The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), appreciated the position of President Luis Abinader, on the fundamental role that the press should play in democracy, in a speech delivered yesterday at the National Palace, where he signed the declarations of Chapultepec and Salta.
Abinader proclaimed his firm defense of press freedom and defined independent journalism as “a shield to protect democracy and all freedoms.”
For this reason, the general assembly of members of the IAPA asked its members to publish or broadcast his speech by the president, because “in these critical hours when freedom of the press is vehemently attacked by the public powers of the State, his words should spread attitudes and behaviors to all his colleagues in the Americas ”.
“Free journalism is an essential gear of democratic systems in the same way as the separation of powers, independent justice, or freedom of association” defined President Abinader, after signing the statements of Chapultepec and Salta in the National Palace in Santo Domingo, for which he used a pencil from the Immortal Pencils campaign with which the IAPA seeks to raise awareness of the impunity surrounding crimes against journalists. The ceremony was held yesterday in the last six days of the 76th General Assembly of the IAPA, held virtually.
Below is an extract from the words of the President of the Dominican Republic Luis Rodolfo Abinader Corona during the ceremony held in the presidential palace on October 23, 2020, during the 76th General Assembly of the Inter-American Press Association for the signatures of Chapultepec’s statements and Salta, a rubric he made with a pencil from the Immortal Pencils campaign.
“Today we signed THE DECLARATION OF CHAPULTEPEC, which, as you know, was born in March 1994 in Mexico City, and which brought together political leaders, writers, academics, newspaper directors and citizens from all over America, to draft a document that contains ten principles necessary for a free press to fulfill its essential role in democracy.
As Dominican president I want today, with the solemn signing of this declaration, to commit myself to making our democracy fuller, more transparent, more just and freer.
At present, this Declaration has already been signed by the main heads of state of the countries of the Western Hemisphere and represents a commitment by all because a free press is a fundamental condition for societies to resolve their conflicts, promote well-being and protect their good. most precious: freedom.
In this new 21st century, political openness has gained ground throughout the world. Citizens are more aware of their rights. Periodic elections, democratic governments, parliaments, political parties, unions, associations and social groups of the most varied nature, reflect more than at any other time in our history the aspirations of the global population that aspires to great goals of progress and freedom.
These achievements already arouse optimism, but also advise prudence and observance. The crisis of the institutions, inequalities, backwardness, frustrations turned into intransigence, the search for easy recipes or the misuse of technologies are a constant danger to the progress achieved. They are also potential obstacles to further progress.
Some time ago, when social networks were born and their use became widespread, I heard someone say that the world had changed forever because anyone with a mobile phone with Internet access was a journalist and that the media would not take long in losing their role as instruments for social communication.
Technology was going to allow – as in other areas, such as economics or politics – to put an end to professionalized intermediaries. Everything would be direct and, therefore, better.
And then I thought that this conception was a mistake. There are phenomena as disturbing and dangerous as ‘post-truth’ or ‘fake news‘ so that we are aware that we cannot allow this mistake to go further.
And is that someone with a mobile phone in hand that records the images, or the sound of a certain event is … someone who has a mobile phone. But he is not a journalist who will order the events, he will contrast with all the sources that he can resort to and will contextualize the facts to offer his readers, listeners or viewers that which is at the same time as simple and everyday as complex and important: news .
Free journalism is an essential gear of democratic systems in the same way as is the separation of powers, independent justice, or freedom of association.
Journalism is useful for many things. I especially like the old and endearing definition that said its function is to educate, inform and entertain. But it also serves to guarantee the balance of power that is so necessary in a democracy and that guarantee materializes in criticism.
Power must know that the orderly and reasoned criticism that only the media and journalists can exercise is fundamental, because without it, arbitrariness, injustice and fear would soon arrive.
Abuses of power are not an exclusive feature of authoritarian regimes; they can and do also occur in democracies. It is a rapidly spreading poison with devastating effects. For this reason, the best antidote is the separation of powers and freedom of expression exercised, among other means, by free, professional and quality journalism.
Independent journalism is a shield we can count on to defend ourselves. But there can be no free, professional and independent journalism without free, professional and independent journalists who carry out their work from different and legitimate points of view with honesty and dignity.
For this reason, here I make public my sincere thanks to all the men and women who give their best in a profession so noble and necessary for a quality democracy.
Only through the free expression and circulation of ideas, the search for and dissemination of information, the possibility of inquiring and questioning, of exposing and reacting, of agreeing and disagreeing, is it possible to maintain a free society.
Only through the practice of these principles will it be possible to guarantee citizens their right to receive impartial and timely information.
Only through open discussion and information without barriers will it be possible to find answers to the great collective problems, create consensus, allow development to benefit all sectors, exercise social justice and advance in the achievement of equity.
Without freedom there can be no true order, stability and justice. And without freedom of expression there can be no freedom. Freedom of expression and of searching, disseminating and receiving information may only be exercised if there is freedom of the press.
As this statement that we signed today says: Free press is synonymous with free expression.
Where the media can emerge freely, decide its orientation and the way to serve the public, there also flourish the possibilities of seeking information, of being disseminated without restrictions, of being questioned without fear and of promoting the free exchange of ideas and opinions. But when, under the pretext of whatever objectives, freedom of the press is curtailed, other freedoms disappear.
Our continent is no exception to this evil. There are still countries with despotic governments that deny all freedoms, especially those related to expression. Even criminals, terrorists and drug traffickers threaten, assault and murder journalists, in many cases with absolute impunity. Journalism in Latin America is too often a heroic profession that can be very expensive for those who practice it.
But here today, with this signature, we say to all the citizens of the world that the Dominican Republic chooses side: that of freedom and democracy.
Let me end this intervention with a reflection by the French journalist and novelist, Albert Camus, who said: “a free press can be good or bad, but without freedom, the press will never be anything other than bad.”
Well, let’s be free and exercise that freedom.