On May 3, media workers all over Latin American used World Press Freedom Day to denounce violence against reporters and media outlets and to demand protection, as new reports showed that the region has become one the most dangerous in the world to practice journalism. Press Freedom Day was also marred by the news that two journalists, one in Brazil and another in Peru, were shot to death in separate incidents.
The International Press Institute (IPI) report, World Press Freedom Review: Focus on the Americas, said that Latin America and the Caribbean is second most lethal region in the world for journalists, with 31 media workers killed in 2010 alone.
“Threats and attacks against journalists, especially in Latin America, as well as government pressure and censorship, were a persistent problem in 2010 and remained a source of concern this year,” IPI said.
In Colombia, journalists participated in a “march of silence” to demand protection in the wake of increasing threats from paramilitary groups. The Colombian Federation of Journalists (FECOLPER), which organized the march, reports that in 2011 there have been 56 acts of violence against the press, including 23 threats, two attempted homicides, and eight physical attacks, EFE reports.
In Peru, the National Journalists’ Association said that in the first four months of 2011, 82 incidents against the press took place (approximately one every 36 hours), including 38 by public officials and security forces.
In Mexico, a report organized by the National Center for Social Communication (CENCOS) and Article 19 noted a more than 30% decrease in attacks against journalists in 2010 relative to 2009 (155 vs. 244). However, the report stressed that this is nothing to celebrate, because overall violence in the country has increased, while coverage has gone down as a result of the government’s failure to investigate crimes.
In 2010, eight Mexican journalists were killed with one missing and presumed dead vs. 11 media worker killings in 2009. Beyond this, last year six journalists were kidnapped and nine fled the country after death threats.
In this sense, the president of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), Gonzalo Marroquín, said that organized crime and authoritarian governments are the principle threats to freedom of expression in the region, as both “seek to limit, restrict or completely do away with the free flow of information that bothers them so much for reasons that are more than obvious.”
A positive note for the day was Chilean President Sebastián Piñera’s decision to sign onto the Chapultepec Declaration, a document that outlines ten principles that support the press’s role in democracy. In doing so, the president outlined his commitment to “increasing the levels of openness in government.”
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.