Inauguration of the 77th General Assembly of the IAPA
October 19, 2021
Message from the President of the IAPA
Jorge Canahuati (Opsa Group, Honduras)
Good Morning. Welcome Gabriela Cañas, president of the EFE news agency, Sergio Ramírez, distinguished Nicaraguan writer and now persecuted by the Daniel Ortega regime.
Welcome all the people who accompany us from different parts of the Americas and the world.
This is the start of the 77th General Assembly of the Inter-American Press Association that, for the second consecutive year, we were forced to hold virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
We are here, not in Madrid as scheduled, but always with the strength to speak about the most important issues of the media industry and about freedom of the press.
Unfortunately this was a disastrous semester in terms of freedom of the press. In particular, due to the interference of political power over the justice system. Two emblematic newspapers and partners of the IAPA, El Nacional de Venezuela and La Prensa de Nicaragua were confiscated and expropriated by their governments. Their crime was practicing independent journalism. El Nacional was one of the few independent newspapers left in Venezuela. And the last of the 115 media that Nicolás Maduro closed since he took office in 2013. He closed it in collusion with the Judicial Power, for not paying a ridiculous sum of 13 million dollars in compensation to Diosdado Cabello.
The same collusion used the Ortega regime in Nicaragua to take over La Prensa's facilities. He accused his managers of money laundering and other baseless economic crimes. Assets and bank accounts are frozen and their managers persecuted.
Fortunately, for the Venezuelan and Nicaraguan public, both newspapers, although with many economic and logistical difficulties, continue their work in digital form.
I said that the semester was disastrous because it is the first time that two vice presidents of our Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information have been arrested. Henry Constantín from La Hora de Cuba, for reporting on the social protest in favor of freedom on July 11. And Juan Lorenzo Holmann from La Prensa de Nicaragua who, without due process and under money laundering charges, has been in prison for more than 60 days.
We also express our deep pain that nine journalists were killed between Mexico, Haiti, Brazil and Colombia. More than thirty went into exile, persecuted by the totalitarian powers of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. Many other journalists were detained and delayed, and harassed by security forces and unscrupulous judges.
I can say that we are proud that Maria Ressa from the Philippines and Dimitri Muratov from Russia have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As they have said, both for the political and judicial harassment and for the murder of some of their colleagues, this award also belongs to journalists from our countries. That was the way we awarded the Grand Press Freedom Prize this year to Constantín and Holmann. It went to them, on behalf of so many other journalists murdered, persecuted and imprisoned in Cuba and Nicaragua, and on behalf of their families.
I also want to remember that in these months we have had two sensible loses in our institution. Two bastions of press freedom. Scott Schurz, our honorary president, who passed away on May 24, and Mr. Jaime Chamorro, who died on July 29. Both dedicated a large part of their lives to supporting the causes of freedom of the press and democracy in the Americas and the world. We miss your presence.
Also in many newsrooms in the Americas we have continued to mourn the death of women and men journalists due to the pandemic.
I ask that we honor them all with a moment of silence.
At various times during this assembly, we will have the opportunity to continue denouncing the abuses of press freedom. These aspects came to the fore in the two virtual missions we carried out to Cuba and Nicaragua, countries in which we observe similar methods of repression. Many of those interviewed referred to journalists as "brave", who must be supported, because they represent the voice of the oppressed.
We will also take time to analyze proposed laws that will affect the press and to demand greater access to public information. We will denounce the stigmatization campaigns against the press that come from those characters who, contradictorily, should defend the right to criticism and dissent, as in the case of Jair Bolsonaro, Andrés Manuel López Obrador or Nayib Bukele.
We will analyze these issues when we present tomorrow the ranking of press freedom by country that is derived from the Chapultepec Index. We will hear why Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela are at the bottom of the table and how Uruguay, Costa Rica and Chile are the countries with the highest level of freedom of expression on our continent. Although the results in the antipodes of the Index are predictable, we will be surprised by the positions and changes that are experienced in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Peru or the Dominican Republic.
As you know, measuring freedom of the press and reporting violations is the lifeblood that has run through the veins of this institution in its 80 years of life. That is why I am proud to tell you that we are creating a new measurement tool through artificial intelligence that will allow us to monitor the climate of press freedom in real time and put it in context. The use of new technologies will allow us to be more efficient with our mission, as highlighted by our Declaration of Salta.
Beyond these problems external to journalism, I want to place special emphasis on the value of our profession and the revaluation of the media. Many of the award categories that we have awarded this year recognized the collaborative work of Newsrooms in many countries, the result of which was high-quality content and more investigative journalism. One is filled with optimism when one sees journalistic collaboration at its finest in the investigations that gave birth to the Pandora Papers, published and worked on by many of our partners.
In this way, the public is revaluing the role of the media. How journalism is battling misinformation, conspiracy theories, whether it be about vaccination or to defeat the fake news infodemic.
Nor do I want to omit the serious risk that affects the media due to the economic ravages of the pandemic. This has exacerbated the economic crisis that we had been dragging on in the industry and there are many media that could not survive. Many communities were left without news media to informe them and it is evident that with this democracy lost a fundamental pillar.
In this assembly we will pay special interest to the issue of media sustainability. We have looked for many paths, but we are convinced of an important step that we have taken, leading a score of regional and international media associations to demand that the large digital platforms reward the media in a "fair and reasonable" way for their use and use. distribution of news content.
We will continue promoting this issue and we will continue to analyze how this has been achieved in Australia, in Europe and what media associations are looking for in the US and Canada. We will pay special attention to the US Congress that asked the Copyright Office for a study on "ancillary copyrights" to assess whether it is necessary to legislate on special protections for the media, following the implementation of those protections in the European Union that favor publishers over the use of their content by third parties.
We believe that the associations, on behalf of our partners, can help in finding solutions whether they are configured in agreements of parties between media and platforms or through legislative solutions. There is no single path and, as an association, we are trying to identify the best avenues for negotiation. Copyright or intellectual property, that is, the contents of the media must be respected.
Our request is not arbitrary or capricious. Digital platforms earn a lot of money through advertising that they use to distribute the news content they offer for free. We understand that various platforms, such as Google, offer payment programs for media content, but these are still not adequate, universal or plural.
We also consider that the platforms are not being transparent in terms of advertising, their income, and algorithms, which puts the media at a serious disadvantage.
We are sure that digital platforms will understand that, in part, they are responsible for the fragility of the media industry. And we are sure that they will understand that there can be no true democracy without sustainable means. Without sustainability, the media cannot be free and independent, two fundamental values in democracy.
We certainly have a lot of work to do and our commitment to press freedom and media sustainability is unwavering and long-term. I repeat, our institution is 80 years old and I believe that, with our current struggle, we are honoring the founders and first fighters of this organization who always had press freedom as a fundamental premise of democracy.