Jorge Canahuati Larach, new president of the IAPA 2020-2021

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Acceptance speech
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Miami (October 23, 2020) .- The new president of the Inter American Press Association for the period 2020 to 2021, Jorge Canahuati Larach, of Grupo Opsa, Honduras, highlighted the organization's commitment to continue monitoring and denouncing the abuses against freedom of the press in the region.

This was his acceptance speech.

Jorge Canahuati
IAPA President (2020-2021)
General Assembly
October 23, 2020

Dear colleagues and friends, first of all I trust in God that everyone is in good health in the face of this pandemic.

As you know, every year the IAPA elects a second president to take office two years later. That's why I accepted to be president, because if I had been elected today - pandemic included - you can imagine what my answer would have been.

And since Christopher told me that he wouldn't accept a reelection - I have no other option.

But, kidding aside, I sincerely appreciate the fact that the assembly - you the members and colleagues - elected me to this office. I will lead this institution with the strength, commitment and the accumulated wisdom forged by so many women and men in our more than 76 years of effort and history.

I take this opportunity to recognize Christopher Barnes for the great and difficult work he has done as President of our organization at a time when we faced an unprecedented crisis due to the effects of the pandemic – and he was able to lead us through during a period of adaptation and uncertainty. Thank you, Christopher.

Evidently, these are not easy times. The pandemic has wreaked havoc and accelerated the economic crisis that our industry has been suffering for 15 years. And the pandemic not only demands that we adapt to the new reality, but it demands changes that we thought we could only embrace by 2025. The pandemic erased the line that differentiates priorities from emergencies. Today everything is urgent - it is a matter of survival.

There are entire communities that have lost their traditional and even their digital media; many media have perished, several newspapers have stopped printing, other media have laid off much of their staff. The little advertising that was left in the marketplace vanished - as did other revenues. The pandemic has not yet reached a turning point. There is uncertainty about the future.

Whether there is a weak media or no media at all in a community, goes far beyond being a problem of the media companies. Without media and journalists, there is less protection for people, less oversight of public and private entities - with the consequent increase in corruption, poverty, and authoritarianism. A society without media is on the way to self-destruction. Just take a look at Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba - tangible examples of this equation.

The latest two pandemics - coronavirus and fake news - have shown that citizens appreciate reliable information and the value of professional journalism over other forms of communication. Despite the economic crisis the media is suffering, in the last few months we have seen an explosion in our websites' traffic - from citizens in search of reliable information.

This trust is essential for a healthy public opinion and democracy. That's why we must continue to insist that media sustainability is essential to the rule of law and democracy. And as we did in July - in our letter to governments - and reiterate today in a resolution, we must invite governments to continue to explore ways to promote the economic health of the media. A formula that should not interfere with the independence and editorial criteria of the media - the only aspects that guarantee the role of journalism in democracy.

I would like to emphasize that IAPA will continue to be very vigilant regarding press freedom, monitoring and denouncing all abuses - as we emphasized in this assembly. Now, in addition to the reports on press freedom, we are adding another invaluable tool: the Chapultepec Index. I am sure it will become a continental reference and, in the future, it will serve to show trends, so that governments may know which public policies they should apply to guarantee greater freedoms for citizens - as demanded in our Chapultepec and Salta declarations.

I want to insist that we will continue to meet with governments to negotiate an end to the impunity that surrounds crimes against journalists - through the inter-American human rights system. In this effort, our goal is to seek justice, truth, and to set precedents - and to ensure that the families of our victims receive moral and economic reparations.

I want to announce that we will try to add another tool to these formidable mechanisms of monitoring and reflection on press freedom - as the reports of the Vice Presidents and the Chapultepec Index invite us to do. We are trying to use artificial intelligence tools - which we have talked about so much at SIPConnect conferences - to make our denunciations and claims more efficient, systematic, and in real time.

Regarding the emergencies I spoke to you about at the beginning, and the need to offer more services to our members, I will put special emphasis on the IAPA Challenge that we presented yesterday with Rockstart. We are also planning a new mentoring service - other ways to accelerate the digital transformation for small and medium media - and will be looking for additional funding to provide more training, mentoring, and support to our partners, either through outside companies, universities, at SIPConnect, and on our new Lee Hill Media Center platform - where we will redirect our services to social media.

For this task, we will need to continue to strengthen our organization. We will weather the pandemic storm that has reduced our ability to generate funds - such as not being able to hold face-to-face meetings, that help us so much to stay united, in solidarity, and with the common goal of defending press freedom.

We will look at new formulas that will allow us to have other sources of revenue. The idea is always to think how to offer more added value to our members, and how to increase our membership and retain those in distress - whether economic or political. The members - we and the volunteers working on our common mission - are the greatest asset of this organization. Together, united, we have many opportunities to make this world a better place.

But we don't want to guess at answers, we want to look for them. Soon everyone will receive a survey, which we will use to try to determine the needs and expectations of our members. We want to know how they perceive the IAPA and how they think it should look in the future. What do they value, what are the strengths and weaknesses? This will help us guide our actions.

Christopher opened this meeting, and I want to end it the same way. Thanking this institution for its existence, for being a beacon of light that illuminates the path of freedom of the press and expression - as a guide to democracy. I reiterate my gratitude to all of you for giving me the opportunity to continue serving in the same way that all the members and authorities did during these 76 years of history.

This is a huge task. And in order to make my work a little easier, I would like to mention the people I have asked to generously continue giving us their time and talents this coming year.

These are the working committees and their leaders, which will join me:

Freedom of the Press and Information: Carlos Jornet, La Voz del Interior, Córdoba, Argentina
And their subcommittees:
Chapultepec: Roberto Pombo, El Tiempo, Bogotá, Colombia.
Impunity: Juan Francisco Ealy Lanz-Duret, El Universal, Mexico.
Salta: Laura Puertas, Medcom, Panama.
And the other committees are:
Finance: María Eugenia Mohme, La República, Lima, Peru
Audit: Pedro Rivero, El Deber, Santa Cruz, Bolivia
Fundraising and Resources: Armando Castilla, Vanguardia, Saltillo, Mexico
Investments: Sergio Romero, El Tribuno, Salta, Argentina
Membership: Gabriela Vivanco, La Hora, Quito, Ecuador
Legal Affairs: Martín Etchevers, Clarín, Buenos Aires, Argentina
International Affairs: Miguel Henrique Otero, El Nacional, Caracas, Venezuela
Awards: Leonor Mulero: GFR Media, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Internet: Martha Ramos, OEM, Mexico City, Mexico
In addition to the two committees appointed by Nominations:
Press Institute: Ernesto Kraiselburd, El Día, La Plata, Argentina.
And Scholarships: Gilberto Urdaneta, El Regional del Zulia, Ciudad Ojeda, Venezuela.

I ask all IAPA members to get involved in the work of these committees. We will soon send a letter to all of you, so you can tell us which committee you would like to work with.

I also know that I can count on the essential support of the Miami team, led by our great Ricardo Trotti, who without a doubt - in his few years as Executive Director - has proven his commitment, leadership and intelligence in leading the daily management of our organization. I'm counting on you Ricardo!

I will never tire to point out that an organization like ours is a faithful reflection of the individual objectives of each partner. IAPA can only amalgamate those objectives and channel them with the strength of our mission - which is imbued in our statutes, our creed, our Charter of Aspirations and the Declarations of Chapultepec and Salta.

Always with God's help, let's work together for a better IAPA, for more freedom, for more democracy!

Thank you very much.

IAPA is a non-profit entity dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.

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