New report reveals advances, challenges in fight against impunity for crimes against journalists in region

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  • December 9, 2010

By Ingrid Bachmann

Between 1995 and August 2010, 258 journalists were killed — or kidnapped and assumed killed — in Latin America, but only 59 of those cases have been successfully prosecuted. These numbers from the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) back up a new analysis from journalist Tyler Bridges who in his report referred to the “worst wave of violence against journalists ever in Latin America." This is the setting which prompted IAPA to develop the Impunity Project.

The $7.6 million hemisphere-wide initiative, funded by the James S. and John L. Knight Foundation, began in 1995 to pressure governments to seek justice for crimes committed against journalists. The report by Bridges details the rampant impunity in attacks against journalists and the media, and the impact of IAPA's Impunity Project.

According to Bridges, IAPA has made it so that not all crimes against journalists remain in impunity. However, while justice has improved, the majority of cases of journalists killed end without prison sentences. Many of the convicted killers completed short sentences, and in 15 years, only six of the masterminds, or the people who ordered the killings, have been convicted.

The killings of journalists are concentrated in MexicoColombia and Brasil, although in these latter two countries the rate of killings of journalists has decreased in recent years. Mexico is a distinct case, as the violence linked to drug trafficking has made this country one of the most dangerous in the world for practicing journalism. (For more information, see this Knight Center map of attacks against journalism in Mexico).

Bridges concluded in the report that much still remains to be done: governments must respond faster, laws must be made stricter, and justice systems more efficient.

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.