Miami (December 13, 2022) – Seven organizations that defend press freedom and free expression, including the Inter American Press Association (SIP), condemned and denounced violence against journalism and called on States to combat it.
Below is the joint statement:
2022 has been the most violent year for the press in Latin America and the Caribbean for the last two decades. During the last eleven months, at least 37 journalists have been murdered in connection with their work. Additionally, dozens of journalists have been exiled, imprisoned; hundreds of journalists are still missing, while dozens of media outlets have been forced to close.
In the worsening conditions for the practice of journalism in Latin America, we see four worrying trends:
The resurgence of caudillista (strongman) political regimes. Throughout the region, we see leaders applying a strategy of turning the messenger into the message. They constantly coin anti-press rhetoric as a central tool in their official speeches. This rhetoric weakens public debate, inhibits the flow and plurality of ideas, while contributing to a permissive environment for the use of violence against journalists. The situation is especially critical in El Salvador, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Guatemala, where several journalists face trumped-up charges without due process guarantees, in many cases by judiciaries used as political arms of the executive branch.
Online disinformation. We are concerned about disinformation strategies that seek to discredit, delegitimize, and diminish confidence in journalism. These strategies include authorities using social networks and even instant messaging applications to distort the public conversation. Armies of trolls are used by governments to carry out persecution and discrediting campaigns against media and journalists. These strategies impact people's right to receive information and distort the information that reaches the population. We are also concerned that the authorities disseminate false information or half-truths which, for example, in sensitive contexts, can lead citizens to disbelieve the legitimacy of certain democratic processes, as in the case of elections. In addition, operations to misinform and stigmatize undermine confidence in journalism.
Protection Mechanisms. In spite of their being a step forward in guaranteeing the rights of journalists, extant protection mechanisms suffer from problems in their operation: they are seldom sufficient to address the problems that motivated their creation. It is therefore necessary to strengthen them in the countries where they exist and to implement them in those countries that do not yet have such programs. States must provide material and professional resources so that they can function efficiently, and these must be accompanied by comprehensive public policies that contemplate prevention and coordination with other agencies. At the same time, impunity must be confronted, and institutions of justice must be strengthened in order to advance robust and independent investigations
Surveillance and espionage: State security forces continue to deploy illegal communications surveillance practices against journalists. The use of invasive technologies to violate their privacy, and to access their private communications and the information stored in their personal and work devices. puts journalistic sources at risk, threatens investigative journalism as a counterweight to power, and places journalists in a vulnerable position where they can be victims of other abuses.
Civil society organizations that defend freedom of expression and press freedom have already pointed out several routes for the states of the region to face these challenges, including: strategies to combat legal harassment and impunity; strengthening the independence and professionalism of those who make up the law enforcement agencies; the creation of protection mechanisms where they do not exist, and the strengthening of existing ones; stopping surveillance practices against journalists; and acting to protect online and offline public conversation, including by ceasing stigmatizing speeches that increase hostility to the practice of journalism.
An attack against the press is an attack against democracy, particularly in a context where the work of informing is under constant siege. Therefore, we call on the states to adopt these and other actions, so that the lamentable figures of attacks against journalism in Latin America are not repeated, and that the conditions for a free and safe exercise of journalism can be guaranteed.
ARTICLE 19 Mexico and Central America
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Foundation for Freedom of the Press (FLIP)
Inter American Press Association (IAPA)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Voces del Sur (VdS)