In These Times of Uncertainty and Insomnia…
Remarks by the rector of Managua’s Central American University (UCA)
at the Second Annual Award for Excellence in Investigative Journalism
when presenting First Prize to Mauricio Miranda, José Adán Silva and Luis Galeano
for their excellent series of reports in El Nuevo Diario about the “Tecnosa case,”
one of the biggest uncovered corruption scandals involving this government.
Oliver Gomez, also from END, received special mention for his investigation
of yet another high-profile case of governmental irregularities—
the state electricity regulatory body’s attempt to hire Gero-ICI,
a Spanish shell corporation or “mailbox company.”
Mayra Luz Pérez
We often state that we live in uncertain times, harassed by injustice and a lack of well-being. In this regard, we have already cited a brief but extraordinary study titled “Nostalgia for greater justice,” in which Father Antoni Blanch, Professor Emeritus of the Comillas Pontifical University, tells us of the modern imbalance between the value of justice as an acceptable minimum and its maximum desired value for which we should always struggle.
Father Blanch sees us as nostalgic beings in the sense that we lack any reference for making ethical demands for justice rooted in a conception of human and social life more integrated with moral and spiritual values.
In these times of uncertainty and insomnia, the thinking of the two great writers of the 20th century on which he based himself, Bertold Brecht and Albert Camus, seemingly distant from us in both time and geography, nonetheless affords us a greater understanding of our own reality. Given Brecht’s setting, with its lack of faith in humanity and its citizenry the victim of great powers, his words mobilize a desire to seek justice. Similarly, faced with the poverty and oppression common to his time, Camus bequeaths us a vision that promotes universal morals imbued with humanism, inserted into an existential unease that transcends resignation and fatalism, in search of a more humane horizon.
Certainly we are nostalgic beings in search of answers. In the midst of uncertainties, we need to rediscover values of a more human nature in order to create a better country. Once again, we are united in a common struggle together with the media. Through this Second Annual Award for Excellence in Investigative Journalism, in memory of María José Bravo, the UCA wishes to renew its commitment to building a national project based on a new political and social outlook that can bring us closer to the type of development that we, as Nicaraguans, deserve.
During the second half of last century, the entire world witnessed the immense power the media wields over political and social processes to transform the future. It also witnessed the emergence of a new ethic—despite numerous and undeniable distortions provoked by economic power—in which in-depth investigative journalism, symbolized by the Watergate case, had a determinant and positive influence.
Today, the challenge facing our country’s media is to unite around exposing the truth and discovering democratic values, following a logic that must prevail over the phantoms of selfishness and fear. We need to help create a new system of social justice based on a dialogue with the truth and with our own conscience, appropriating the view expressed by Heinrich Boll: seeing reality as it is, with a human vision, with eyes that are neither completely dry nor bathed in tears, yet that are able to dry themselves or to become wet.
In awarding this prize for Excellence in Investigative Journalism for the second time, we move beyond the fragile foundations of social communication of other times, and see the potential it has for becoming a nucleus for thought, knowledge and reference. It shows how historical-political responsibility contributes to building democracy, through a new kind of relationship between the press and the citizenry that favors a civic conscience—no longer a mere recipient, but now a protagonist in the national and regional history we are constructing.
The twelve participating investigative reports, from radio and television as well as the written press, not only consolidate the basic tenets of journalism but also demonstrate a strong ethical rigor that has shaken the foundations of journalism, power and society in the framework of new laws and criteria that cannot be renounced. These include transparency in both the public and private sense, defense of the rule of law and the fight against corruption.
This competition and other actions such as free courses and diploma programs in investigative journalism taught in eight cities in Nicaragua, as well as a future Masters in Communications that is part of the project to “develop skills in investigative journalism with a special emphasis on corruption,” available thanks to a Cooperation Agreement between the Central American University and the Norwe-
gian Government, provide important support to increasing the already high levels of credibility enjoyed by the Nicaraguan media. Nicaraguans have a great degree of trust in the media, although in a context marked by a growing and unfortunate mistrust of state institutions. The idea is for academic study to get closer to society and to interact with the practice of journalism, thereby contributing to an ongoing dialogue that will stimulate the development of a democratic culture in our country.
In recognizing the best investigative reports, the UCA is also responding constructively to the challenge of generating a new mentality capable of overcoming skepticism, promoting expectations and building alternatives, in order to discover opportunities and possibilities and guide the course of a society that longs to move from conflict to peace and from political and moral frustration to hope.
With this view, we truly hope, as we have indicated, that this exercise will be the expression of a type of journalism that—having become more sophisticated in recent years—will continue playing a critical and proactive role with respect to institutions, with a new framework of values for confronting poverty and benefiting development; a new style of mediating leadership that is attractive, solid and non-prejudiced; an intelligent professionalism that is trained to question itself; and the capacity to provide support to our society and to all of us who represent it. Always from a perspective of complexity that rejects any mediocrity of thought and a vision aimed at helping vindicate those who, as José Saramago put it, are the absolute priority of the universe: human beings.
And as gratitude is also something human, I would like to add that these results that have brought us together would not have been possible without the Norwegian Government’s confidence in the UCA and its School of Humanities and Communications. We would like to thank its representative in our country, the Honorable Ambassador Kristen Christensen, in the name of our university. We would also like to extend our gratitude to the members of the jury, our friends Xiomara Chamorro, Ruben Aguilar and Ricardo Roque.
Consistent with its mission, the UCA will continue to be a source of stimulation and support, helping to energize and agitate processes connected to freedom of expression, based on its role of inquiry, honesty and commitment to Nicaragua, and I say with all of you and with Neruda in his Canto General:
That’s why I’ll tell you these sorrows I’d like to put aside,
I’ll oblige you to live among their burns again,
not to mark time as in a terminal, before departing,
or to beat the earth with our brows,
or to fill our hearts with salt water,
but to set forth knowing,
to touch rectitude
with decisions infinitely charged with meaning,
that severity may be a condition of happiness,
that we may thus become invincible.