Americas

2011

Attacks on the Press   |   Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, USA, Venezuela

Attacks on the Press 2010: Americas Analysis

In Latin America, A Return of Censorship

The Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional leaves white space for an image the government won't allow. (Reuters/Jorge Silva)

By Carlos Lauría

As the preeminent political family in the northeastern state of Maranhão for more than 40 years, the Sarneys are used to getting their way in Brazilian civic life. So when the leading national daily O Estado de S. Paulo published allegations in June 2009 that linked José Sarney, the Senate president and the nation's former leader, to nepotism and corruption, the political clan did not sit idly by. The Sarneys turned to a judge in Brasília, winning an injunction that halted O Estado from publishing any more reports about the allegations. Eighteen months later, as 2010 came to a close, the ban remained in effect despite domestic and international outcry.

February 15, 2011 12:54 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Argentina

Attacks on the Press 2010: Argentina

Top Developments
• Kirchner accuses two papers of colluding with the military dictatorship in 1976.
• Legislation would restrict media ownership in newsprint companies.

Key Statistic
400: Pages in government report that claims Clarín and La Nación media groups conspired with dictators.


President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's administration accused top executives of the country's two leading newspapers, Clarín and La Nación, of conspiring with the former military regime to commit crimes against humanity, allegations that dramatically escalated existing government-media tensions. In making a claim as controversial as it was aggressive, Kirchner called on the courts to decide whether the newspapers colluded with the dictatorship to force the sale of a newsprint supplier in 1976. The clash deepened divisions within the press itself, as journalists took sides on administration policies and tactics. Political talk shows on state-owned media lambasted government critics in the press. The space for balanced and unbiased journalism was significantly reduced, analysts said.

February 15, 2011 12:48 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Brazil

Attacks on the Press 2010: Brazil

Top Developments
• Judicial censorship rampant; order bars paper from covering corruption allegations.
• Convictions won in journalist's murder as Brazil makes strides against impunity.

Key Statistic
398: Demands to remove online content made by Brazilian authorities to Google in the first six months of 2010.


Continuing a pattern of extensive censorship imposed from the bench, regional judges banned dozens of news outlets from covering some of the most important topics of the day, including issues involving the October general election, good governance, and public integrity. The national daily O Estado de S. Paulo faced a censorship order throughout the year that prevented the paper and its website from reporting on a corruption investigation involving the family of Senate President José Sarney. A provincial reporter was murdered in reprisal for his work, while other reporters and media workers operating outside large urban centers faced attacks as they covered politics and corruption.

February 15, 2011 12:44 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Colombia

Attacks on the Press 2010: Colombia

Top Developments
• Progress slow in probe of illegal espionage that targeted journalists.
• One journalist murdered. Deadly violence slows, but danger remains.

Key Statistic
4: Provincial reporters forced into exile due to threats.


President Álvaro Uribe Vélez ended his two terms in office with a decidedly mixed press freedom record. CPJ research charted a drop in lethal violence during his administration: Eight reporters were killed in direct relation to their work in his first two years in office, while six died over the remaining six years of his tenure. The government has cited a journalist protection program and an improved overall security climate as reasons.

February 15, 2011 12:40 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Cuba

Attacks on the Press 2010: Cuba

Top Developments
• Cuba relents on political detainees, frees 17 journalists. Four still held.
• In exile, freed journalists face economic, professional difficulties.

Key Statistic
45: Poems that journalist and former detainee Ricardo González Alfonso smuggled from prison.


After years of intensive advocacy and international diplomacy, 17 independent journalists swept up in the government's 2003 Black Spring crackdown were finally freed from an unjust and inhumane imprisonment. The Roman Catholic Church, with participation from Spanish officials, struck an agreement in July with the government of President Raúl Castro Ruz that called for the release of all 52 prisoners still being held seven years after the massive crackdown on political dissent and independent journalism. The deal as outlined by the church called for the release of all Black Spring detainees within four months, but three journalists and several other dissidents, apparently balking at Cuba's insistence that they leave the country in exchange for their freedom, remained in jail in late year. A fourth journalist, arrested in 2009, also remained in prison.

February 15, 2011 12:39 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Ecuador

Attacks on the Press 2010: Ecuador

Top Developments
• Journalists attacked, broadcasters censored during police uprising.
• Correa administration orders broadcasters to air official rebuttals.

Key Statistic
6: Hours during which broadcasters were told to suspend programming, carry state news reports on police revolt.


President Rafael Correa's administration used censorship powers throughout the year to supplant independent news and commentary. Authorities compelled critical broadcasters to interrupt news shows to air official rebuttals. And in September, when hundreds of police officers staged violent nationwide protests over plans to reduce their bonus pay, the Communications Ministry ordered broadcasters to halt their own news reports and carry programming from state-owned Ecuador TV.

February 15, 2011 12:37 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Haiti

Attacks on the Press 2010: Haiti

Top Developments
• Journalists persevere after quake, working from tents and homes.
• Dozens of reporters jobless. Print media sustain heavy losses.

Key Statistic
95: Percent of radio stations knocked off the air by the January earthquake. Most had returned by late year.


Reflecting the devastation across all of Haitian society, the news media suffered massive losses in the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck just west of the capital, Port-au-Prince, on the afternoon of January 12. More than 220,000 people died and 1.5 million were left homeless, according to official estimates. Government offices, schools, hospitals, and entire neighborhoods were reduced to ruins, as was most of the infrastructure supporting Haitian news media. More than 95 percent of commercial and community radio stations--the primary source of news in Haiti--went off the air as their equipment and premises sustained heavy damage, according to Joseph Guyler Delva, president of the local press freedom group SOS Journalistes. The human losses were great as well: At least 30 journalists died in the earthquake and its immediate aftermath, SOS Journalistes reported.

February 15, 2011 12:34 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Honduras

Attacks on the Press 2010: Honduras

Top Developments
• Rash of journalist murders occurs in lawless, politically charged climate.
• In murder investigations, authorities inattentive and dismissive.

Key Statistic
3: Months between Nahúm Palacios Arteaga's murder and the time authorities conducted an autopsy.


Six journalists were murdered in a seven-week span, with three more slain by year's end, a rash of killings that was made all the more shocking by the government's careless and dismissive response. Inattentive and botched investigative work yielded the arrests of but two suspects in all of the killings, and a judge quickly dismissed charges against them. CPJ found that at least three of the victims were slain in direct relation to their work, and it continued to investigate the other cases in late year.

February 15, 2011 12:33 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Mexico

Attacks on the Press 2010: Mexico

Top Developments
• Amid rampant violence, Calderón backs federalization of anti-press crimes.
• More than 30 journalists killed or disappeared since Calderón's term began.

Key Statistic
4: Journalists abducted in Durango by gangsters who demand that TV stations air their propaganda.


Organized crime groups exerted fierce pressure on the Mexican press as their control spread across vast regions and nearly every aspect of society. Pervasive self-censorship by news media in areas under drug traffickers' influence was a devastating consequence of violence and intimidation. Ten journalists were killed, at least three in direct relation to their work, and three other reporters disappeared. In addition, journalists were assaulted, kidnapped, or forced into exile, while media outlets were targeted by bomb attacks, making Mexico one of the world's deadliest places for the press. After meeting with a CPJ delegation, President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa pledged to push for legislation making attacks on free expression a federal crime, and announced the launch of a security program for at-risk reporters.

February 15, 2011 12:25 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   USA

Attacks on the Press 2010: United States

Top Developments
• U.S. military ignores call for probe into killings of 16 journalists in Iraq.
• Under Pearl Act, State Department will track press freedom worldwide.

Key Statistic
14: Journalists imprisoned by U.S. military forces for prolonged periods without charge between 2004 and 2010.


In two important advances, Congress passed legislation to track press freedom worldwide while military forces released an Iraqi journalist who had been held without charge for 17 months. But officials obstructed a photojournalist covering the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and reporters documenting military judicial proceedings at Guantánamo Bay, in Cuba. A U.S. military video, disclosed by the website WikiLeaks, raised questions as to whether U.S. troops acted properly when they shot and killed an Iraqi journalist and his assistant in 2007.

February 15, 2011 12:07 AM ET

2011

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