Message from the President of the IAPA - World Press Freedom Day*


Michael Greenspon, Global Head of Licensing & Print Innovation for the New York Times

Miami (May 2, 2023) - A few days ago, we concluded the midyear meeting of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) with an emphasis on the hard loss of democratic spaces in the Americas due to the unfavorable climate for freedom of expression and press freedom.

The balance is not very encouraging. In the last six months, ten journalists were murdered, five in Haiti and others in Colombia, the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, and Paraguay.

Simply covering the news has become a risky activity. Our country-by-country reports recorded hundreds of attacks against journalists due, in many cases, to the general climate of public insecurity, police violence during the coverage of public demonstrations, and due to the advance of drug trafficking in countries such as Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti, Mexico, and Paraguay.

This harsh climate also affected dozens of media outlets that suffered attacks, as happened in Ecuador, where unknown individuals sent pen drives with explosives to newsrooms. Although many attacks came from organized crime gangs, the states were also responsible for the violence. The government closed eighty radio stations in Venezuela, the Nicaraguan regime continued confiscating media outlets, and the digital newspaper El Faro moved its offices to Costa Rica to avoid government persecution in El Salvador. The governments of Cuba and Venezuela continued to block the digital sites of national and foreign media.

Fifty journalists from Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua were forced to leave the country. At the same time, three remain imprisoned, among them José Rubén Zamora, president of elPeriódico in Guatemala and reporter Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca and influencer Sulmira Martínez from Cuba. In the face of forced exile and imprisonment, it seems senseless that the Cuban government prohibits nine independent journalists from leaving the country.

Women journalists have been the victims of cyber-attacks and stigmatization in numerous countries. In addition, reporters from El Salvador and Mexico were victims of cyber espionage. Many presidents continued to use the public platform to discredit and undermine the media's and journalists' credibility, including those of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, and Paraguay.

In security, we highlighted positive intentions to install official protection systems in Chile and Paraguay, which we hope will encourage other regional governments. Guaranteeing the exercise of freedom of the press, and creating or reinforcing prevention and protection mechanisms, is crucial so journalists and the media can carry out their oversight work without fearing for their safety and self-censorship. We also advocated that these protection systems be backed by public policies that help reduce impunity.

We also highlighted the governmental opacity experienced in almost all the region's countries, including the most democratic ones, such as Canada, the United States, Panama, and Puerto Rico, where governments violate the laws on access to public information and transparency.

Also, on this World Press Freedom Day, I highlight the precarious sustainability and viability of the region's media. Many have had to suspend their operations, creating severe consequences for our democracies. Therefore, journalism's sustainability is an open debate and a pending issue that governments, digital platforms, the press, and civil society organizations must take on.

It is impossible to sustain democracy without the proper freedom and protection that journalists and media need to work and without the economic health that the new digital ecosystem requires.

*World Press Freedom Day, celebrated on May 3, was established to commemorate the Declaration of Windhoek. This document 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 defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications from the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.