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New IAPA head says there can't be a strong democracy without a free press

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

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THE Jamaica Gleaner's Christopher Barnes is the new head of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA).

Barnes was elected Monday at the closing of the association's annual general assembly at The Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, Miami, Florida, United States.

“I am most of all pleased to be the second Jamaican to hold this post, following in the footsteps of past president Hon Oliver F Clarke, who helped to pave the way for our tiny little island nations of the Caribbean who punch way beyond their weight. It was Oliver who introduced me to most of you all, and by your reception of me, and through your sharing of fond memories of him over the years, I know the Caribbean has a home here in IAPA. I take the opportunity to send greetings on his behalf and his regrets for not being able to be here,” Barnes said in his acceptance speech.

IAPA members, he said, have an unrelenting commitment to protect freedom of expression, which is an inalienable, essential right to be enjoyed by all citizens of any country.

But he said, “Regrettably, we, too often these days, have persons in power who seek to challenge this right with actions manifesting in range from creating administrative barriers through to [the] murder of journalists with impunity.

“The Declaration of Chapultepec and the subsequent Salta Declaration guide us in our quest for ensuring transparency in governance, the absence of which often leads to dictatorships and suspension of citizens' rights. We act on behalf of the people. Our work knows no borders and we work tirelessly and unselfishly for even those who do not yet see the value of our organisation,” said Barnes.

He told the assembly that apart from the threat of those who are corrupted by power, press freedom is also under threat from other quarters, including social media and digital media which significantly lowers the barrier to entry for information dissemination, the decline in consumption of traditional media, private sector advertisers who care more about reach and influence than truth, making the threat higher than it has ever been.

But he made it clear that there can be no strong, effective and sustainable democracy in the Americas without a strong and free press.


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