It is essential that the battle to stop journalists’ murders and end impunity have a common cause and group identity that will serve as a symbol of unification, such as has occurred in other social causes—the fight against AIDS, breast cancer, or global warming, among others.
In my 15 years
working at the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) and on its Impunity
Project, which was launched in 1995, I have experienced a great deal of
frustration and despair. Not only because of all the violence and the 385
murders of journalists IAPA counts across Latin America in the last two
decades, intensified by the absence of justice in these cases, but also because
of the lack of training and professionalism and the negligence of some media
outlets and journalists. Journalists in
I see legislators, judges, and other state authorities as being relatively open to the influence and pressure of international groups. However, national public opinion can exert the greatest pressure on a government when it is exercised efficiently by a strong news media and press associations that are able to “sell” an idea. There are numerous examples of institutional strength and leadership in our countries for causes on behalf of freedom of the press: the Foundation for the Press Freedom (FLIP) and Andiarios in Colombia, the Association of Argentine Press Companies (ADEPA) and the Forum of Argentine Journalism (FOPEA) in Argentina, Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPyS) and the Peruvian Press Council in Peru, to name just a few groups.
I believe that
in countries where this unity, solidarity, and corporate sense are lacking, as
Nor is it a question of eliminating international influence and support. The need will always remain for the diverse and independent perspectives of international associations that contribute by monitoring, investigating, training, mounting awareness campaigns, creating solidarity, and placing problems before supra-governmental bodies such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. All this is needed and complementary.
My experience in Mexico with the IAPA, after more than a dozen regional meetings among editors, publishers and reporters, and many forums and training seminars, plus constant monitoring and investigating, has proven to me that conditions are present to achieve the major goals. In the media and among journalists, there is awareness of the weaknesses and the strengths of the profession, both on the labor front with salaries and ethics. There is also awareness of the shortcomings of the government in the administration of justice, combating crime, and protecting freedom of expression. That is the diagnosis.
But what is needed now more than a diagnosis is a common strategy of loyalty to the profession and public awareness of the need to safeguard freedom of expression. We need to seek concrete alternatives when confronted by self-censorship and organized crime.
national or regional efforts, and in an attempt to round out an idea at this
2010 Global Impunity Summit organized by the Committee to Protect Journalists
Ricardo Trotti is press freedom director and Press Institute director of the Inter-American Press Association.