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May 09 , 2011

The Inter American Press Association

Its Fight for Freedom of the Press, 1926–1960


The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) has been a pioneer in the concept of an inter-American professional, independent, and self-sufficient pressure group that acts on its own initiative and subsists on its own resources. This study first traces the development of IAPA from the initial meeting in 1926 through the mid-1940’s, when a small group of dedicated Latin American and United States journalists began the fight to wrest the IAPA from the control of government lackeys and Communist agents. Previously scarce accounts of the early annual meetings, often noisy and disorganized and sometimes violent, give the reader an insight into the problems and animosities faced by the democratically oriented members.Mary A. Gardner then describes a reorganization in 1950, after which IAPA actively fought for the freedom of newspaper workers tyrannized by Latin American dictators, such as Argentina’s Perón, Colombia’s Rojas Pinilla, Cuba’s Batista, and the Dominican Republic’s Trujillo. Even while IAPA was fighting for freedom of the press it began several services for its member newspapers: It set up a circulation auditing service, created a scholarship fund, undertook a newsprint study, and established a technical center. It also began the administration of the Mergenthaler Awards—prizes awarded yearly to outstanding Latin American journalists.Gardner also analyzes the merits of IAPA, basing her conclusions on data obtained from her own observations, from letters written by others long associated with operations of the organization, and from interviews with Latin American and North American journalists. She concludes that IAPA apparently surmounted the barriers of nationalism, of cultural and political differences, and of personal prejudices, thus succeeding in its attempt to unite its members in the fight for freedom of the press and for the propagation of democracy in the hemisphere.
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