Amnesty International’s annual report highlights threats against freedom of expression in Latin America

Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico and Dominican Republic were the countries in the Americas with the most alerts on violations or possible threats against freedom of expression in 2012, according to Amnesty International's 2013 annual report on the state of human rights around the world.

Amnesty International underscored the Bolivian government's complaints against several media outlets for "distorting" President Evo Morales statements and "encouraging racism and discrimination." It also highlighted the attack against journalist Fernando Vidal, who was lit on fire by four individuals while he broadcasted his radio show.

In Cuba, authorities continue to use detentions to repress independent journalists, opposition leaders and human rights activists. Among other cases, the report mentioned the case of the founder of independent news agency Hablemos Press, Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, who was forced to get into a vehicle and beaten while he was taken to a police station.

Amnesty International expressed concern over officials' use of defamation-related laws against journalists to curtail freedom of expression in Ecuador, which could dissuade others from openly critizing the government. The most representative case, the organization said, was the lawsuit against newspaper El Universo, which led to a three-year sentence and a $40 million fine against a journalist and three stakeholders. President Rafael Correa pardoned the men and absolved their sentences.

In Mexico, the growing wave of violence turned journalists and human rights defenders into the target of aggressions and threats, the report said. The organization highlighted civil society's efforts to create a mechanism to protect journalist, which Congress approved in April, but also criticized the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Against Journalists' lack of progress in its investigations on the killing of journalists.

In Dominican Republic, reforms to the country's penal code could punish with up to three years in prison those who criticize elected or government-appointed officials, Amnesty International said. The National Press Workers' Union also filed several complaints regarding physical attacks and harassment against journalists in the country, the report added.


Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.