Excerpt from the message of Jorge Canahuati, president of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), Opsa Group, San Pedro Sula, Honduras, before the Unesco Regional Forum for Latin America and the Caribbean, on April 30, 2021, in celebration of the World Day of Press freedom*
Miami (May 3, 2021).- The media industry has been suffering from a very dramatic economic crisis in the last two decades, as a result of its adaptation to new technologies, changes in the habits of new audiences, and a dramatic reduction in advertising income.
This situation has become even more critical with the pandemic. In addition to mourning their victims, all the media had to downsize their operations. Many publications disappeared, leaving entire communities without information.
I agree with the concern of the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, that this crisis brings with it the danger of the "extinction of the media" due to the financial decline of its operations, with losses estimated at 30 billion dollars in the last year.
Against this background, Guterres called on the international community -states, the private sector and civil society- to act "and ensure sufficient funds and support" to maintain journalism as an essential force of democracy and that societies are not "irretrievably damaged."
From the IAPA we have been leading the way on this revaluation of the media. On one side, it is up to the industry itself to deal with its own sustainability through innovation and new viable economic models, as it has been doing.
On the other hand, governments and multilateral organizations must create public policies that guarantee the viability of independent and robust media. European governments are a good example, having adopted economic and financial support measures that are transparent, non-discriminatory and respectful of the independence of the media.
Days ago, we commended the Colombian government for being the first in Latin America to move forward with a specific policy for the media. It has included in this year's budget a fund of 24 million dollars for the digital transformation of the media, which it seeks to distribute with guarantees of fairness and transparency. We have also praised a bill in the Congress of that country which considers more permanent measures, for example, creating tax incentives for advertisers, considering that advertising is a boosting attribute of the general economy, and incentives for hiring journalists for the next four years.
Also, in the spirit of our Declaration of Salta, we have observed as positive the decision of the Parliament of the European Union for digital platforms to compensate journalistic editors for the use and benefit they obtain from the distribution of news content that the media produces at a high cost.
We applaud the law passed in Australia in February - the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code - which requires platforms and media publishers to sit down and negotiate the price of the content that the platforms use to generate large advertising revenue, to the detriment of the media economy.
These laws can serve as a model for other governments in the Americas to adopt similar public policies.
Also, as Guterres indicated, multilateral organizations such as the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Andean Development Corporation and the Central American Bank for Economic Integration, among others, as well as private organizations and companies, etc., must assume this responsibility to support journalism and the media, since their viability and their permanence depend on the health of free and democratic nations.
In recent meetings, the IAPA assembly approved the following resolutions on media sustainability, summoning different actors to action: Australia, media outlets and digital platforms, and Sustainability of Journalism.
*World Press Freedom Day, which is celebrated on May 3, was established in commemoration of the Declaration of Windhoek, a document that contains principles on the defense of press freedom, drawn up in 1991 during a meeting of African journalists, launched by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
IAPA is a non-profit organization 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.