Miguel Angel Sanchez de Armas
Fellow Since 1996
Fundación Manuel Buendía, A.C.
This profile was prepared when Miguel Angel Sanchez de Armas was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1996.
The New Idea
Doctors and lawyers are keenly aware of the ethical standards of their professions. Developed over centuries, and widely understood by the public as well as those within the profession, these ethical codes have bolstered practitioners when authoritarian pressures have encroached on their integrity. In India, during the critical stages of The Emergency period, many in the legal profession were proudly able to say that the courts were among the last square feet of free territory in the country. Miguel Angel is working to build a similar sense of professional independence and standards among Mexican journalists. If young Mexican journalists enter their profession knowing what those standards are, and if they also know that they are part of a body of like-minded professionals who will be judging them and who stand ready to help them, Mexican journalism will be taking a profound step. So will the emerging Mexican democracy.To pursue this objective, Miguel Angel and a number of other friends of Manuel Buendia created The Manuel Buendia Foundation. The first priority of the foundation was to provide funds to support Buendia's widow and children and to encourage all journalists to print the true nature of his death so the public would be aware of, and would not forget, the tragedy. The central objective of the foundation, however, is to build a strong sense of professional standards, ethics, and solidarity among journalists. Consistent with keeping itself fully independent, Miguel Angel is gradually building a series of programs that define and reinforce the standards as well as strengthen its institutions and individual members. He especially focuses on the younger members of the profession, believing that they will be the watershed generation. The foundation gives an annual journalism prize, which, because it's the only independent award in the profession, is especially coveted. It publishes several of the profession's leading journals and a host of books and studies - thereby encouraging research on such issues as censorship and promoting debate about what constitutes good journalism and ethics. It also organizes meetings and special training programs that enrich both working journalists and journalism students.