Acceptance speech by IAPA President, Roberto Rock


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


November 12, 2023

Fellow members of the Inter American Press Association; ladies and gentlemen of the Board of Directors; friends:

I always liked the practice observed in the United States of keeping the president's treatment to all those who had such a function as a sign of respect for their service and legacy. I would therefore like to thank the man whom, as in other cases, I will continue to call President Michael Greenspon, for his contributions to the IAPA, his leadership, his empathy, and his courteous resolve in a complex period for the institution, a reflection of the challenges facing journalism and the media industry, which our organization serves at all times, under all circumstances, to the limits of its capabilities.

Michael, on behalf of us from all over the continent, we express the best word ever created: Thank you. You can say: Mission accomplished.

My first thought in writing this message paused at relevant men and women in the history of the IAPA. They have been giants in the trajectory of our institution for their commitment, courage, and convictions.

I cannot fail to mention Ed Seaton, Danilo Arbilla, Tony Pederson, Alberto Ibarguen and Raúl Kraiselburd, Diana Daniels, and María Elvira Domínguez, among many others, for their generosity, their simplicity, and their unconditional dedication to the ideals of the IAPA. I always admired the courage and strength of Claudio Paolillo, whose untimely death almost six years ago stripped us of what would indeed have been a formidable IAPA president.

They say that Texas ranchers, proud of their great prairies, should go to Australia to learn humility. Something like that happens in IAPA, where we are all equal and have a space for participation. Tell that to me, the second IAPA president to emerge from a digital native project in the organization's history. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your trust.

I arrived at IAPA almost 27 years ago, barely a blink of an eye compared to those whose trajectory here is measured not in decades but in generations. I arrived in search of support for the newspaper for which I was the editor-in-chief, El Universal, my home for many years, subject to political and fiscal harassment.

I joined the IAPA in the arms of two admirable characters whose friendship I treasure. One of them was Danilo Arbilla, who was present at the roll call because of his courage because he knew he was indispensable to us. And also, I am sure, because the love of Alma and María gives him the energy of a youngster.

Ricardo Trotti opened the door for me, led me through the corridors of the IAPA, and, together with many of you, made me give another meaning to my career in journalism.

I could add much to what has been said about Ricardo these days; I could embrace him now. But, as you know, he is easily moved to tears, and, as Benedetti says, nostalgia is contagious.

In my first act as president of the IAPA, I want to request Carlos Lauría, the new executive director - himself an exemplary professional whom I have respected for decades. I ask Carlos to talk to Ricardo in search of a collaboration agreement as a close consultant since I consider it necessary to continue counting on his valuable support.

An agreement in that sense would have to be endorsed by the Executive Committee, brilliantly led by Gabriela Vivanco, whom I also ask for help. But I beg Graciela, Ricardo's lovely wife, children, and grandchildren, to lend Ricardo to us for a bit longer, knowing they are lending him to the battle for journalism and freedom.

In recent weeks, I have consulted with many IAPA colleagues regarding the responsibility of this task that you have assigned me. I have done so, especially with former presidents and our first vice president, José Roberto Dutriz. I have only found solidarity and agreement on the essentials.

Considering this, I wish to present essential adjustments to our committee structure and lines of work. I thank those who have agreed to participate in this stage, aware that this will require an additional effort from all of us and undoubtedly some expenses from our peculium. It will also take time away from our professional duties and families as if we don't already do that enough.

Some of these initiatives will likely cause concern among some of our members. The Executive Committee is the critical space to relieve them without ruling out some other forum that could help enrich these proposals. They are motivated only by the desire to place the vigor of press freedom, the sustainability of the newspaper industry, and strengthening the IAPA at the center of our work.

Even if I had to express it in a few words, I would have to open several chapters in this proposal. But the essential one is the need for the IAPA to deepen its key, primary battle, its central vector, in favor of freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the Americas and beyond because the dangers gripping us do not recognize borders or continents. Let our voice be heard louder, in more places, with more urgency, with all the allies we can find.

That includes giving greater attention to journalism that lives on in nations under dictatorships or hostile regimes and is carried out in exile. It is also essential to understand the challenge for journalism to cover the phenomenon of migration, unprecedented in its current proportions, with a humanist and democratic perspective.

All this requires more missions, events, and conferences, with more members, alone or in conjunction with partner organizations. Strengthen and, in some cases, reactivate our regional vice-presidencies. More complaints to authorities, more follow-up on issues of murdered journalists. More files were presented before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and other international forums.

It also implies understanding that the attacks against journalism show a cruel side against women journalists, only and solely because of their gender condition. Either when an attempt is made on their lives or when they are virtually assassinated through social networks. Also, it must be said that in our newsrooms, there are no codes against sexual or labor harassment, nor enough opportunities and spaces for professional development.

I must anticipate that such an approach will require more human resources under the coordination of our Executive Directorate, with specialization in the areas of donations, organization of events, or administration, among others, to complement the admirable effort currently being made by the Press Institute, which is efficiently led by our friend Ernesto Kraiselburd -from whom we will need much, much help- and the formidable team of our office in Miami.

On all these fronts of the battle for freedom, I find the same questions for all of us:

If we do not do it, who?

If we do not do it now, when?

The next chapter of this proposal is the need to create new concrete working commissions aimed at the sustainability of the newspaper industry. Their first task would be to define the space that the IAPA should have in this field. In my opinion, by deploying more significant support in more vulnerable countries to smaller companies, whether or not they are IAPA members. Even projects of collectives in democracies under harassment continue to use the tool of journalism. The initial task of these new committees should be to define the IAPA's space in this route. Not necessarily to replicate what WAN, INMA, or GDA already do. But perhaps by having an alliance with them. In today's world and economy, alliance is the name of the game. It must include the most extraordinary possible solidarity in favor of smaller media, on the part of our partners, of large media in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, or Chile.

IAPA members must express the first step in this solidarity by being members and committing to greater participation, and singularly, bringing the new generations of its media closer to the IAPA. Those who will inherit our media require two incentives to do well: the first is to love journalism; the second is to understand the value of free journalism for a sustainable business, and vice versa.

The adversaries of freedom align with the same discourse, the same narrative. The dangers to the livelihood of free journalism are familiar to us all. So, I complement today's questions to you:

If we do not do it, unite ourselves, arm in arm, in alliance with others, and build a common front. If we do not do it this way, then how?

From these concepts that I seek to share here, with this road map, the new presidency of the Inter American Press Association proposes the following appointments:

1.- Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information. Carlos Jornet (La Voz del Interior, Córdoba, Argentina) is ratified.

a) To appoint the following Sub-Committees presidents:

-Impunity: Andrea Miranda (El Debate, Mexico).

- Chapultepec, which will merge with the Salta Commission to present IAPA values. Chair: Nuria Piera (N Digital, Dominican Republic).

b) We are already working with the president of the committee, Carlos Jornet, to develop a strategy to emphasize the relevance of the regional vice-presidencies in the IAPA's work to enable them in the countries of the continent where they are lacking and to renew those that are inactive or inoperative. Also, review the format of their participation in the daily life of our organization and the assemblies.

c) The Sub-Committee of Journalism from Exile was created and will be headed by President Juan Lorenzo Holmann (La Prensa, Nicaragua). Vice-president: Miguel Henrique Otero (El Nacional, Venezuela). Progress is already being made in obtaining funds to hold an international conference on Journalism in Exile in the first half of this year, which will probably be held in San José, Costa Rica.

c) We are also working with the President of the Committee and the Executive Directorate of the IAPA to integrate a line of work that addresses the link between journalism and migration to hold an international conference on this topic in the second semester of this year, probably to be held in Mexico City. There are agreements in principle to receive funds to make this project viable.

2.- The Special Committee on IAPA Challenges was consolidated. Co-chairs: José Roberto Dutriz (La Prensa Gráfica, El Salvador). It is proposed that, with the reservations established by our Bylaws, our president of the Executive Committee, Gabriela Vivanco (La Hora, Quito, Ecuador), be allowed to join the leadership of this committee. Interaction with the Press Institute will also be essential. This Special Commission will maintain close coordination with other new commissions:

(a) Newly created Membership and New Generation Committee. Chair: Silvia Miró Quesada (El Comercio, Peru). The creation of vice-presidencies with regional criteria is foreseen: for the United States and Canada, for Brazil, and the rest of Latin America.

b) Newly created. Events and Sponsorship Committee. President: Laura Puertas (Medcom, Panama). The creation of the chairpersons of the sub-committees on Events and Sponsorships is foreseen.

c) Newly created. Alliances and Associations Committee. Chairman: Daniel Dessein (La Gaceta, Argentina). Vice-Chairman: Werner Ziztmann (AMI, Colombia).

d) Consolidated into one. Finance, Audit, and Investment Committee. Chairperson: Sebastián Pastor (Televicentro, Honduras).

3.- The Special Commission on Sustainability of the Newspaper Industry is established. Co-Chairs: Jorge Canahuati (Grupo Opsa, Honduras) and Luciano Pascoe (TvAzteca, Mexico). This Special Commission will maintain close coordination with two other new commissions:

(a) The Digital Innovation Commission: Chairman: Juan Francisco Ealy Lanz-Duret (El Universal, Mexico). Chairman of the New Ventures Subcommittee: Armando Castilla (Vanguardia, Coahuila, Mexico). The creation of new sub-committee chairs will be proposed.

b) The Editorial Development Committee. Chairman: Andrés Mompotes (El Tiempo, Colombia). The creation of new sub-committee chairpersons shall be proposed.

4.- The mandate of the Executive Committee establishes the Special Committee Salta II and Legal. Co-Chairmen: Gustavo Mohme and Martín Etchevers. It is defined that this committee shall include in its work the president of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Carlos Jornet, and the members of other committees it deems pertinent. Likewise, it shall periodically share with the Executive Committee the progress of its work, which shall result in the publication of a new version of the Salta Declaration during the 2024 Annual Assembly in Córdoba, Argentina.

5.- Awards Committee. Chairperson: María Lorente (AFP Latin America).

6.- The Diversity and Inclusion Committee, with which Michael Greenspon's presidency was inaugurated, is renamed the Gender Equity and Diversity Committee. Chair: Martha Ramos (OEM, Mexico). It is anticipated that chairs for new sub-committees will be created.

Thank you very much.