Americas

2013

Attacks on the Press   |   Honduras

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Honduras

Journalists who report on sensitive issues such as drug trafficking, government corruption, and land conflicts face frequent threats and attacks in a nation so gripped by violence and lawlessness that it has become one of the most murderous places in the world. The abduction and murder of Ángel Alfredo Villatoro, one of the country’s best-known journalists and a friend of President Porfirio Lobo, made headlines for weeks and prompted nationwide demonstrations against anti-press violence. The authorities did not identify a motive but charged three people in the attack. Reflecting the deep polarization that followed the 2009 military-backed coup, attacks against reporters seen as supportive of the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, attracted far less attention and official action. CPJ research shows that the authorities have been slow and negligent in investigating numerous journalist murders and other anti-press crimes since the 2009 coup, even as they have tried to minimize the extent of the violence. Official negligence in the investigations—CPJ found that the authorities often failed to interview witnesses or collect evidence—has made it difficult to determine the motives in many of the cases. While the U.S. Senate said it would withhold some aid from Honduras due to alleged human rights violations by police, the State Department announced the creation of a Bilateral Human Rights Working Group to assist the Honduran government with investigations into journalist murders.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   El Salvador

Attacks on the Press in 2012: El Salvador

Journalists felt the effect of widespread gang-related violence. The staff of the online news site El Faro faced intimidation after reporting on a criminal network involving businessmen and politicians, and after revealing secret negotiations between the government and gangs. Unidentified individuals followed and photographed El Faro’s journalists, Editor Carlos Dada said. Minister of Security David Munguía Payés acknowledged that the outlet was at risk but initially declined to provide any protection. The case also exposed cracks in solidarity among the Salvadoran press as few journalists initially came to the defense of El Faro. Nationwide, murder rates appeared to drop after the government negotiated a gang truce, although some officials suggested disappearances were simultaneously on the rise. Despite pervasive societal violence, the country has not seen widespread killings of journalists. The authorities, who won a conviction in May in the 2011 murder of a cameraman, have a generally good record in combating deadly anti-press violence, CPJ research shows.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Ecuador

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Ecuador

The press freedom climate continued its sharp decline under President Rafael Correa. Courts upheld defamation convictions against executives of the daily El Universo and authors of the book Big Brother in connection with their critical coverage of the Correa administration. The president, who initiated the complaints, later pardoned the journalists, but the rulings cast a chill on in-depth reporting. Correa granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a move that underlined his antipathy toward the United States and sought to counter his image as an opponent of free expression. U.N. member states made 24 recommendations on freedom of expression at the country’s Universal Periodic Review. The Ecuadoran government rejected three of the recommendations, including one that urged the repeal of laws that criminalize speech. The president also began a sustained attack on the Organization of American States’ special rapporteur for freedom of expression, a move that threatened to gut a vital defender of the regional press. An anti-press attitude was prevalent among all branches of Ecuadoran government. Legislators debated a bill that would allow a media regulatory body to impose arbitrary sanctions on the press and limit free speech. The telecommunications office closed at least 11 broadcasters, more than half of which were critical of the government. And a photographer was killed in direct retaliation for his reporting, the first confirmed journalist murder in Ecuador since 2005.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Cuba

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Cuba

Though Cuba projected an image of a nation opening up economically and politically, it took no substantive steps to promote freedom of expression. The authorities announced plans to eliminate exit visa regulations that had long restricted Cuban travel, but skeptics expressed doubts about the government’s commitment to the reform. The prominent blogger Yoani Sánchez, has been denied exit visas at least 19 times, CPJ research shows. Venezuela, which financed a much-heralded Cuban fiber-optic cable project, said the installation was completed, but Havana gave no indication when the technology would be put into use. Internet penetration remained low, with existing public connections slow and expensive. Cuba placed ninth on CPJ’s global survey of most-censored countries, and the authorities continued to stifle dissent. After a one-year absence, the nation rejoined the ranks of countries imprisoning journalists. One independent journalist was jailed when CPJ conducted its annual worldwide survey. Though long-term detentions were more infrequent than in past years, human rights groups and news reports documented short-term detentions and harassment surrounding widely covered events, such as the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in March. The authorities detained Sánchez and two other bloggers while they were en route to cover a trial stemming from the vehicular death in July of Oswaldo Payá, a prominent dissident. Journalist and lawyer Yaremis Flores was detained for two days after reporting local criticism of the government's response to Hurricane Sandy in articles published on the Miami-based Cubanet. Two years after the Black Spring detainees were freed, many of the journalists faced severe economic challenges in exile. One, Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, killed himself in April.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Colombia

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Colombia

Journalists faced resurgent violence from illegal armed groups in the months before President Juan Manuel Santos’ government announced peace talks with the leftist guerrilla organization Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The group, also known as the FARC, held French reporter Roméo Langlois captive for more than a month, the first abduction of an international journalist in Colombia since 2003, according to CPJ research. Fernando Londoño, a radio talk show host and former high-ranking government official, was injured and his driver and bodyguard were killed in a targeted bombing in Bogotá. Police were also implicated in an instance of anti-press violence. In November, freelance journalist Guillermo Quiroz Delgado died after being arrested while covering a street protest in Sucre department. From his hospital bed, Quiroz said he had been assaulted by police officers. Decisions in several legal cases favored the press. Angered by criticism in an opinion piece, the seven justices of the Supreme Court’s criminal chamber filed an unprecedented criminal defamation complaint against columnist Cecilia Orozco Tascón—but dropped the case after widespread criticism. The chief prosecutor's office classified the 2000 kidnapping and sexual assault of journalist Jineth Bedoya as a crime against humanity and thus not subject to the statute of limitation. And two former officials of the national intelligence agency, or DAS, were sentenced to six years each in prison for an illegal espionage program that targeted critical journalists among others.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Brazil

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Brazil

Brazil’s international profile remained on the rise, but its government consistently failed to show leadership on press freedom issues. Anti-press violence surged with four work-related fatalities; the country’s ranking also worsened on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which highlights countries where journalists are killed regularly and the authorities fail to solve the crimes. Along with India and Pakistan—two other countries that rank poorly on the Impunity Index—Brazil raised objections to a comprehensive UNESCO proposal to help nations combat impunity and protect journalists. In the face of heavy criticism, U.N. Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti later expressed broad support for press freedom and elements of the UNESCO plan. But the government's commitment to free expression came into question in another important international matter. Brazil supported an Ecuadoran-led effort to weaken the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the human rights monitoring body of the Organization of American States, and its special rapporteur for freedom of expression. In December, investigative reporter and CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee Mauri König fled Brazil after receiving death threats related to his coverage of police corruption. President Dilma Rousseff’s government did usher in two measures promoting the public’s right to know. Rousseff signed into law an access-to-information measure and created a commission to investigate human rights abuses committed during the country’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Argentina

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Argentina

Disputes between Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government and top media outlets intensified. Despite a Supreme Court ruling that ordered equitable distribution of state advertising, Kirchner’s government continued to withhold government ads from outlets critical of her administration, while lavishing business on those that provided favorable coverage, a CPJ special report found. Both the justice department and a federal appeals court fined the executive branch for ignoring the ruling, but the government showed no intention of complying. The administration also continued its practice of attacking and insulting journalists and executives associated with the country’s two principal media companies, Clarín and La Nación, sometimes using smear campaigns on public television shows. Those media groups, in turn, relentlessly criticized the government. The result was a highly polarized climate, with outlets devoting considerable coverage to discrediting one another, and citizens being deprived of objective sources of information on vital issues of public interest.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Americas

Analyses and data track press conditions throughout the region. Mike O'Connor describes cartel-imposed censorship in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. Carlos Lauría recounts how members of the Organization of American States failed to stand up for press freedom. And John Otis examines a spike in Brazilian murders targeting critical bloggers.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

2013

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