Crimes against journalists and arbitrary, intolerant governments hamper Latin American press, says IAPA

On Monday April 23, as its mid-year meeting came to a close, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) concluded that the main difficulties confronting the press in the Americas are “crimes against journalists, and arbitrary and intolerant governments.”

In general, IAPA warned of a “gloomy outlook for freedom of expression in Latin America," reported the news agency EFE, not only for the many problems created by authoritarian governments, but also because "many crimes against journalists are not fully investigated and the cases wilt for years with no one taking responsibility for them."

IAPA criticized the press situation in several Latin American countries, noting that this year three journalists have ben killed in Brazil for their work, and one in Haiti, and that 20 journalists have been killed in Honduras in the last two years, where the government uses “sparse efforts” in trying to resolve such crimes.

Mexico was also criticized for having 29 attacks against journalists and two against media from organizad crime and corrupt officials, which “constitute the worst obstacle for the press,” the IAPA said. The impunity that surrounds these cases “continues to be the most dramatic aspecto of this problema,” the Mexican newspaper Vanguardia said.

But most of all, the report singled out Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, where "arbitrary and intolerant presidents" seek to "silence the critical press.”

The Argentine government was criticized for refusing to enact two laws that would provide transparency, “one on access to public information and another to regulate official advertising.” Argentina and Nicaragua were also criticized for having governments that repeatedly “punish the critical media by withholding official advertising.”

Bolivian president Evo Morales was criticized for constantly threatening to regulate the Press Law, which would control news media in the country. IAPA also expressed concern for the many attacks on Bolivian journalists and news media that have yet to be investigated.

The tense situation that exists between the press and the government of Ecuador was also highlighted by the IAPA, as the Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa “insists that information is a public service, and for that, it should be administered by the State. The future Communications Law was classified as the “main threat” in the country. This law was criticized for many reasons, such as for discriminating against private news media, and for creating a Communications Council that consists partly of government representatives.

There are also many attacks freedom of expression in Venezuela, said IAPA, noting that the government “maintains an immense network of government-supported media financed with public funding.” The IAPA called for the government of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez to respect human Rights and the integrity of journalists, according to the Venezuelan news site El Impulso.

The IAPA also concluded that there is a risk of censorship in Latin America, as self-censorship and “oficial defamation” of critical journalists continues to grow, reprted the Salvadorian newspaper La Prensa Gráfica.