Press group issues report critical of Latin leaders

The Inter American Press Association has concluded its half-yearly meeting, held in Cádiz, Spain, with ratification of its conclusions, in which it declared that: “The main problems facing the press in the Americas are crimes against journalists for the sole fact that they are performing their work under governments of democratic origin, but which are authoritarian and use state-controlled media to persecute and defame the independent press.”

The declaration also said:

”In Brazil, three journalists were murdered in cases where evidence indicates that they occurred because of their work, and the sluggishness of the justice system stimulates impunity, while in Haiti one radio reporter died for the same reason.

”But without doubt, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, and Nicaragua face a pattern of common adversities at the hands of arbitrary and intolerant presidents who seek to silence the critical press: numerous government-controlled media carry out a systematic campaign against independent journalists; official advertising is used to award friendly media and punish unfriendly ones; the press is accused of being a destabilizer and coup organizer by the highest officials of national government; and leaders are merciless in their public discourse against those who raise a critical voice, identifying and belittling journalists by name.

”The problems of regulations and access to information are constant:

In Argentina the government denies approval of laws that would give transparency: one on access to public information and another to regulate official advertising violating a Supreme Court decision that establishes a reasonable provision.

”In Bolivia, President Evo Morales constantly threatens to regulate the press law to control the media strictly while repeated unsolved assaults occur.

”In Ecuador, Rafael Correa insists that information is a public service and, therefore, must be managed by the state, thus attempting to justify a communications law and electoral reform that include severe restrictions on editorial content. After Correa’s pardon of the conviction of leaders of El Universo, the future communications law is the greatest threat. It authorizes discrimination against private media and sets up a communications council, composed primarily of members of the executive branch of government, to apply rules.

”In Venezuela, in addition to permanent harassment of independent journalists, the government continues to use the constitutional provision of truthful information to censor the media, either with immense fines against Globovisión for reporting on a jail mutiny or by restricting the publication of investigative reports. The government, like that of Ecuador and Argentina, maintains an immense network of government-supported media financed with public funding.

In Guatemala, a reform of the law on access to information seeks to restrict and classify military and diplomatic information, expanding the concept of threat to national security.

”In Nicaragua and Argentina, the governments maintain iron-fisted control of a large number of government media outlets, while punishing the critical media by withholding official advertising.

”The president of Honduras, Profirio Lobo, threatens to send a press law to congress in reprisal because he believes that many media defend private interests instead of dedicating themselves to the simple delivery of information.

In Colombia, attempts are being made to impose legal restrictions on media content in both the dissemination of electoral poll results, and in commercial and political advertising.

”In turn, the Inter American Press Association has asked the Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States not to accede to the request from Ecuador to restrict the work of monitoring and defending freedom of the press of the special rapporteur for freedom of expression, by preventing it from seeking funding outside the OAS or sharing a budget with other entities, and not permitting it to make country-by-country reports.

”Acts of aggression and situations of impunity toward the media and press people continue to be found. To the crimes committed in Brazil and Haiti are added the sparse efforts of the government of Honduras to resolve the 20 murders of journalists that have occurred over the past two years, without making available the funds necessary to solve them.

”In Cuba, before, during, and after the visit of Pope Benedict XVI, assaults, beatings, and detentions of dissidents have increased, as well as restrictions on the use of cell phones and the Internet. In 2012 there was an average of 600 arrests per month, and although the community of independent journalists and bloggers has become consolidated, the government continues its firm control of the Internet.

”In Mexico, the 29 assaults against journalists and the two attacks against media, brought about by organized crime and by corrupt officials, constitute the worst obstacle for the press.

”At the same time, lawsuits against those who disseminate information contrary to government interests remain in effect in Panama and Paraguay.”

Editor’s Note; The parent firm of A.M. Costa Rica is a member of the Inter American Press Association.

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