Chile and Venezuela, diametrically opposed on freedom of the press in the Americas

The IAPA launched its first Chapultepec Index, which shows the deterioration of individual and social freedoms in a large portion of the Americas

Miami (October 27, 2020) - Chile and Venezuela showcase the antagonistic views on freedom of the press and expression in the Americas, according to a new measuring tool launched by the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) - which also raises concerns about the United States and Brazil.

The new tool that the IAPA launched during its 76th General Assembly, held last week, was developed in collaboration with the Andres Bello Catholic University of Caracas (UCAB). It is a barometer that shows how legal and judicial factors, as well as violence against journalists, affect the level of information available to citizens and the work of journalists – which greatly affects democracy in 22 countries of the Americas. Index Conclusions.

IAPA President Jorge Canahuati – president of the Honduran media group OPSA – said that "there are no surprises, just the confirmation that the general climate of freedom of the press in a country is not unrelated to political upheavals, and is closely linked to the abusive influence of the Executive Branch and the lack of independence of the Judiciary."

Canahuati also said that "our vision is not to create a ranking of countries, but the possibility that each country can analyze itself and – most importantly – that each year governments may adopt policies aimed at improving the environment for freedom of the press, based on the Index's findings for each nation in terms of challenges, weaknesses, strengths and opportunities." On this IAPA microsite you can read country-by-country reports, DOFA analyses and statistics.

In most countries with low scores, the executive branch appeared to be the most restrictive – as in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. At the other extreme – on the positive ratings – the perception shifts in favor of the judicial branch – as in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Costa Rica.

The IAPA, however, warns that this first index may not be consistent with reality all the way until October 2020 - since it only measured the period between May 2019 and April 2020. Changes in policies implemented by the executive branches in recent months, whether related to the control of the pandemic, new political elections, or abrupt changes in public policy, may have influenced and changed the environment for freedom of the press in any country. A more concrete picture of freedom of the press in the Americas in the last six months is provided by the reports and resolutions that the IAPA approved last Friday, which show the serious deterioration in freedom of the press, in many cases due to the predominant role of the executive branches in their struggle to neutralize the effects of Covid-19.

The perception of journalists, media directors and experts consulted for this first Chapultepec Index shows that the greatest institutional barriers to the free circulation of ideas and the right to information come from countries with self-described socialist policies – such as Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. However, there is concern about the actions of leaders in the executive branch in countries such as the United States and Brazil – which could have been better positioned in the Index, had it not been for issues related to clashes between representatives of the central governments and journalists, as well as the protests, which registered a high number of arbitrary arrests of journalists.

"In any case," said Canahuati, "this first Index shows that press freedom must be improved in all countries, if one considers that even those nations with the greatest freedoms do not have full guarantees for freedom of the press and expression."

The scientific and academic methodology used by UCAB includes a perception survey among publishers, journalists, academics and experts linked to freedom of expression and the press. The principles included in the Declaration of Chapultepec of 1994 and the Declaration of Salta of 2018 - the latter on freedom of expression in the digital age - are used as measuring guidelines for the survey.

Based on these declarations, the Index measures the influence of public authorities on - among other factors - direct and indirect censorship, lack of access to public information, discrimination against the media on political grounds, travel and movement restrictions for journalists, judicial harassment, arbitrary arrests, and violence in general against the media and journalists. It classifies these factors according to the following criteria: Informed citizenry and freedom of expression; Exercise of journalism; Violence and impunity and Control of media.

The president of the IAPA highlighted the generous support of the Colombian companies Grupo Sura and Fundación Bolívar, as well as Edward and Karen Seaton, from the United States, for the preparation of the Index.

Canahuati also emphasized that the Chapultepec Index 2021 will include an adjustment regarding measuring timelines as of next year.

IAPA is a non-profit entity 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 publications from the western hemisphere; and is based in Miami, Florida, United States.