By Zach Dyer
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) executive director Joel Simon testified at a briefing on press freedom in Latin America that violence and legal harassment are the biggest obstacles journalists face in the region, according to CPJ’s website.
Simon gave his remarks at an event hosted by U.S. Congressman Sam Farr on Wednesday, Oct. 3, looking at trends in freedom of expression in Latin America over the last decade. Simon's presentation focused on Mexico, Honduras and Venezuela as some of the most urgent cases.
Simon pointed out in his remarks that 54 journalists had been killed since Mexican President Felipe Calderón took office in 2006. While Calderón has overseen the implementation of the Protection Mechanism to protect threatened journalists, Simon charged that its implementation had been ineffective, according to his testimony made available on CPJ’s website.
Simon also listed Honduras as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Since President Porfirio Lobo took office in 2010, following the 2009 coup, at least 14 reporters have been killed, according to CPJ research. In Honduras’ politically charged media landscape, journalists that supported deposed President Zelaya were attacked or killed while pro-coup media outlets largely ignored the violence. Simon reported that some journalists have stopped listing their bylines for fear of reprisals.
Impunity is so wide spread in Honduras that many journalists fear the attacks are carried out with the tacit support of the Lobo administration.
Simon identified the leaders of Venezuela and Ecuador as the biggest abusers of the legal system to muzzle the press. CPJ accused President Hugo Chávez of using legislative and judicial means to “gradually break down Venezuela’s independent press while building up a state media empire,” citing the closure of RCTV in 2007 and “excessive” fines levied against remaining independent media like Globovisión.
Meanwhile, in Ecuador criminal defamation has been widely used by President Rafael Correa to silence critical media, according to Simon’s remarks.
Simon also referenced Chávez and Correa’s proposal to cut funding to the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression as a cause for concern. Furthermore, Venezuela recently took steps to remove itself from the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
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.