MIAMI, Florida (September 21, 2012)—Numerous cases of journalists and news media being harassed or threatened in a number of countries in the Americas in recent weeks brought a response today from the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) that the issue will now be raised in detail at the organization’s General Assembly, to be held in São Paulo, Brazil, October 12-16.
IAPA expressed concern at the threats, physical attacks and other violent acts against members of the press in Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay and Venezuela. IAPA made clear that ensuring the safety and protection of journalists while they are covering the news is a priority for the organization, and an issue that, among others, will be taken up by the organization at its half-yearly meeting.
The leading hemispheric press institution analyzed a series of incidents that have taken place in September and have contributed to a climate of hostility and lack of tolerance toward the press, demonstrating the risk in reporting the news.
The most recent event occurred in Ecuador on Wednesday (September 19), when investigative reporter and news presenter with the privately-owned television channel Teleamazonas Janet Hinostroza announced on the air she was temporarily halting her work. This was due, she said, to death threats received following the broadcast of a report on her investigation that disclosed alleged wrongdoing concerning a loan granted by the Central Bank of Ecuador to a person believed to be linked to the president of that state body, Pedro Delgado, a cousin of Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa.
In another development that also involved the head of the Central Bank, President Correa warned the newspaper El Comercio on September 13 that he could take legal action against it for publishing something that he described as “a falsehood.” At issue was a report published on August 26 regarding investigations initiated by Ecuador’s Finance Office into Delgado’s declaration of assets.
Earlier this month Antonio Medrano, El Universo correspondent in the city of Babahoyo, Los Ríos province, also reported having received death threats. He covers security, justice and current politics for the newspaper.
In Colombia, this week it was reported that 10 journalists in Magdalena province received death threats after publishing an interview with a former paramilitary leader. His remarks, aired on Radio Magdalena radio station in the city of Santa Marta, were reproduced by other local media. The threats were made in a pamphlet that included the names of the 10 local radio and television journalists.
In Brazil, an explosive device destroyed the installations of Radio Farol radio station in the town of União dos Palmares, in Alagoas state. The blast caused considerable damage and put the radio off the air. It occurred on September 13, one day after the broadcast of a conversation between two local politicians running for the local mayor’s office. There were no injuries.
In other parts of the country there were reports of attempts at censorship and attacks on journalists by supporters of candidates in municipal elections slated for October 1. In the town of Betim, Minas Gerais state, the magazine Época reported that a team of its reporters was threatened and ordered to erase the contents of their camera, while in the town of Quixadá, Ceará state, a television presenter was beaten up by a supporter of a local candidate as he was recording his report.
In Paraguay, two reporters with the newspaper La Nación who have been reporting on alleged acts of nepotism in the government of President Federico Franco were threatened and attacked in separate incidents last week. In this country journalists and press organizations have come out against the firing, for alleged ideological reasons, of 27 journalists with the state television channel Televisión Pública de Paraguay.
In Venezuela, a reporter with the National Public Media System was attacked on September 9 by supporters of the opposition candidate for president in the October 7 elections.
IAPA will remain alert and give special attention to those countries where the largest number of cases of attacks on the press have been reported.
The IAPA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the defense and promotion of freedom of the press and of expression in the Americas. It is made up of more than 1,300 print publications from throughout the Western Hemisphere and is based in Miami, Florida. For more information please go to http://www.sipiapa.org.