Violence and legal harassment: the two greatest obstacles to press freedom in Latin America today. That's the message that CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon is delivering this morning in Washington, D.C., at a briefing hosted by Congressman Sam Farr. Farr, a California Democrat, hosts a monthly series looking at emerging trends in the Western Hemisphere. The panel today also includes Commissioner Dinah Shelton of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and Delphine Halgand of Reporters Without Borders.
In more than a decade in power, President Hugo Chávez Frías has overseen the transformation of nearly every aspect of Venezuelan society, including the media. When Chávez came to office in 1999, he enjoyed the support of the country’s established private media. But the relationship soon soured, and in April 2002 he was briefly deposed in a coup that he alleges was carried out with the support of key media owners. Today, several of the most critical media outlets are either gone or scared into silence, and a vast state media presence echoes the government’s positions. By Joel Simon
CPJ has received an encouraging letter from Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Brazil's permanent representative to the United Nations, affirming the country's support for the UNESCO-led U.N. Plan of Action for Security of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.
Dear Mr. Cordero: The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply concerned about a new Ecuadoran communications bill currently under debate in the National Assembly that would roll back press freedom by promoting self-censorship and restrictions on criticism of public officials.
Dear President Rousseff: We are writing to bring to your attention recent actions taken by the Brazilian government that contradict your expressed commitment to guarantee freedom of expression and make human rights a priority in the country. While we recognize that the Brazilian authorities have made strides in bringing journalist killers to justice in recent years, we ask that you assert global leadership to ensure that the fundamental right of freedom of expression is afforded to all.
Dear Mr. Insulza: The Committee to Protect Journalists has been monitoring with increasing concern an offensive launched by the government of Ecuador aimed at weakening the Inter-American human rights system, an effort that if successful could represent a serious blow to freedom of expression in the hemisphere.
CPJ and others who defend the rights of journalists are rightly alarmed when public officials and other powerful figures instigate baseless criminal prosecutions that can send journalists to prison and force them to pay heavy fines. A case pending in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Fontevecchia & D'Amico vs. Argentina, shows how abusive civil litigation can be just as bad for journalists as criminal prosecution. CPJ filed an amicus curiae brief in the case. A favorable decision by the court would be a step toward ending the use of meritless civil lawsuits to intimidate and harass the press.
Representatives from U.N. agencies, member states, and nongovernmental organizations convened on Tuesday at the United Nations Inter-Agency Meeting on Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity to plan how to address journalist security. Participants of the meeting, which was convened by UNESCO at its Paris headquarters, also discussed how the United Nations could promote greater interaction among its organizations to further improve press freedom around the world.
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