Jorge Canahuati - Inauguration of the 78th IAPA General Assembly


78th General Assembly

October 27 – 30, 2022

Madrid, Spain


Welcome everyone. First of all, I would like to thank all those who have traveled from all corners of the Americas and Spain to attend this assembly.

My special thanks to Gabriela Cañas, president of Agencia EFE, for her support in this assembly. And to José Manuel Albares, Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation of Spain and Tawfik Jelassi, Assistant Director General of UNESCO for joining this event with their messages.

Who would have said that when we said goodbye at the October 2019 assembly in Miami we would not see each other until today - three years later? There is no doubt that the pandemic wreaked havoc on humanity and has changed our habits and ways of life.

What it has not been able to change is our resilience as an organization. Our will and mission to defend press freedom has not budged one iota; it has remained at the heart of this organization. We have continued to confront the problems of press freedom and to address the greatest challenge of our industry: the sustainability of the media and the support of local journalism.

I would like to open this Assembly by acknowledging that here in Spain we can feel the challenging global environment in which we live - due in large part to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and its consequences, and to the economic recession that deepened in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Both crises, intertwined, have also been and are sources of disinformation, propaganda and violence. But, above all, they underline the renewed importance of our profession. Free, independent and quality journalism continues to be the most reliable lifeline for democracy and the common good.

We must continue working to neutralize authoritarian rulers, corrupt officials, the terrorism of organized crime and the abuse of power groups.

Violence remains one of the most difficult challenges in our industry. Few countries are left out of this madness. In this semester 24 were murdered in Mexico, and the rest in Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, USA, Haiti, Honduras and Paraguay. And if we count since our last assembly in October 2021, that is in the last 12 months, 39 journalists have been murdered.

If we consider that drug trafficking continues to extend its tentacles in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela and Central America, we should think about demanding that governments create more protection systems for journalists.

One of the biggest problems in Latin America is the co-optation of the Judiciary by governments. This is demonstrated by the confiscation of media such as El Nacional in Venezuela or La Prensa in Nicaragua. In Venezuela more than 300 media were closed by the government in the last decade. In Guatemala we have a media director in prison, José Rubén Zamora, and in Nicaragua six - among them our regional vice-president and general manager of La Prensa, Lorenzo Holmann. His daughter, Renata, is with us and tomorrow we will hear her testimony. These two countries, together with Cuba, as we will see tomorrow in the new Chapultepec Index ranking, have become major exporters of journalists in exile.

In our Nicaragua Declaration - which we signed in April along with some 20 other institutions - we told national governments and multilateral organizations that they must do more to put pressure on Daniel Ortega's dictatorship to restore democracy.

In addition to the difficulties faced by free journalism, it is also necessary to highlight the weak economic situation and the sustainability of the media - another serious problem that severely affects press freedom. All of us - those on this side of the ocean and those on the other - have witnessed the reduction of advertising revenues.

We can be self-critical and say that not all media were able to embrace the digital transformation in time. But we cannot ignore the fact that the big digital platforms have absorbed a high percentage of digital advertising. Part of their economic success comes from the free use of journalistic content to the detriment of our industry.

That is why, since last year - and together with a working group made up of more than 20 organizations from the Americas and Europe - we have been insisting that digital platforms pay the media a fair and reasonable remuneration for the journalistic content they distribute and monetize.

We are more optimistic now than we were in 2018 with our Salta Declaration - which included this issue in Principle 12. In 2019 the European Union dictated the Copyright Directive and little by little it has been taking hold in various countries - so that public policies can be created with the aim of making platforms pay for the use of content and to be responsible for the circulation of content protected under copyright.

This year, the European Parliament also approved the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act - regulations that seek to regulate and limit digital platforms with considerable fines on their global turnover. The Digital Services Act - among other things - promotes transparency and accountability, forcing platforms to show their content moderation rules and indexing systems. And the Digital Markets Act limits market power and targets the dominant position of large platforms.

Another important precedent is the News Media Bargaining Code created in 2021 in Australia - which forced Google and Facebook to pay media for their content.

The same is happening in Canada since last April when the government presented to Parliament a law similar to the Australian one - although with more transparency requirements on the amounts that the platforms must pay to the media. And a couple of weeks ago, in the U.S., Republican and Democratic senators reached an agreement to support the "Competition and Preservation of Journalism Act" - a bill which would allow news publishers to negotiate collectively with technology companies.

We also know that a new bill is moving forward in Brazil on these issues.

Legislation can be good because it addresses the relationship between media and platforms in the long term. But we are aware that it may not be the most appropriate response in all countries. That is why we have welcomed the different programs that the platforms have - as is the case of Google's Showcase that has just opened in this country and about which we will hear on Saturday, with examples from Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico - where it also exists.

Beyond the benefits for the media, we have repeatedly told Google executives that Showcase, Discover and Webstores and digital transformation programs are good programs, but they are not enough and do not address the root problems that the platforms have created for the media.

That is why we will continue to demand our copyrights, respect for intellectual property, and for the big technology companies to pay for the use of our content - which generates huge profits. Just as the media cannot evade their legal responsibilities to pay salaries, labor benefits and taxes, the platforms must also assume their responsibilities.

At IAPA and in the Working Group we are willing to explore different alternatives to correct this imbalance - either through better agreements between media and platforms or through the regulatory framework. We are open to negotiations, but with the understanding that the media have the right to receive a fair and reasonable, universal and equitable remuneration for the use of their content.

The disappearance of media outlets because they cannot sustain themselves and the proliferation of information deserts that leave many of our countries' populations without access to news is a serious problem. Without sustainability, the media cannot be free and independent - two fundamental values for democracy.

And as long as there are no public policies to preserve local journalism, so that it can compete with the big platforms in terms of audience, advertising and transparency, the media must speed up their creativity to find ways of monetization... always with independence.

In this assembly this morning we have heard some of that creativity and many examples of media reinvention. Through Sunday we will continue to hear formulas, success stories and new forms of experimentation. No one has found the silver bullet yet and perhaps no one ever will.

But that does not mean that this industry - as it has done so many times throughout history - will not bounce back from the challenges of the present. The past and the future demand that journalism is called to be the cornerstone of our societies. Without free and independent journalism, societies will never be able to develop their full potential.

Thank you very much.