Christopher Barnes (Awards)


Excellence in Journalism and Press Freedom Grand Prize

IAPA President, Christopher Barnes

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

IAPA Awards - October 14, 2020

General Assembly

Today, I couldn't be more pleased to be posthumously acknowledging, with the Press Freedom Grand Prize Award, all the journalists and media workers across the region who have sacrificed their lives in pursuit of the truth.

Today we celebrate those who put fears for their personal safety and that of their families secondary to the pursuit of their journalistic calling. They are testament to the mantra "the show must go on." They were fully aware that the work of those who do not wish for the truth to come out and those who plot to silence the press under the cloak of a global pandemic continues undaunted. They and their colleagues who celebrate with us today are our frontline in this lifelong battle to preserve our freedoms and must be commended.

This award also brings into sharp focus something else very important for IAPA and its members. Whereas many media around the globe have had to contend with this dangerous coronavirus pandemic, with business and operating models turned on their heads, what has remained unchanged is the necessity of quality journalism, borne out of a thirst for knowledge and truth and carried out on behalf of the public. This requires dedicated and committed people, irreplaceable despite all the advances in technology and audience habits we are faced with. This is a call for us to protect and nurture those who have a passion for delivering quality journalism. It is imperative for us media owners to work with them to find the right business models to support their continued work for generations to come.

For many journalists and media workers, the dichotomy and anxiety of doing their job and protecting theirs and the health of their family was not easy. Many were affected and hundreds of colleagues succumbed to the pandemic. We have heard testimonies from several families who speak with great respect of the journalistic responsibilities of their lost loved ones.

One of the children of journalist Antonio Paco Lasso, who died in Colombia said: "Journalism for my dad was his passion. His death did not end his legacy, his legacy continues, and his voice is heard in the echo of the Amazon." In IAPA we must not allow the voices of the more than 130 others who died doing their duty to be extinguished.

The best respect we can show to those we celebrate today is to ensure they did not die in vain. Their collective voices will provide the necessary strength to ours in the fight for press freedom for generations to come.