LPress freedom in the hemisphere worsened in the last six months as the longstanding violent enemies of free expression claimed new journalist victims while populist governments following the lead of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stepped up their campaigns of abuse and ridicule of news organizations and individual reporters. Looming over these developments was a newspaper industry crisis in the United States that threatens to cripple its crucial role as a watchdog against government and private corruption. Six journalists in the Americas were killed apparently because of their work in the last six months since the Inter American Press Association assembled in Madrid. One journalist was killed in Venezuela, and another in Paraguay. But Mexico remained one of the most dangerous places for journalists, with the assassinations of four journalists and eight serious attacks on journalists or their workplaces. Even newspaper delivery trucks have been targeted by organized criminals intent on silencing the press. Unfortunately, it is working: self-censorship is a reality in the Mexican press. An IAPA initiative to make crimes against free speech a federal offense foundered in early March in the national Chamber of Deputies. Meanwhile, unpunished crimes such as the assassination four years ago of Alfredo Jimenez Mota, a journalist with the El Imparcial newspaper in Sonora, serve as a testimony to impunity. During its Mid Year Meeting, IAPA presented the case of Jimenez Mota to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the 24th case it has presented before this body. One bright spot in this doleful news of violence is that Colombia, once the world’s most dangerous nations to practice journalism, again recorded not a single murder of a journalist. More governments are not simply ignoring abuse of the press -- they are actively fanning the flames of hatred through rhetoric that has real world consequences. In Venezuela, President Chavez continued his tireless work of official humiliation of the press, and there were violent attacks on Globovision reporters in October and a tear gas bombing of the offices of the daily El Nuevo Pais, both by the government-sanctioned La Piedrita group. Chavez or his supporters recklessly characterized two newspaper publishers as assassination conspirators and even a “military target.” This tactic has been enthusiastically taken up by other heads of state in the hemisphere, including Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, Alvaro Uribe in Colombia, Oscar Arias in Costa Rica, Alvaro Colom in Guatemala, Lula da Silva in Brazil, and the Kirchner administration in Argentina. Perhaps the most extreme example is the Uruguayan government, which has publicly referred to journalists as ¨worms,¨¨clowns,¨and ¨sons of bitches.¨ IAPA delegates repeatedly described a journalistic climate of “hostility” and ”tension” as a result of relentless campaigns of verbal abuse and mockery. Most disappointing has been the complicity of certain news organizations in the attacks on their nation’s independent press. IAPA notes that the television and broadcast outlets that Angel Gonzalez now operates in nine Latin American nations have been notable offenders, siding with the government in power no matter what its political orientation and applauding their campaigns against independent news organizations. Too many governments continue to use official advertising as a way to punish independent news outlets while rewarding pro-government editorial stands. Hopes that the regime change from Fidel Castro to his brother Raul might ease the half-century repression of free expression in Cuba were dashed repeatedly in the past six months. Some 26 independent journalists, several in precarious health, remain behind bars serving sentences that range up to 28 years in prison. In fact, the 86 incidents of violence recorded against journalists in the period represent a worsening pace of abuse. The heartening trend of more nations adopting freedom of information laws or changes to their defamation laws has fueled disappointment as governments, including those of Panama and Costa Rica, have done little to embrace the spirit or practice of transparency. In the United States, President Barack Obama set a new tone of transparency on his first day in office. He declared that government agencies should grant all requests under the Freedom of Information Act unless there is clear evidence that releasing information would be harmful to national interests. While IAPA strongly supports a media of many and diverse voices, it views with alarm the increasing practice of governments to create or manipulate community broadcast outlets and publications so they become propaganda arms. The economic crisis and technological changes in the U.S. newspaper industry has cost thousands of journalists their jobs, and has led to the closure or bankruptcy of several important dailies. IAPA is concerned that the weakened state of newspapers could cripple their historic watchdog role in government and society.