Midyear Meeting 2018
April 13-15
Medellín, Colombia
The murder of Paúl Rivas, Javier Ortega and Efraín Segarra, members of the newsroom of El Comercio of Ecuador, gives us the opportunity to profoundly reflect on the role that we play in the defence of the fundamental freedoms of expression and of the press. Systematically we have pronounced in an energetic manner against the murders and disappearances of journalists. On this occasion we have done more. The agreement made during this Midyear Meeting between Colombian and Ecuadorean journalists is a reaction for that story that cost the life of our colleagues to be documented and known by everyone.

The IAPA received a communication from the director of El Comercio, Carlos Mantilla, thanking the samples of support and solidarity received by the participants in the half-year meeting. We take knowledge of our colleague's appreciation.

There continues the harassment of the press and journalists and this remains in evidence in the reports on freedom of expression of the various countries of the Americas that have been presented at this meeting.

Since the last General Assembly in Utah there have been murdered 14 journalists – four Mexicans, three Ecuadoreans, two Brazilians, two Guatemalans, one Colombian, one Honduran and one from El Salvador. Also there is a Haitian journalist who has disappeared. In Mexico 11 journalists have been moved around the country in order to prevent attacks upon their lives.

The news media, their owners and journalists are constant victims of intimidations, accusations, harassments, insults, physical attacks and aggressions of all kinds on the part of those characters whom they question and those in government of whom they ask for accountability.

In Cuba the state repression is on the increase. The attacks are not only against journalists and their physical integrity but their homes are raided and they prohibited from leaving their cities and on occasions the country simply for working as journalists. Also the government blocks national and international websites, as well as addresses of e-mails related to human rights and journalism, it spies on and hacks social media.

Honduras and Nicaragua have legislative initiatives that seek to regulate social media and the Internet, claiming as such altruistic criteria the prevention of violence and false news.

Repetitive in several countries of the region is the use of digital platforms to attack, harass, denigrate and threaten journalists and news media.

The economic sustainability of the news media also is a serious concern due to the challenges that the industry is facing in the digital era. The situation is worse in some countries where official advertising is used as a weapon of pressure upon or punishment of media's editorial stances.

In Venezuela during the last six months nine newspapers ceased publishing due to lack of newsprint and other supplies; 46 radio stations and three television channels also stopped functioning due to financial problems in many cases aggravated by governmental asphyxiation.

In Bolivia news media are required to disseminate government campaigns free of charge. For some media this represents up to 30% of their advertising space.

Another alarming matter is the denial of prompt, fair and impartial justice. The investigations and judicial proceedings for murders of journalists take excessive time and in many cases never reach a definitive sentencing of the authors.

In Venezuela the Judicial Branch has come to not recognize the right of the practice of journalism and in fact does not punish those responsible for acts of violence against media and journalists. Military tribunals are used to imprison civilians, including journalists and citizen reporters. These proceedings are filled with disinformation, abuses, isolation and public unawareness.

The attempts by several governments to censor the publication of news and prevent dissemination of the truth are increasingly stronger and on this occasion include denunciations in countries such as Costa Rica, Peru and Brazil.

The law on transparency and access to information has been flagrantly violated in Panama by the Legislative Branch, while in Puerto Rico this same branch of government ignores its debate and the judiciary impedes access by the press to trials.

In Bolivia President Morales has described journalists as "media terrorists" and in the face of promulgation of a law that punishes media for publishing editorial content that in the judgment of the government is racist news companies opt for self-censorship, eliminating the spaces for comments of their readers on the Internet.

There is a growing initiative of governments to adopt laws of protection of data or cyber crime that often contain elements that go against freedom of expression and of information and access to data of public interest. This is the case of Jamaica, Haiti and Honduras.

In the United States there continues the rhetoric of President Donald Trump against news media that do not support his work.

The initiatives for implementing the Right to Oblivion continue to be latent in several countries of the region.

There still exist countries such as Panama in which there is punished with imprisonment the offense of calumny and slander when this is committed through news media. This represents million-dollar civil lawsuits against news media that on many occasions put at risk the sustainability of news companies. In Guatemala there is a bill that seeks to send journalists to prison for 20 years for generating "fear or alarm ... or putting pressure on the state or government."

There continues pending in the Latin American Parliament (Parlatino) a legislative bill that seeks to enact a law on the right to free access to communication and establish control mechanisms on the part of the government.