16 October 2014


The climate of press freedom continued, and also the possible limits implied by the enactment of the Audiovisual Communication Services Law remained postponed. The Frente Amplio senators postponed passage of that bill known as the media law until after the October 26 elections. The criticism made by the opposition and the legal doubts voiced by former president and current candidate Tabaré Vázquez, and those of President José Mujica, determined its postponement. The Senate committee that studied the bill passed by the Chamber of Deputies, and in which amendments had been incorporated, sent it to the plenary session on July 11, but the legislators of the governing Frente Amplio party decided by majority to postpone their consideration until after the national elections. If it had been voted on by the Senate with its new wording the differences in the bills approved by one and the other chamber would have required the convoking of the General Assembly, which was in conflict with the electoral campaign. In addition rules on free of charge advertising were being incorporated, with a criterion that favored the governing party. According to the chair of the Frente Amplio, Mónica Xavier, “there exists the commitment to pass the law in this legislative term” which will wind up in February 2015. On May 10 El País news photographer Gerardo Pérez, with 28 years at the paper and experience in coverage in Uruguay and abroad, was detained and held incommunicado for four hours at a police station for shooting the scene of an accident that cost the life of a child. Pérez said that he was treated like “a common prisoner.” “They took away my shoelaces, watch and a chain. No one gave me any explanation,” he said. The police officers interrogated him and refused to give him a copy of his statements. The newspaper filed a formal complaint with the courts, which began summary proceedings. To date there has been no further news. On September 2 the federal Senate unanimously approved the new Penal Code which changes the penal model from inquisitional to accusatory, in which investigation is headed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The judge becomes an impartial third party that calls to hearing, listens to the prosecutor, the person investigated, the victim and then resolves in oral hearings. While it is foreseen to come into effect in February 2017 and still lacks the vote of the Chamber of Deputies there is a controversial point for the press. It establishes that the latter “must uphold the good name and integrity of the victims, witnesses and accused, under responsibility for damages and losses. Every person on whom there has been information has the right to be published without charge in reports of similar characteristics their stay, absolution or closure of the proceedings.”