By Vishani Ragobeer in Los Angeles
The Organization of American States (OAS), the regional bloc comprising countries in the Americas including Guyana, is hoping to counter attacks against journalists in the region by providing support through a new centre for media integrity.
Secretary-General of the OAS, Luis Almagro, during a media summit held at the sidelines of the ongoing IX Summit of the Americas on Tuesday, announced the establishment of the centre.
“Definitely in this hemisphere today, this is most relevant,” the OAS Head told a gathering of journalists and civil society representatives in Los Angeles, California.
One of the primary reasons driving the establishment of the centre, he explained, is because the Latin America and Caribbean region is among the world’s deadliest regions for journalists.
According to data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), there have been reports of 17 journalists killed in the first five months of this year. Of that number, 10 were from Mexico.
The UN reported that in 2021, most journalists’ deaths were recorded in the Asia-Pacific region (23 killings), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (14 killings).
Almagro acknowledged that journalists are crucial to democratic societies, and are essential in disseminating information to the public. Independent journalism, he said, must be promoted.
But how exactly does the OAS intend on protecting journalists through this centre?
The OAS Secretary General conceded that the centre will not provide security for journalists – at least not yet. What the centre will do, in the initial stages, is provide visibility to journalists and the work they do.
The centre will be funded by voluntary contributions and will initially fall under the purview of the OAS Secretariat. Eventually, however, Almagro related that it will be transitioned to a not-for-profit, independent organisation.
The first set of initiatives from the centre will include recurring journalism and social media seminars and an annual awards ceremony. The centre’s first Executive Director will be Former United States (US) Ambassador to Panama John Feeley.
Feeley, who engaged with journalists on Tuesday, noted that the centre is meant to promote “good investigative journalism.”
He also highlighted that about 25 distinguished journalists will comprise the centre’s Board of Advisors. These individuals, he said, will be supporting the centre’s work pro bono.