Markus Spillmann, former editor-in-chief of Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung, was elected yesterday as the 34th chair of the International Press Institute (IPI)’s global Executive Board.
“We live in difficult times”, Spillmann said in his acceptance speech. “Press freedom is under pressure, and no longer just in those many places where we always had difficult situations. Unfortunately, we are also seeing worrying tendencies in countries that had so far been on the bright side of the moon.”
He added: “Let us fight against those tendencies. Let’s stand up against harassment, jailing, harming, torturing and murdering of journalists and media activists. Let’s crusade against all those violations, for to silence a journalist means to silence a society.”
Spillmann, the founder and CEO of Spillmann Media Strategy Management GmbH, made the remarks in a video recording to IPI members and other participants on the final day of IPI’s 2018 World Congress and General Assembly in Abuja, Nigeria.
He replaces John Yearwood, former world editor of the Miami Herald, who served two terms as IPI chair after being elected to the position during IPI’s 2015 World Congress in Yangon, Myanmar.
Praising Yearwood’s leadership, Spillmann said: “Under his presidency, IPI has not only reached new territories and found new friends, but the organization has also proven to be effective and ever-present in all major press freedom issues in the last couple of years. And there have been many.”
The IPI Executive Board chair is elected by the Executive Board.
Separately, the IPI General Assembly elected four new Executive Board members:
• Zaffar Abbas, Editor-in-Chief, DAWN, Pakistan
• David Jordan, Director, Editorial Policy and Standards, BBC, UK
• Tom Mshindi, Editor-in-Chief, Nation Media Group, Kenya
• Khadija Patel, Editor-in-Chief, Mail & Guardian, South Africa
Patel was also elected by the Executive Board as an IPI vice chair. She joins current IPI Vice Chairs Woosuk Kenneth Choi, editor of South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo, and Dawn Thomas, CEO of Trinidad and Tobago’s One Caribbean Media Ltd.
The IPI General Assembly additionally re-elected as Executive Board members Kaius Niemi, editor-in-chief of Finland’s Helsingin Sanomat; Sami El Haj, head of the human rights and public liberties desk at Al Jazeera; and Martha Steffens, Professor and SABEW Chair in Business and Financial Reporting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism in the U.S.
Finally, two long-time IPI Executive Board members stepped down due to term limits: former Vice Chair Ken MacQuarrie, director of Nations and Regions at the BBC; and Owais Aslam Ali, chairman of Pakistan Press International (PPI).
IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi praised the election of Spillmann.
“We are thrilled to welcome Markus Spillmann as IPI’s new chair and Zaffar Abbas, David Jordan, Tom Mshindi and Khadija Patel as Executive Board members”, she said. “The incredible wealth and diversity of experience they bring means that IPI will be able to tackle the globe’s leading press freedom challenges with strength and vision.”
She added: “We are grateful to John Yearwood for the immense dedication and energy he brought to the position of IPI Chair, and we are extremely fortunate that he will continue to serve IPI and the cause of press freedom on the Executive Board.”