Democracy Dialogues: A Conversation with John Feeley

The former U.S. ambassador to Panama discussed the state of press freedom across Latin America and his initiative at the OAS to help stem backsliding.


  • John Feeley, Executive Director, Center for Media Integrity of the Americas, Organization of American States
  • Eric Farnsworth, Vice President, Americas Society/Council of the Americas (interviewer)

"A function of journalism is to seek the truth...and to hold the truth up to power. That is inherently an uncomfortable proposition, but it should not be a dangerous proposition," said Ambassador John Feeley during a Democracy Dialogues conversation with Eric Farnsworth. Feeley cited the fact that the vast majority of homicides in Mexico, listed by some NGOs as the most dangerous place to be a journalist, go unsolved.

"It's worrisome," Feeley said on the state of press freedom across the Americas. "General pressures—government opposition, foreign government, criminal interests, corporate interests—squeeze well-meaning and well-intentioned journalists." He mentioned the hostile media environments in Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, as well as backsliding on press freedom in Mexico and Brazil.

To help combat this and to support democracy in the region, Ambassador Feeley says the Center for Media Integrity in the Americas will work within the Organization of American States to support "public-interest media, high-quality journalism, [and] freedom of the press." The center will bring 10 to 15 journalists from the Americas to Washington to be trained and to participate in seminars with industry experts. The idea is to incentivize journalists to do the "investigations that truly motivates them," Feeley said.