Attacks on the Press   |   Guatemala

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Guatemala

Journalists increasingly practiced self-censorship as Mexican drug cartels expanded their presence in Guatemala. In May, criminals in four provinces hung banners in public places, threatening journalists with harm if gang activities were covered. A television journalist in southern Escuintla province was killed under unclear circumstances after receiving several threats. While the rise of criminal groups posed a growing risk, journalists also faced danger for coverage of official corruption and domestic security issues. In the southwestern city of Quetzaltenango, a television journalist and his family escaped injury when their van came under gunfire. The reporter had received death threats related to his coverage of police corruption. A columnist in the western city of Panajachel was forced to relocate after receiving a series of intimidating text messages concerning her coverage of a citizen security committee. The local press group CERIGUA documented an increase in press freedom violations in the months leading up to the November presidential elections, as well as a number of assaults and threats against journalists on Election Day. Otto Pérez Molina, a retired general running on the conservative Patriotic Party ticket, defeated businessman Manuel Baldizón in a runoff. Facing a murder rate among the highest in the world, Pérez pledged a tough approach on crime.              

February 21, 2012 12:41 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Ecuador

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Ecuador

The press freedom climate continued its sharp decline under President Rafael Correa. In September, a CPJ special report concluded that Correa’s policies had transformed the country into one of the hemisphere’s most restrictive nations for the press. In March, Correa brought a criminal libel complaint against senior managers of El Universo, the country’s leading critical daily. The case, which centered on a biting opinion column that condemned Correa’s actions in a 2010 standoff with police, resulted in convictions, prison sentences, and multimillion-dollar fines against the managers. The managers were free on appeal in late year. Other government officials also used the nation’s archaic criminal defamation laws to try to silence journalists. The president made frequent use of cadenas, presidential addresses that pre-empt all private broadcast programming nationwide, to smear individual journalists and news outlets. Although cadenas have traditionally been used to deliver information in times of crisis, they have become a forum for political confrontation under Correa. The administration used other tactics to supplant independent voices with its own perspective, repeatedly ordering individual broadcasters to give over portions of their news programming to government “rebuttals.” In a May referendum, voters approved ballot measures that would allow the administration to regulate news content in vaguely defined areas and force media owners to divest other holdings.

February 21, 2012 12:41 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Cuba

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Cuba

Official repression in Cuba remained the most intense in the hemisphere. Although the last of the 29 independent journalists imprisoned in the 2003 Black Spring crackdown was released in April, the government's restrictive practices persisted. Official censorship was codified in law and closely enforced. The government persecuted critical journalists with arbitrary arrests, short-term detentions, beatings, smear campaigns, surveillance, and social sanctions. Despite the island nation's low Internet penetration, the battle for free expression was being waged almost entirely online. The government enlisted a legion of official bloggers to counteract a vibrant independent blogosphere. A fiber-optic cable project would enable the introduction of high-speed Internet. The launch of broadband service, which faced delays in 2011, would improve the island's government-approved Internet connections, but would not extend connectivity to the general public.

February 21, 2012 12:40 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Colombia

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Colombia

While lethal anti-press violence has slowed considerably in recent years, the press freedom landscape remains troubled. Journalists continue to be attacked and threatened with such frequency that some are compelled to flee to safer locations within Colombia or into exile. A journalist in Arboletes was murdered in June, although the motive was unclear. In this violent context, press groups feared the potential consequences of statements made by former President Álvaro Uribe, who described veteran reporters Juan Forero and Claudia Julieta Duque as “terrorist sympathizers” after they wrote critical stories about the Uribe administration in The Washington Post. The national intelligence agency’s illegal espionage against journalists and other critics, a legacy of the Uribe administration, continued to be the subject of investigation. But progress was slow, with cases pending against more than 20 defendants in late year. In a blow to press freedom, the Supreme Court in May upheld defamation provisions in the penal code.

February 21, 2012 12:39 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Brazil

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Brazil

In provincial areas where law enforcement is weak, reporters were vulnerable to attack for their coverage of corruption. In urban centers, journalists faced risks while covering organized crime and drug trafficking. Two journalists were killed in direct relation to their work in 2011, and CPJ was investigating the circumstances in four other killings. The uptick in deadly violence pushed Brazil back onto CPJ's 2011 Impunity Index, which highlights countries with unsolved journalist murders. Politicized judicial rulings continued to hinder coverage of sensitive issues. A censorship order against the daily O Estado de S. Paulo remained in place more than two years after it was first imposed, barring the paper from reporting on a corruption inquiry involving the family of Senate President José Sarney. In November, President Dilma Rousseff signed into law an access-to-information measure that regulated the classification of documents and imposed a maximum withholding period of 50 years for top secret files. The bill was lauded as an important step for government transparency and a helpful tool for journalists covering corruption.

February 21, 2012 12:38 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Argentina

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Argentina

The Supreme Court of Justice ruled in March that the government should apply reasonable balance in the distribution of state advertising. Ruling in a case brought in 2006 by Editorial Perfil, the country's largest magazine publisher, the court sought to rein in the government's long-standing practice of rewarding supportive news media with state advertising while punishing critical media by withholdings ads. Nonetheless, Perfil and other critics alleged that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who won re-election in October, continued the system of unequal distribution. Relations between Grupo Clarín, the nation's largest media conglomerate, and the Kirchner government worsened in March after demonstrators, including members of the Teamsters, blocked trucking exits at Clarín's printing facilities, preventing the paper from distributing its Sunday edition. In December, Kirchner signed a measure bringing the country's sole newsprint manufacturer, Papel Prensa, under government regulation. Publishers groups said it was another attack on Clarín and La Nación, which own a majority stake in the company. Circulation of the national daily La Nación was also disrupted for several hours. The local press group Foro de Periodismo Argentino documented a series of abuses in the country's interior, including an attack on a radio journalist, a case of arson, and an episode in which a camera crew was fired upon. A federal court sentenced 16 former military members in October to jail terms ranging from 18 years to life in prison for the murder of journalist Rodolfo Walsh and 85 others during the 1976-83 Argentine dictatorship.

February 21, 2012 12:37 AM ET

Statements   |   Syria, USA

CPJ mourns the death of journalist Anthony Shadid

Anthony Shadid "knew the risks but chose to go because that's what reporters do," CPJ's Robert Mahoney said. (AP/Sue Ogrocki)

New York, February 16, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply saddened by the death of New York Times foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid, a towering figure in international crisis reporting. Shadid perished following an apparent asthma attack while on assignment in Syria.

February 17, 2012 12:01 AM ET


Alerts   |   Ecuador

El Universo verdict bad precedent for free press in Americas

Police and Correa supporters outside court. (AP/Dolores Ochoa)

New York, February 16, 2012--Today's decision by Ecuador's highest court to uphold the criminal libel conviction brought by President Rafael Correa against El Universo represents a serious blow to freedom of expression and a setback for democracy, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. 

February 16, 2012 5:52 PM ET

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Statements   |   Ecuador

El Universo verdict devastating to Ecuador's democracy

New York, February 16, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged that Ecuador's highest court upheld today a libel conviction brought by President Rafael Correa against the Guayaquil-based daily El Universo

February 16, 2012 8:55 AM ET


Alerts   |   Brazil

Brazilian journalist killed, second in a week

New York, February 13, 2012--Brazilian authorities must conduct a thorough and swift investigation into the murder of journalist Paulo Roberto Cardoso Rodrigues, who was gunned down on Sunday night, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. It was the second slaying of a Brazilian journalist in less than week.


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