Report to the Midyear Meeting
April, 19-22 2022
There have been no systematic cases of offenses against press freedom - although one case involving judges and prosecutors caused a stir in public opinion and in the media.

On February 1, Ignacio Álvarez - director of the program La Pecera on Radio Azul - played audio recordings of the rape of a woman. Subsequently, Micaela Melgar - Congreswoman of the Communist Party - reported that the program was presenting the victim as a participant in a consensual act. She concluded that "the broadcasting of recordings with intimate or sexual content of a person -without his or her authorization- is a crime."

As a result of this episode, prosecutor Mariana Alfaro requested Judge Patricia Rodríguez Barreto to order a search at Radio Azul and at the journalist's house - and the seizure of electronic devices (cell phones, tablets, computers and storage devices (USB flash drives and hard disks). The judge also authorized the change of passwords in devices, applications and networks - "so as not to thwart the investigation."

After several government ministers and media outlets expressed their rejection of the actions by the prosecutor and the judge, on grounds that a media outlet was being censored and that constitutional principles on press freedom were being infringed - the court backtracked on the investigations and closed the case.

In reference to this case, it was a matter of concern to confirm the existence of Law 19580, which in more than one article establishes ambiguous specifications - which may result in prison sentences for the exercise of freedom of expression. The fact caused concern, since Uruguay is one of the countries that stands out for the defense and protection of the exercise of journalistic activity and freedom of expression - and a country in which communication crimes were outside the scope of the criminal justice system and were dealt with through civil courts.

The issue should be carefully analyzed by specialists to ask the Government and Parliament to make the necessary changes to protect freedom of expression - which protects all people and is the first protector and guardian of all other freedoms.