Report shows decrease in threats on freedom of expression in Uruguay

By Giovana Sanchez

A report released in May by the Center for Archives and Access to Public Information (CAinfo for its name in Spanish) registered a decrease in threats on freedom of expression in Uruguay. The text also showed that most of the cases occurred in the capital of Montevideo and are related to obstruction of journalistic work.

The report "Journalism and freedom of expression in Uruguay" recorded a total of 28 instances of restrictions to freedom of expression in the country, 22 percent less than the previous year.

The organization acknowledged that "Over the past decade, Uruguay has been recognized in the region for progress in freedom of expression, especially from legal reforms that allowed the decriminalization of media offenses, regulation of community broadcasting, protection of the right of access to public information and the regulation of audiovisual media services.”

However, according to the text, the country still faces challenges in the area. Despite broad constitutional guarantees, the organization said the right to freedom of expression was not monitored in the country.

In 2015, CAinfo created a digital platform to receive complaints, document and disseminate threats. Along with the Uruguayan Press Association (APU for its acronym in Spanish) and IFEX, CAinfo released its first threat monitoring report in 2015 as part of the First National Monitor of Threats to Freedom of Expression project.

From April 1, 2015 to March 31, 2016, CAinfo recorded 28 cases of threats to freedom of expression linked to the practice of journalism in the country, 10 of which were categorized at the "medium" level and 18 "light." Most cases occurred in the capital of Montevideo. Ten cases are characterized as obstruction of journalistic work - for example the refusal to answer questions at press conferences, bans on access to media professionals to public places or blocking the operation of journalists’ equipment.

Five other instances were listed as threats. In one, an El País employee received a death threat after the release of an investigative report related to the Peñarol football team. Five cases were recorded as intimidation in the workplace, four as intimidation by the justice system, two as denial of requests for access to information, one as physical intimidation and one as censorship.

Among the records considered serious by the organization is the statement by the ruling party that the media in general "undermine the democratic institutions of the country." Among its recommendations, the report reiterated the importance of public denunciations of restrictions to press freedom and requested that all powers and public actors avoid blocking questions at press conferences.

Uruguay is ranked 20th out of 180 countries in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Border, and, according to the organization, “has registered significant progress in the economic, social and democratic domains.”

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.