love so much, I will try my best to represent you all well and thank you for the confidence reposed in me. There is much work to be done.

(Damas y caballeros, les aseguro que, junto con mi poco aceptable y vergonzoso dominio del idioma español que tanto amo, haré todo lo posible para representarlos a todos y agradecerles la confianza depositada en mí. Hay mucho trabajo por hacer.)