Nicholas Tozer’s speech

”Ladies and gentlemen,

I feel deeply honoured to receive the 2002 Sousa Mendes Award, especially for sharing this honour with my friend and colleague José Ignacio García Hamilton. I am very grateful to the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation for having granted me this award and I assure them that I am delighted to receive it. I accept it with deep gratitude because I am fully aware of what it is worth and I know that an award of this sort creates within us the illusion that we did something to deserve it. In the hard times that we are living, receiving a distinction such as this is, in itself, a reason of gratitude

As a journalist who was born in London it is particularly pleasant to share this award with an Argentine friend specially on the 20th anniversary of the South Atlantic conflict that confronted my country with Argentina in a tragedy that cost the lives of 649 Argentine citizens, 255 British and three islanders.

Too many deaths to prove the failure of 150 years of Argentine and British diplomacy.

As a journalist who has specialised in the Falklands conflict, I have been able to prove that informing about controversial subjects often ends up leaving us in confrontation with all of the parties involved. I remember that on that fateful April 2nd, I promised myself that I would try to fight to ensure that compromise prevailed over conflict and that vehemently held moderation prevailed over extremism. Twenty years later I continue believing that it was the right choice, specially when I see the infinity of bureaucratic obstacles, the lack of interest, the inexplicable and often, despicable acts and political games to which the Commission of Relatives of the Fallen in the Falklands Islands and Islands of the South Atlantic are submitted in their campaign to build a monument to the fallen at Darwin Cemetery, a subject that apparently is not of much interest to a great part of the press, that in many cases keeps on treating both Argentine and British veterans and their relatives as if they were carriers of some highly contagious disease.

It is regrettable that despite the historic 1999 Argentine British Agreement and the great progress achieved in Argentine British relations, there are still people from the world of politics, diplomacy and the media who are obstructing any possibility of making new progress.

I would like to remember my father, a Londoner who also deeply loved Argentina and who was my first teacher about life. Once, as a kid, I came back home with a black eye. He looked at me very seriously and said, ”I hope you got that black eye fighting for something that you really believe in.” Almost 40 years later I think I understand that it was a lesson that marked me for my whole life.

Now I know it to be true because my work with Casa Argentina en Jerusalem and later with the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation and the Angelo Roncalli International Committee are my humble contribution to promoting causes in which I strongly believe.

I specially want to thank Baruch Tenembaum, founder and the boss at Casa Argentina, the Wallenberg Foundation and the Roncalli Committee, for his permanent trust and support. I hope I can live up to such responsibility. Baruch, with those other two bastions who are Dr. Natalio Wengrower and Father Horacio Moreno, gave me an opportunity of working alongside them for causes we share and value.

To them and to all the members of these institutions – especially my colleague and friend Gustavo Jalife- my deepest thanks.

I would like to let the authorities who are presenting me with this distinction know of the tremendous satisfaction that I feel on receiving this particular award which remembers this truly great man, one who passed away when I was three months old.

In moment of crisis such as the one faced by Argentina these days, the opportunities to learn the lessons of saviours such as Sousa Mendes, Raoul Wallenberg or Angelo Roncalli – better known nowadays as His Holiness Pope John XXIII – appear before us in different and often strange ways. We should try to seek within ourselves part of the greatness that these great men had to face such challenges.

To the future diplomats who will graduate from the ISEN I beg that you fight for something more than a cosy position at an Embassy in other country, a salary and a comfortable diplomatic career.

To my colleagues the journalists I beg that you dream, that you explore and that you discover but that you do not silence, even though when doing so may cost you your jobs, a reprimand, an exile or even worse. The values that you defend are worth defending, but do so with mercy, in peace and with a deep sense of forgiveness

I remind you that out there are many people who are fighting for just causes. They range from those who day after day, year after year do not stop striving in their efforts to see a monument to the fallen of the South Atlantic War built at the Darwin cemetery to those who today are confronting the combined power of a corrupt justice which has allied itself with an international petroleum company that has severely polluted the coastline of the River Plate.

As a journalist I have known persecution and censorship in many ways, but even so I still think that the worst of the sins is to deceive our readers, viewers or listeners knowingly.

The challenge belongs to each one of us, and it is as that great man that was Aristides de Sousa Mendes rightly said, a matter of conscience.

I once again appreciate this distinction and thank all those present, especially my son Martin, my relatives, friends and colleagues and all those who have made great sacrifices to be here today.

I do not want to forget my dear colleagues of a whole life down the paths of journalism. They also would have wanted to be here today had they had not paid with their lives their commitment as true men and women of the press.

To them go my memories, my sadness and my love forever.

I want to say goodbye with those words that are so important to all of us who pretend to share some of those eternal values that Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Raoul Wallenberg and Angelo Roncalli so honourably upheld:

Shalom, Salem, Peace.
Thank you very much.”