Elizabeth Ballantine


Ladies and Gentlemen, journalists, members of the Inter American Press Associations, guests and friends.

 It is special honor for me to achieve this podium in the wake of many legendary leaders of the newspaper industry on freedom of the press. My great grandfather purchased an ailing newspaper in the state of Iowa in 1907. The Des Moines Register  later became a leading US newspaper, at one stage second only to The New York Times  in wining Pulitzer prizes, mostly for its internationalist agricultural coverage. My parents  purchased two small newspapers in Durango in 1952. We grew up in the shadow of  larger city newspapers but were immersed in the same topics in a small town of 10,000 people. My brother Richard, who is here today with his wife and two sons, expanded the   business successfully in our generation, winning countless Colorado, regional and one   national journalism award that we are especially proud of , the Sigma Delta Chi award for public   service.  We believe the freedom of the press is vital to our democracy. We hope to live   up to those ideals.   Jim and Susan McClatchy first introduced me and my siblings to IAPA. We were   aware of the rising Hispanic demographic in Colorado and familiar with the Spanish   heritage of the southwestern United States.  Many Hispanic publishers in this   room who we met had fought for free speech principles at great personal expense. The   Miro Quedas, the Mitres, The Kraiselbruds.   And the Americans who supported their ideals, Edward and Karen Seaton, Scott and   Kathryn Schurz,  Bob Cox, Jack Fuller, Bob Rivard.  Milton Coleman, Diana Daniels   (the list goes on) who welcomed and inspired me with their passion and experience. I am   honored to participate in such distinguished company and happy to welcome you to   Denver and the State of Colorado.     We have heard over the last days about the unprecedented threats to press freedoms in our hemisphere, and what IAPA is doing to meet these challenges. Our organization is active, aggressive and making progress in defending our members against increasing government hostility to our mission of serving the public’s right to know. In  the United States,  on the national level we have traditionally enjoyed an unfettered freedom to publish what we want, when we want. During the past half century, we have benefited from U.S. Supreme Court decisions that bolstered our protections against libel, invasion of privacy and prior restraint. Today, there is a very high barrier for anyone who brings a libel claim. Indeed, there have been no major libel judgments in recent memory. Invasion of privacy is a trickier issue, but the media enjoy significant safeguards against lawsuits in that area. And the U.S. Supreme Court has all but declared the government can’t prevent the media from publishing what they know.  As the late Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black famously observed: The First Amendment says Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press, and to me, no law means no law. But, that was before nine-eleven. Today, the greatest threat to press freedom in the United States is centered on the conflict between the media and government as we seek to report new government surveillance programs intended to root out terrorist plots and to report on anti-terror missions conducted by U.S. military and civilian agencies at home and abroad.  We heard the AP story from Gary Pruitt.  And yesterday an important presentation from Glenn Greenwald, a US citizen on the run in Brazil, who is afraid to return to the US. During the Obama administration, we have seen more Justice Department investigations of journalists than all previous administrations combined. Government investigators have subpoenaed our work product, used secret National Security Letters to obtain our phone records without giving us a chance to challenge their action, threatened to jail our reporters for protecting sources and even accused us of criminal action in disclosing what the government wants to keep secret. These government actions against the media are unprecedented in the United States. We heard earlier in this convention from Gary Pruitt, president of the Associated Press, who has called the government's secret seizure of two months of AP reporters' phone records "unconstitutional." Pruitt says it has already had a chilling effect on reporting because sources are more reluctant to talk to reporters for fear of government retribution. In May, IAPA weighed in on this controversy, saying the government’s seizure of the phone records was quote, a serious affront to freedom of information and a violation of the right to keep confidential sources secret, unquote.  We have seen here in Denver a rich and important discussion on this topic. This conversation must continue in the US as we partner with other organization, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists, and will remain a major focus this year. But First Amendment issues are not just at the national level. Our smaller community newspapers must confront a patchwork of state and local laws that frequently involve conflicts over closed meetings and closed records.  Sometimes this in not intentioanal, as government officials are not even aware of import an open-record and open-meeting laws.  We must constantly educate them by asserting our legal rights. Here in Colorado, news organizations such as The Associated Press, the Denver Post and the local television stations went into court earlier this month to keep open the court file for the Aurora theater shooting case. Attorneys for James Holmes have sought to lock up much of the evidence that would help the public understand the case. This highlights two related matters -- news organizations at the local and state level have to team up to fight many of these efforts. And eternal vigilance against government secrecy is a basic fact of life for editors, bureau chiefs and news directors in all 50 states. Another example comes fromHelena, Montana, where Associated Press staffers faced multiple death threats from gunrights advocates this summer after the news organization asked for a list of concealed gun permit holders and the state attorney general denied the request.  That happened despite the list clearly meeting the requirements of a public document under Montana law.  We are regular visitors to the courts and thankfully the law mainly supports our request, but politicians delay and obfuscate and we must remain determined and focused. Let’s turn back to Latin America.   Here are some observations by our freedom of the press chair, Claudio Paolillo.  Violence against   journalists in countries like Mexico, Brazil, Honduras, Colombia,  Guatemala and Peru is on the   rise. Drug cartels are very active in these and other countries and journalists are paying a high   toll. Violence comes along with impunity. Governments are unable to prosecute criminals and to   put them in jail. More than 90% of murders of journalists are not solved.  The combination of   violence and impunity fosters totally understandable self-censorship in  newsrooms. The public is   the final victim.   Second, we have the "democratic dictatorships". That is an obvious contradiction that occurs   when governments elected by the people in free and fair elections start to destroy democracy   from inside once they are in power. They ignore separation of powers, justice independence and,   of course, freedom of the press. They attack the press as "political opposition" and use all   government means to erode its credibility and its economic sustainability. They pass laws and   even entire constitutions to attack the press on behalf of  "truth", "fairness" and "accuracy, but   they remain in control because they are the ones who decide what is "truth", what is "fair" and   what is "accurate". As we have heard during this conference, the governments of Argentina,   Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador are the worst. In Cuba we have the old-fashioned   category of  “plain dictatorship.”   The InterAmerican Press Association has achieved a legendary level of leadership on   these issues. As it now faces the toll of the economic disruption of legacy media companies in   the US and Canada, financial support must shift to Latin American donors. The bitter freedom of   press issues and battle remain unchanging, but the mean of confronting them must be   transformed.   My predecessors, Milton Coleman and Jaime Mantilla, have created a committee to reinvent   IAPA, to preserve its convening power in the Americas and redeploy its mission in the wake of   the loss of historical financial support.. But that line of funding has now ending. President Mantilla,   with the help from Miguel Otero, has launched a program to finance IAPA through the sale of   donated  advertising pages, an optimistic and visionary program that is still   untested.    The IAPA must face challenges of a new economic and social environment, a   younger generation that consumes information differently, and competition from other visionary   and well funded organizations.   In my year as president, a top priority is to continue work on this reinvention. The   strategic planning committee will continue under the able leadership of Maria Elvira Dominguez of   Colombia, co-chaired by Fernan Saguier of Argentina, and members including Jorge Canahuati Larach, of Honduras, Gustavo Mohme, of Peru, Claudio Paolillo of Uruquay, Milton Coleman,   Edward Seaton and Pierre Manigault of the US.     We will not neglect the core values that bring us all together. The Freedom of Press and   Information Committee will continue its dynamic work under the leadership of Claudio Paolillo,   vice chairs Roberto Rock of Mexico and Fernan Molinos of Panama. Bruce Sanford, a   distinguished US First Amendment lawyer, will join as third vice chair, highlighting the importance   of the national security and press problems in the US. Jorge Canahuati Larach will become the   chair of the Executive Committee, and Juan Francisco Ealy Ortiz of Mexico remains as chair of   the Impunity Committee. The admirable work of the Legal Committee will continue under   Asdrubal Aguiar of Venezuela, and Alberto Cardenas of the US.   The New Members Committee will start work under the new leadership of Ed   McCullough, executive at the Associated Press and a veteran Latin America reporter. We hope   that Ed’s enthusiasm and extensive contacts will increase our members throughout the   Americas. Other committees such as fundraising and finance will continue their contribution.   I hope that IAPA representatives from Latin America may return to Colorado to participate   in the state’s Biennial of the Americas, an international gathering of intellectuals, businessmen   and artists from the Americas every two years.  WE have seen the visible evidence of the rising   Hispanic tide here in the US, as demonstrated yesterday by Ken Salazar and Joe Garcia   yesterday.  We must reach out to this Latin diaspora which is poised to affect US politics and   traditions, and which must itself begin to shoulder the mantle of protection of Press Freedom in   the Americas.   In conclusion, I want to thank Julio Munoz, Ricardo Trotti and the IAPA staff, the Host   Committee, a committed group of sponsors, Visit and World Denver, GBSM, for your hard work   and experienced knowledge that made Denver a success. I look forward to reconvening in     Barbados, and anticipate a productive year ahead.   Thank you.