Canahuati: Crisis amplified the media’s contribution to citizenship and democracy

San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

The president of the Inter-American Press Association (SIP) and also Chairman of the OPSA Group, Jorge Canahuati Larach, calls for the maintenance and strengthening of democratic values ​​as societies in the face of a 2021 that will have the slowness of this pandemic year.

In a letter to IAPA members, Canahuati Larach confirms that the crisis it promoted the media’s contribution to the search for truth. Then the letter …

Year-end report from the President of the Inter-American Press Association,
Jorge Canahuati, President of Grupo Opsa,
San Pedro Sula, Honduras

“While all activities and disciplines have been affected by the devastation of the pandemic, as this difficult year draws to a close, I would like to underscore the immeasurable value that independent journalism brings to citizens and democracy. traumatic and difficult times.

The media and professional journalism may not have done anything other than normal, such as seeking the truth, overseeing public and private powers, generating public conversation on decisive issues, and defending the right to freedom of expression. However, the pandemic has amplified these contributions, with audiences turning to the media en masse in search of high quality and reliable information.

Despite this reunification of citizens and media, journalism companies have suffered with all the severity of the Covid-19 attacks, especially as the deflated economy drastically reduced advertising revenues. Many local medium and small media outlets disappeared, denouncing entire communities, which are now more vulnerable to injustice and corruption. Other media had to shrink to face the crisis, weakening its content and its future. And almost everyone had to hurry to invest in business model change to embrace the digital transformation and acquire debt that endangers their present.

This dichotomy, between the value of the media in a democracy and its struggle not to disappear, is one of our priorities. A democratic society prides itself on its strong and independent social institutions and a robust and vigilant press.

When faced with this dilemma, we believe it state They must continue to provide incentives and solutions to all sectors of the economy, including the press, which has been downgraded as an industry in many countries, so that they can continue to strengthen society in times of adversity.

We sent everyone a letter in July and October Governments of Americawhich reads: “In times of crisis and need, independent journalism and professional media are essential for free nations. Ensuring its viability and sustainability is a responsibility of democratic societies. ‘

In this sense, we reiterate our satisfaction to Colombia’s President Iván Duque for being the first US government to include a stimulus package in its budget bill – already approved for 2021 – that includes a post of more than $ 20 million for encouraging digital transformation. strengthening and economic reactivation of the media.

We also reiterate our appreciation for it Radical Change Party of Colombia which, in view of the dire situation of the media, has introduced a law in the National Congress that includes loans, economic and tax incentives with special attention to the regional media. We understand that the Liberal Party, among others, has already approved this initiative, which would be approved during the next parliamentary exercise.

We are convinced that these initiatives of the executive and legislative branches of Colombia, while respecting technical, objective, control and transparency measures and with respect for editorial independence, can be tainted and taken over by other governments in the region who also value the role . considering that professional and independent journalism have for a democratic life.

We believe it is also essential to bring this dialogue closer to multilateral organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank and the Andean Development Corporation, as well as organizations championing democracy and freedom of speech, such as the Organization of States . Americans and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and its Office of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Speech.

Nor do we want to disregard foundations, nongovernmental institutions, and private companies, knowing that freedom of the press, independent press, and democracy are universal rights and duties, as well as mandates, enshrined in nearly all US constitutions.

2021 will have the slowness of this pandemic year. The negative effects will persist or, in many cases, get worse. As societies, we have a responsibility to uphold and strengthen democratic values.

From the IAPA, we will continue to support journalism and our partners with initiatives to support digital development projects, believing that the sustainability and strength of the media is an essential requirement to preserve the public’s right to information. And as always, out of respect for democratic values, we will continue our fierce struggle for the validity of the freedom of the press and freedom of expression to which the Chapultepec and Salta statements commit us.