Friday, 5 November 2010


I have been trapped for three days now, spent in searing temperature in tropical San Domingo at the congress of the Federación de Periodistas de América Latina y el Caribe (FEPALC) – our regional organisation in Latin and Central America – hosted by our local affiliate, the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Prensa (SNTP). My presence at the congress was described by journalists as historic, as it is the first time that an IFJ president participates in the work of the regional congress. It was also a first me, when hurricane Tomas suddenly started battering the Dominican Republic, making the 5th congress of FEPALC a very stormy affair.

Over 30 delegates representing 13 member unions in the region gathered for two days to make policy and make changes to their constitution. But at the heart of this congress were also major issues like the safety of journalists in Mexico and Honduras, momentous struggles of journalists to save their newspapers, such as the fight to keep open Las Nación and save 340 jobs in Chile, the major campaigns for the democratisation of media and the future of journalism in Brasil and Uruguay, and the battle for human rights led by our affiliate in Peru. There were of course differences and passionate debates, but they were all dealt with in a spirit of solidarity and the whole region is getting stronger by the day, determined to play a greater role within the global movement. If anybody thinks that journalism is in its death throes, ask them to come to Latin America to witness the fantastic spirit and militancy of our unions to defend jobs, improve working conditions and fight for quality journalism. The congress was followed by a one-day conference on human rights at the university of San Domingo.

The final session was a moving ceremony last night to launch the first IFJ prize for tolerance in journalism in this region. It reminded me how in Europe in particular, growing intolerance and an increase in racism are adding pressure on journalists in their portrayal of minorities and the dreadful media campaigns against asylum seekers and muslims. Here the unions have decided to put at the heart of their activities support for those journalists prepared to challenge misconceptions and discrimination, and are engaging in promoting better understanding of ethnic, religious and other cultural differences. Humberto Padgett (México), Luis Romero (Panamá), George Rodrigues and Celso Cavalcanti (Brasil, in picture) were the winners.

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