Attacks with stones, sticks, boiling liquids, threats, and hindrance to access information are some of the aggressions the press has experienced so far while covering the protests that began on June 13 in Ecuador.
The murders of British journalist Dom Phillips and Brazilian Indigenous affairs expert Bruno Pereira have drawn national and international attention to the Amazon region where the borders between Brazil, Peru, and Colombia meet. On the Brazilian side, the absence of the State and a strong presence of organized crime inhibit local journalists from reporting on illegal activities.
Across Latin America, governments have attempted different models to investigate and prosecute attacks against journalists. It is evident that there is no unified model for creating an office to investigate and prosecute crimes against journalists. Some countries have special prosecutors, while other countries have investigative units. Moreover, the results of their efforts are often difficult to track, according to experts.
LatAm Journalism Review (LJR) heard from friends, co-workers and family of Brazilian journalist Tim Lopes, murdered on June 2, 2002. The case provoked profound changes in news companies, with the implementation of security measures and the reduction of coverage in at-risk areas. However, Brazilian journalists feel as vulnerable now, if not more so, than they did 20 years ago.
Chilean journalist Francisca Sandoval died days after being shot in the head while covering violent May 1 Workers' Day demonstrations in the country. The Chilean public prosecutor’s office detained three suspects, and announced that an investigation had also been opened into the police.
Family members, colleagues and national and international organizations demand justice and guarantees for a journalism free of violence in Mexico, after the murders of journalists Yesenia Mollinedo and Johana García on May 9, and of columnist Luis Enrique Ramírez, on May 5, all in the same month.
In 2018, the Association of Journalists of El Salvador presented a draft bill for the protection of journalists. After almost three years, the effort was cut short. The initiative was archived when the ruling Nuevas Ideas party took control of the Legislative Assembly. The parties that resumed the discussion at the last minute hold each other responsible for the lack of approval.
Exactly a decade ago, the government of Guatemala committed to creating a plan to protect press workers in the face of growing attacks. That happened in 2012 during a government favorable to the idea, yet all these years later, it still hasn’t been achieved. Some journalists point to a distrust between the government and the press as a source of the problem.
Four years after the social outbreak of 2018 in Nicaragua, more than 120 journalists have gone into exile, at least 20 media have been confiscated, there are no printed newspapers circulating in the country and six journalists have received sentences ranging from 7 to 13 years in prison, with fines in the millions. However, the independent Nicaraguan press continues to fight for freedom, both from inside the country and in exile.
Like other countries in the region, discussions are already taking place in Bolivia to establish a protection mechanism for journalists that would limit violence against them. For now, the projects are confidential, but the violence against journalists that launched them is visible.