Attacks on the Press in 2013

Attacks on the Press   |   Brazil

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Brazil

Brazil played an increasingly dominant role in the international arena, but its record on press freedom at home continued to disappoint free-expression advocates. As the deadly violence that surged over the past three years continued, three journalists were murdered in direct retaliation for their work in 2013. Brazil's ranking worsened on CPJ's Impunity Index, which highlights countries where journalists are killed regularly and authorities fail to solve the crimes. In positive developments, authorities achieved convictions for three murders of journalists. The gunmen in the 2010 murder of radio journalist and blogger Francisco Gomes de Medeiros and the 2011 murder of journalist Edinaldo Filgueira were convicted and sentenced to prison. In a rare example of full justice, all of the perpetrators, including the mastermind, were brought to justice in the 2002 murder of newspaper publisher Domingos Sávio Brandão Lima. Reporters faced attacks and threats, and, in one case, had to flee the country temporarily, while others were arrested and targeted during anti-government protests that swept the country in the second half of the year. President Dilma Rousseff made international headlines after information leaked by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed that Brazilian electronic communications had been intercepted by the NSA. She responded by calling for a bill to regulate the country's Internet use in a way that would make it less vulnerable to spying, a move that, if implemented, could have widespread consequences for the global infrastructure of the Internet. Internet companies continued to receive numerous requests from Brazilian courts to remove content, as the media faced judicial censorship and hefty fines in defamation suits. After being initially silent on the issue, Brazil supported and defended the Inter-American Human Rights System from an attack led by a bloc of countries that sought to neutralize its work.

February 12, 2014 1:53 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Colombia

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Colombia

Journalists reporting on sensitive issues like the country’s decades-long armed conflict, crime, and corruption faced renewed violence and intimidation. A journalist at Colombia’s leading newsmagazine narrowly survived an assassination attempt, while reporters throughout the country were repeatedly threatened, and in some cases forced to flee their homes and the country. One journalist and one media support worker were murdered in direct retaliation for their work. The violence caused reporters outside the major urban centers to self-censor for fear of their lives. Meanwhile, journalists covering the months-long anti-government demonstrations by peasant farmers in northern Catatumbo were violently targeted by all sides. Justice continued to progress haltingly in the five-year investigation into an illegal government espionage program that targeted critical journalists, among others, as the Supreme Court dropped charges against the former head of the National Intelligence Agency and another court released an official of the agency who had been previously convicted, according to news reports. Seven former secret police detectives were sentenced to preventive detention on charges of “psychologically torturing” and anonymously threatening journalist Claudia Julieta Duque, one of the espionage victims, for her coverage of the 1999 murder of a journalist. In a positive development, a criminal defamation conviction against editor Luis Agustín González was overturned by the Supreme Court. As President Juan Manuel Santos’ government continued peace negotiations with the leftist guerrilla organization the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a government-created commission reported that Colombia’s more than 50-year conflict has killed at least 220,000 people, the vast majority of them noncombatants.

February 12, 2014 1:52 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Cuba

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Cuba

To complement gradual economic and political reforms, Cuba made small, but mostly symbolic openings in the press freedom landscape in 2013, and impact for the independent media was minimal. One exception was legislation easing exit visa regulations that was passed in 2012 but implemented in 2013. The law allowed critical bloggers and political dissidents to travel internationally for the first time in decades. While abroad, prominent critical blogger Yoani Sánchez announced plans to launch a broad-based news publication upon her return to Cuba. In January, international analysts detected activity on the long-awaited, Venezuelan-financed, fiber-optic cable project, but high-speed Internet was still not available to the average Cuban. Later in the year, the government announced the opening of 100 public Internet centers, but content was filtered and the hourly rate prohibitively expensive for most citizens. A journalist was freed after spending seven months in prison in relation to his reporting. Though no journalists were imprisoned as of December 1, the government continued its practice of short-term detentions. Raúl Castro said he would step down as president in 2018, setting a date for the beginning of a post-Castro Cuba.

February 12, 2014 1:51 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Ecuador

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Ecuador

Bolstered by a landslide re-election, President Rafael Correa continued his offensive against Ecuador's critical press. His victory allowed him a significant win: the approval of a communications law that establishes regulation of editorial content and gives authorities the power to impose arbitrary sanctions and censor the press, according to CPJ research. At least one investigative newsmagazine shut down after the passage of the law, though economic concerns were also at issue. But while the president battered the press at home, he ran up against challenges abroad. In a serious blow to Correa, the Organization of American States voted to discard proposals introduced by Ecuador that would seriously weaken the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights  and its special rapporteur for freedom of expression. Although none of these proposals passed, a last-minute change to the resolution meant the debate would be allowed to continue. Local press freedom organizations documented dozens of anti-press violations throughout the year, including attacks, threats, harassment, obstruction, and arbitrary lawsuits.

February 12, 2014 1:50 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Guatemala

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Guatemala

Journalists covering sensitive issues like crime and corruption faced a climate of increased intimidation and violence in 2013. One journalist was killed under unclear circumstances. CPJ continues to investigate to determine if the killing was work-related. Another journalist survived an assassination attempt, and the owner, staff, and website of the daily elPeriódico, which is known for its investigations of government corruption, were repeatedly targeted with threats, intimidation, and attacks. The country closely followed the dramatic prosecution of General José Efraín Rios Montt, the former military leader of Guatemala, on allegations of human rights violations during part of the country’s decades-long civil war, when press freedom was severely restricted. His historic conviction was overturned, and the future of the case was uncertain, with Rios Montt under house arrest. The private office in Guatemala City of the special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, was broken into in unclear circumstances. The local press freedom group CERIGUA documented at least 54 cases of attacks on the press in 2013, many of which were concentrated in the department of Guatemala, where the capital city is situated. In light of growing anti-press violations, the government announced the creation of a protection mechanism for journalists who have been threatened.

February 12, 2014 1:49 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Honduras

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Honduras

The Honduran press continued to face violence and intimidation as the country struggled with pervasive crime and general lawlessness. Journalists who covered sensitive topics like drug trafficking, government corruption, and land conflicts were threatened and attacked. A prominent radio talk show host, Aníbal Barrow, was abducted from his car and found murdered weeks later. Authorities said they were investigating to determine if the killing was related to the journalist's work. But the climate of impunity persisted in Honduras, with allegations of law enforcement engaging in corruption and forming police death squads. Allegations also surfaced that journalists engaged in extortion. A standoff between the country's main media companies and President Porfirio Lobo over a proposed telecommunications law was averted when both sides agreed that the press would regulate its own content. The governing party's candidate, Juan Orlando Hernández, was declared the winner of presidential elections in late year, but the second place candidate, Xiomara Reyes de Castro, contested the results, bringing back to the surface intense polarization that has lingered since her husband was ousted in a coup d'état in 2009.

February 12, 2014 1:48 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Mexico

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Mexico

The climate of press freedom in Mexico, despite a new president, remained perilous. Although President Enrique Peña Nieto gave final approval to a measure adopted at the end of Felipe Calderón's term that gives federal authorities broader jurisdiction to investigate crimes against freedom of expression, the special prosecutor's office designated to handle such investigations dragged its feet in exercising its new powers. Finally, in August, the prosecutor officially took on its first case, although it had not charged or prosecuted anyone for a journalist's murder in late year. Meanwhile, the press corps continued to be violently targeted as competing drug cartels and law enforcement and the military battled throughout the country. Media outlets were attacked, press freedom organizations threatened, and reporters abducted. At least three journalists were killed in 2013 under unclear circumstances. In the face of such violence, media outlets in areas controlled by cartels turned to self-censorship. Following in the footsteps of other besieged outlets, the Saltillo edition of the daily Zócalo published an editorial that said it would no longer cover organized crime, as a way to protect its staff. Mexico City, long considered a refuge from the violence in the rest of the country, experienced the encroachment of organized crime. Four journalists covering protests against education reforms were jailed, and two of them were held for five days before being released on exorbitant bail, according to news reports. Media analysts welcomed a communications bill that they said would increase competition and open up broadcast ownership.

February 12, 2014 1:47 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Peru

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Peru

The climate of press freedom in Peru remained much the same as 2012, with reporters being targeted with violence and defamation suits for reporting on local corruption. While no journalists were imprisoned, two were convicted on criminal defamation charges and received suspended prison sentences. A bill that eliminated jail terms for defamation has remained stalled in Congress since mid-2011. Journalists covering widespread protests of a mining project in northern Peru were targeted with violence and intimidation by all sides in the conflict. Journalists and news outlets reporting on corruption and organized crime were also targeted in non-fatal attacks. One journalist was killed in unclear circumstances. CPJ continues to investigate whether the murder was work-related. Past murders of journalists remained unsolved, and prosecutors appealed the acquittal last year of the former mayor of the city of Coronel Portillo in the 2004 murder of radio journalist Alberto Rivera Fernandez. Human rights groups and journalists raised concerns about the implications of a bill that would criminalize the denial of terrorist crimes, a cybercrime law that criminalized some Internet speech, and the move by the country's leading daily to buy a media company that resulted in its owning 78 percent of the newspaper market.

February 12, 2014 1:46 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   USA

Attacks on the Press in 2013: United States

Press freedom in the United States dramatically deteriorated in 2013, a special report by CPJ found. The Obama administration's policy of prosecuting officials who leak classified information to the press intensified with the sentencing of Chelsea Manning (then known as Pvt. Bradley Manning) to 35 years in prison and the indictment of NSA consultant Edward Snowden. As part of its investigations into earlier leaks, the Justice Department revealed it had secretly subpoenaed the phone records of nearly two dozen Associated Press telephone lines and the emails and phone records of Fox News reporter James Rosen. The two cases, and language in the Rosen subpoena that suggested the journalist could be criminally charged for receiving the information, provoked widespread criticism. The backlash resulted in the drafting of revised Justice Department guidelines on press subpoenas and a renewed debate in the Senate of a federal shield law that would allow journalists greater protection for their sources. As the debate moved forward in the Senate, a federal appeals court rejected an appeal by New York Times reporter James Risen in his long-term effort to protect a confidential source, setting up a likely Supreme Court showdown. Snowden's leak of a still unknown quantity of classified information on secret surveillance programs spurred both a national and international outcry and, after a report that Al-Jazeera's communications had allegedly been spied on, caused journalists to fear even more for their sources. The secrecy surrounding the surveillance programs echoed a pervasive lack of transparency and openness across government agencies where, despite President Barack Obama's promise to head the most open government in history, officials routinely refused to talk to the press or approve Freedom of Information Act requests. Journalists faced limitations covering national security-related trials, in cases of alleged terrorism at Guantánamo Bay and in the court-martial of Manning in Virginia.

February 12, 2014 1:45 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Venezuela

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Venezuela

A climate of uncertainty and tension surrounded the death of President Hugo Chávez after his tightly guarded struggle with cancer and the election of his handpicked successor, Nicolás Maduro. Coverage of both events resulted in widespread attacks on and harassment of journalists. The government's campaign against critical broadcaster Globovisión continued with the eighth sanction against the TV network in eight years, this time regarding a report that questioned the legality of postponing the inauguration of the then-ailing Chávez. After years of harassment, the broadcaster's owner sold the company to businessmen rumored to have close ties to the government, and the station subsequently changed its editorial tone. In a move that critics described as unconstitutional, Maduro signed a decree creating the Strategic Center for Security and Protection of the Fatherland, or CESPPA, which he said would protect the country from outside threats. But journalists and press freedom groups said it gave the state vast powers that would be used to intimidate and censor the media. His government also targeted journalists, websites and Internet service providers in an attempt to suppress the country's grim economic news. The government also made good on its long-term threat and officially withdrew from the American Convention on Human Rights, a cornerstone of the human rights system of the Organization of American States.

February 12, 2014 1:44 AM ET

2013

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