Martha C. Ramos, the new president of the World Editors Forum (WEF) has urged the introduction of national laws and international agreements that guarantee the free exercise of independent professional journalism.
Ramos is the national director of Organización Editorial Mexicana (OEM), the largest Mexican print media company and the largest newspaper company in Latin America. With 35 years in journalism, she has been an active member of the WEF board since 2017 and has contributed to the establishment of the Women in News initiative in LATAM.
Upon taking up her presidency at WEF*, she gave a wide-ranging interview with the Association of Information Media in Spain about issues facing the news industry. She said one potential tool was the will of the industry. Ramos added: … but will alone won’t get you very far. We have to push for national laws and international agreements that guarantee the free exercise of our profession without risking our lives.
‘We in the media have been living through a crisis since the beginning of this century that is becoming increasingly complex. It is the business model crisis, but also the low credibility of readers and, of course, especially after the pandemic, the economic crisis. Journalism is fundamental to the development of a country. We need to work together, to work with various publishing houses on projects that allow us to promote in-depth investigations, but also to finance initiatives that bring us closer to the public.
On issues of inequality in the industry, she continued: ‘We must insist again and again on the need to integrate women at all levels of operation, I would say, in the same proportion as there are women in the society we serve. In Mexico we are 52% of the population. Among media, according to data just revealed by the Reuters Institute, only 5% have women in managerial positions. We, the media, bring into the formula more complex elements, such as journalistic ethics, competition rules, data verification, exclusivity and language management.’
Highlighting the threats to journalism and journalists in Mexico, Ramos said: ‘The biggest problem, which we have clearly identified, is impunity. More than 95% of the cases of journalists murdered in Mexico go unpunished. We may find out who pulled the trigger, but not who ordered it. We assume that we are not just talking about organised crime, but people in government at all levels. But we assume. If killing a journalist is of no consequence, it is a cheaper solution than trying to dialogue with him or even trying to corrupt him.
‘Fighting impunity is the first big step in overcoming this terrible trend. In Mexico the numbers are alarming, but sadly the level of impunity in the rest of Latin America does not vary much. And now a toxic factor has been added, such as the discourse from the highest levels of government, beating, insulting, demeaning and accusing journalists and the media. In our region, in the last couple of years, we have not only seen murders, but we have seen the destruction of entire businesses, seizure of assets, imprisonment, expulsion and even the withdrawal of their nationality.’
*The World Editors Forum (WEF) is the global community of media editors, a body under the umbrella of World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).