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New CPJ report highlights Latin America’s “return to censorship”

  • By Guest
  • February 17, 2011

By Sergio Duran

Episodes of press censorship in Latin America are at the highest levels since many countries began to return to democracy 30 years ago, writes Carlos Lauría, senior program coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Lauría’s analysis of censorship in the continent was part of the CPJ’s annual report titled Attacks on the Press 2010.

A rise in censorship can be seen throughout Latin America, caused by government repression, judicial interference, and intimidation from criminal groups,” the CPJ says, quoted by the Associated Press.

Worldwide, the report counts 145 journalists jailed and 44 killed while working in 2010. IPS reports that this is a 14-year high for detentions.

“Though censorship is not of the same extent as that seen during the era of military dictatorships, when journalists were ‘disappeared’ in large numbers and armed forces dictated what could be reported, its re-emergence is deeply worrisome,” Lauría writes.

To the CPJ, the situation is especially worrying in Mexico and Honduras, where 10 and 9 journalists, respectively, were killed last year. Those numbers rival that of countries in the midst of open war, like Somalia and Iraq, as organized crime groups exert “fierce pressure” on the press.

“In vast, lawless areas of Mexico and Honduras, reporters are exercising self-censorship on major issues such as crime and corruption out of fear that they will be targeted for reprisal,” says the report.

The report also cites Venezuela and Ecuador as countries where the government promotes censorship through legal harassment from the executive branch.

Political pressure and threats from organized crime are still a problem in Brazil – where the report was launched – however it is principally the courts that promote censorship. During the first six months of 2010, Google received 398 content removal requests, making Brazil the country with the highest level of search-engine censorship. Libya is a distance second with less than half such requests.

In addition, the report cites a Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas map, which shows 21 cases of court-ordered censorship during the campaigns for the October 2010 elections.

Founded in 1981, The New York-based CPJ is an independent non-profit organization. It is run by 25 journalists and financed with donations from foundations, businesses, and individuals.

This blog is produced at The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin and funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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.

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