SANTIAGO, Chile (October 21, 2014)—The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today issued the Conclusions of its 70th General Assembly following its review of the state of press freedom in the Americas in the last six months. The IAPA held its meeting in this South American city October 17-21.
CONCLUSIONS OF THE 70th GENERAL ASSEMBLY:
Freedom of the press and of expression in the hemisphere underwent a marked deterioration in the last six months due to a significant increase in direct and indirect censorship and physical attacks on journalists.
Violence carried out by organized crime, drug traffic hitmen and police-style groups on the orders of several governments of the region left a balance of 11 journalists murdered – three in Honduras, three in Paraguay, two in Mexico, one in El Salvador, one in Colombia and one in Peru.
Journalists in almost all the countries of the region suffered physical attacks, particularly in Venezuela where police forces and police-style groups on the orders of the government left a balance of several journalists injured. Physical attacks on journalists were also recorded during coverage of various election processes in Bolivia, Brazil and Peru, and street protests in the American city of Ferguson and in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
In Cuba four journalists remain behind bars with sentences of up to seven and 14 years imprisonment, while there continues the massive detention of dissidents for the simple act of expressing their political opinions. Also in Cuba there has to be mentioned that the online newspaper “14yMedio”, launched in May by journalist Yoani Sánchez, is intermittently being blocked on its Web site.
In Argentina there was cloning of Clarín print media and in Mexico there was the cloning of the newsprint and the online versions of a magazine, while in Venezuela official sectors and criminal gangs used Facebook and Twitter to attack media and journalists. In Argentina, social networks and government-owned media were also used with these purposes.
Censorship of the media during electoral processes was evident in Brazil, where the judicial branch of government accepted 138 requests that media withdraw content, and in Bolivia where the opposition saw political propaganda limited to 30 days before the elections, while President Evo Morales did not suffer any limitations.
The censorship was also applied to media in Ecuador through a ruling of the Constitutional Court that ratified what is established in the Communication Law turning the work of the press into a public service. As part of this crude censorship an agency for the control of content punished 25 media and four newspapers had to stop publishing.
In Venezuela the government of President Nicolás Maduro continues to deny foreign exchange for the purchase of supplies for print media. More than 30 newspapers are hit by the lack of newsprint and another 12 have already ceased publishing.
In Haiti, Chile and Colombia several laws have regulations by which the government and agencies of control can meddle in editorial content and criteria. The same is happening in Argentina with the discriminatory application of the Audiovisual Services Law against the Clarín group, and in Bolivia where the government is threatening enactment of a communication law. In Costa Rica under consideration is a bill to create serious restrictions on media content and editorial criteria.
The lack of transparency and access to public information continues to be an obstacle to the free practice of journalism in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Dominican Republic.
The U.S. government of President Barack Obama is continuing to prohibit officials from talking to the press. In the United States and Canada defeated were legislative reforms aimed at limiting exceptions on the part of these governments to continue restricting public information for reasons always attributed to national security.
Perhaps the most positive news this semester has been the enactment of the Law on Access to Public Information and Transparency in Paraguay , which is expected to encourage other countries in the region that still do not.
In Argentina, Nicaragua and Venezuela official corruption has been reflected in the abuse of government propaganda and in the discriminatory distribution of official advertising.
Concentration of government media worsened in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
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.