Michael Greenspon - Inauguration


79th IAPA General Assembly, November 9 - 12, 2023, Mexico City, Mexico


Remarks by IAPA President

Michael Greenspon (NYT)

Inauguration of the 79th IAPA General Assembly

November 9, 2023

Good afternoon; before officially beginning this inauguration, I want to tell you that at this inaugural table, we feel incomplete.

As is the IAPA's custom, at each general assembly, we invite the presidents of the countries we visit, even those that do not respect freedom of the press or do not have good relations with the media and independent journalists.

Of the 79 general assemblies, in 90% of the cases, the presidents attended, even those we held here in Mexico in the past.

This time, we are surprised that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has not accepted our invitation and that the Government has not sent any representative to express his ideas or his criticisms and claims. It was the most appropriate time to do so, in an assembly where debate can be held. We know that the president has a different style of communication with journalists.

We also invited, but without luck, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Alicia Bárcena.

We have also invited precandidate Claudia Sheinbaum, who has declined our invitation to express her ideas on press freedom in the future.

We regret the Mexican Government's attitude. I said that we feel incomplete at this table, but I also want to tell you that we think it strengthened our conviction of the importance of freedom of the press and the debate of ideas in democracy. Not recognizing the value of press freedom is underestimating the value of democracy.

It is an IAPA honor to meet in Mexico just a few months before the 30th anniversary of our Chapultepec Declaration, inspired by this country and drafted in the emblematic Chapultepec Castle. Many of you were present in March 1994 at that event, which brought together more than 120 opinion leaders, including Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz, and was led by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, the former secretary general of the United Nations.

Pérez de Cuéllar then said a phrase that is still valid after 30 years: "The future of the Americas faces an enormous challenge, the defense and promotion of freedom of expression as a vehicle for the defense and promotion of democracy."

The Declaration of Chapultepec guided us to make our work more concrete, raise awareness, and promote freedom of the press as a fundamental value of democracy. We organized international events with legislators, magistrates, and academics, and I can say that the IAPA strengthened and better focused its struggle with the ten principles contained in the Declaration. It also helped us so that the leaders of the last 30 years committed themselves to respect press freedom, although we know that not all signatories fulfilled their obligations. Today, we will be honored to have presidential pre-candidates Claudia Sheinbaum and Xóchitl Gálvez sign Chapultepec. And we hope the next government will respect press freedom more than the current one.

There is another milestone at this Assembly. It is the fifth anniversary of our Salta Declaration since we adopted it at the 2018 assembly in Salta, Argentina. We had the vision then that the internet and new communication technologies forced us to update our stance on freedom of the press and expression. After a long journey of more than a year, during the presidency of Gustavo Mohme, consulting more than a hundred legal, academic, technological, and journalistic representatives, we conceived the 13 principles of the Salta Declaration as another tool to achieve greater efficiency in the defense and promotion of freedom of expression in the digital ecosystem.

Weeks ago, and in this Assembly, we began a process of updating the Salta Declaration to incorporate the recent and new challenges brought by AI, new technologies, and regulations that are being implemented globally, understanding that some of them move away from preserving freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

I also invite this Assembly to focus on the challenges of safeguarding press freedom. Since our last meeting in April, crimes against journalists continue to be the main scourge: Eight journalists have been murdered, four in this country, two in Guatemala, one in Colombia, and another in Haiti.

We must also claim that journalists Victor Ticay in Nicaragua and Lazaro Valle Roca in Cuba are still imprisoned. Precisely, these two countries, in addition to Venezuela, as we will see tomorrow in the results of the Chapultepec Index, continue to be at the bottom of the barometer as they have been for four years. With the judicial announcement in Guatemala, we are hopeful that a new trial will begin against José Rubén Zamora, who remains unjustly imprisoned in retaliation for his denunciations of corruption. To have visited José Rubén in jail to show our solidarity and express to him that we would never give up on his case was one of the most powerful experiences I have had this year as president of the IAPA.

And, in this sense, beyond continuing to demand the release of journalist Evan Gershkovich, Wall Street Journal correspondent, in Russia, we express our solidarity with the families and colleagues of the dozens of journalists killed in the Russia-Ukraine and Hamas-Israel wars.

I want to highlight our satisfaction that the Nicaraguan regime has released three journalists, two of them IAPA directors, Juan Lorenzo Holmann, Miguel Mora, and Miguel Mendoza. However, it is a bittersweet victory since they and other journalists are in exile as expatriates after being stripped of their nationality and having their property and assets stolen by the government. We are also pleased that journalist Roland Carreño of Venezuela was released two weeks ago.

Regarding violence and persecution against journalists, I would like to point out that many journalists had to go into exile, mainly from Cuba, Nicaragua, and especially from Ecuador, after the murder of journalist and presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio. Violence and disinformation during election campaigns will be topics we will hear about in panels and press freedom reports.

In this political context of polarization that becomes more acute during electoral campaigns, we cannot fail to raise our voices to denounce the stigmatization of the leaders of countries, as commonly occurs in this country, in El Salvador, Bolivia, Colombia, and Venezuela, as well as the mistreatment of journalists during their coverage of the social protests, they cover.

Also, in this Assembly, we will hear positive points regarding freedom of the press. Such as a protection law for journalists that is being approved in Chile, a court order in Colombia to protect women journalists from violence, and the sentence of the Constitutional Chamber of Costa Rica that condemned the stigmatization of President Rodrigo Chaves against media and journalists.

The crisis affecting our industry and the information deserts it generates continues to be a cause for alarm. Starting this morning with Alberto Ibargüen and during this Assembly, we will see the importance of strengthening local journalism to sustain democracy. Also, we will see how the media and organizations generate new income forms to change the traditional business model based on advertising revenues.

I am delighted that after arduous and lengthy negotiations with Google, we reached a formal agreement in August 2022 in Miami, which allowed us to relaunch our alliance and continue working for the sustainability of the media, whether they are IAPA members or not.

The concrete achievements are there for all to see, even though we continue to call on Google to expand content licensing programs in Latin America, such as the Showcase program. We continue to support News Media Canada and hope the already approved Online News Act and the News Media Alliance with the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act will be implemented.

Both pieces of legislation will be important in pushing platforms to pay a fair and reasonable price for the journalistic content they distribute, as we have been fighting for since 2021.

I was saying that I am satisfied with Google because of the agreement that crystallized this year, and we hope it will continue in the future; it included an institutional sponsorship and additional funds with which we created the Enhanced Fundamentals Lab and another for a press freedom program with our project Redacciones + Seguras ("Safer Newsrooms"), which will begin in this Assembly, on Saturday, to help 15 media in the interior of Mexico to create their security protocols and prevent violence.

The Lab includes 80 Latin American media. It started with 40 from Central America and the Caribbean and, in early 2024, will continue in South America with 40 more. It is aimed at media that do not yet benefit from other Google programs, such as Showcase. Each Lab is a semester-long, and at the end of the courses, each participating media outlet can apply for funding to solve specific problems in their operations for up to US$20,000 each.

It has also been a busy year for strengthening media and journalism. The return of the SIPConnect conference in Miami was received with great enthusiasm. We co-organized the World Summit on Disinformation for the third consecutive year with participants from 52 countries.

In addition, we had 120 participants in four university diploma courses on Journalism and Freedom of Expression, and our webinar program reached more than a thousand participants. We maintained several campaigns favoring press freedom and media sustainability on YouTube and other social media.

As we have already announced, at the end of this General Assembly on Sunday, we will have a new IAPA president and a new executive director, Carlos Lauría. I am confident that Carlos' professional experience combines perfectly with our mission to promote and defend press freedom. His sensitivity to journalism and the media brings us a new vision to help us weather the crisis our industry is going through.

Choosing Carlos was not easy for the Transition Subcommittee I created last year in Madrid when Ricardo officially told us that he would retire this coming December 31. I want to emphasize that we organized the process without spending money on a headhunter company. We announced the search on April 17 through Indeed with the support of New York Times staff and through our Board of Directors and IAPA partners.

After three months of receiving and screening candidates, we arrived in mid-August with four finalists out of 107 applicants, 38 women and 69 men, from 18 countries, mainly from the U.S. and Latin America, but also from distant countries such as Ireland and Germany.

I want to thank the members of the subcommittee for their excellent work. In June, the Executive Committee members helped us narrow the list of 30 pre-finalists to 11. We conducted over 100 personal interviews from there—the first 11 pre-finalists and the four finalists. Finally, in mid-August, Carlos was chosen. As of September 1, he joined our office to work with Ricardo and gain experience managing IAPA affairs for when he takes office next Sunday.

Finally, I would like to dedicate this Assembly to all the media and IAPA members who daily offer their voluntary work with effort and money to fulfill our mission to defend press freedom. Our IAPA office did an excellent job in compiling the work and actions of the organization's members.

During this year, 436 people dispensed a total of 4,153 hours of work in all IAPA tasks, from vice presidents writing reports, experts for the Chapultepec Index, members who worked in committees such as Awards, Scholarships or New Members, lecturers and experts in our activities and the authorities who helped me lead this organization.

I want to thank all of you for your work, solidarity, and vision that democracy is inconceivable without journalism and freedom of the press.

Thank you