IAPA denounces the deterioration of freedom of expression and lack of access to public information in the region

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  • October 27, 2014

By Carolina Peredo

The 70th General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), an organization that brings together media owners and editors of the Americas, condemned the “direct and indirect censorship and physical attacks on journalists” that have occurred in the last six months.

At the end of the sessions, which were held from October 17 to 21 in Santiago, Chile and which had the participation of about 250 delegates from different countries, the Assembly issued a document of conclusions to account for all cases of violence and press censorship in the Americas.

According to the study by IAPA, during the first six months of 2014, a total of 11 journalists were killed due to “violence carried out by organized crime, drug traffic hitmen and police-style groups on the orders of several governments of the region.” Taking into account the recent killing of a Paraguayan journalist17 journalists have been killed in the region to this date.

During the meeting, which took place during the 20th Anniversary of the Declaration of Chapultepec, participants focused on the emblematic case of Venezuela “where police forces and police-style groups on the orders of the government left a balance of several journalists injured.” Furthermore, “official sectors and criminal gangs” used social media to attack media and journalists in this country. IAPA also showed concern about the measures taken by the government of President Nicolas Maduro to prevent the purchase of materials for print media: “More than 30 newspapers are hit by the lack of newsprint and another 12 have already ceased publishing.”

It was also concluded that in Venezuela, “official corruption has been reflected in the abuse of government propaganda and in the discriminatory distribution of official advertising.” Media in Argentina and Nicaragua also reported discrimination in receiving government advertising.

Censorship of the media during elections was a central part of the debate and the Assembly concluded that it “was evident in Brazil, where the judicial branch of government accepted 138 requests that media withdraw content, and in Bolivia where the opposition saw political propaganda limited to 30 days before the elections, while President Evo Morales did not suffer any limitations.”

Regarding the limiting of content, the Assembly stressed the cases of Haiti, Chile and Colombia, where “several laws have regulations by which the government and agencies of control can meddle in editorial content and criteria.”They also mentioned the case of Grupo Clarín in Argentina, denouncing “the discriminatory application of the Audiovisual Services Law.”

The 70th Assembly also issued 13 resolutions, one of which pointed to access to public information and government transparency, in which it notes that “there is a favorable trend toward the approval of acts regulating the access to public information and government transparency.” IAPA called the lack of transparency “one of the principle obstacles for journalistic activity in various countries of the Americas” and mentioned Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Dominican Republic as the countries most affected.

On a positive note, it mentioned the enactment of the Law of Access to Public Information and Transparency in Paraguay: “which is expected to encourage other countries in the region that still do not,” concluded IAPA.

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.