11 August 2023

IAPA Bot: organized crime onslaught against press freedom


Criminal gangs painted several countries in the hemisphere red this week, according to the map of IAPA Bot, the real-time monitoring tool of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA).

The murder of Fernando Villavicencio, presidential candidate and journalist in Ecuador, shocked the world, particularly journalism, for his investigations on corruption cases involving politicians and people in business. Although the perpetrator is dead, the authorities captured six others implicated in the crime.

In Colombia, several journalists received death threats from the Organización Armada de La Guajira, a so far unknown criminal organization. Also, a journalistic team was attacked while covering a cab driver's demonstration in Medellín. In addition, attacks through social networks against female communicators continue to increase. Since 2022, 1,084 aggressions have been registered through Twitter, according to the Ombudsman's Office.

The IAPA condemned threats against Bolivian and Uruguayan journalists in retaliation for publications about a well-known drug trafficker. Communicators from various media received an intimidating message via WhatsApp and an image showing pistol clips.

In Haiti, another journalist was also attacked while reporting on a demonstration in Port-au-Prince. Arnold Junior, a reporter for Radio Galaxie, was "brutally beaten by hooded individuals," the station said.

In Mexico, one of the riskiest countries to work as a journalist, according to the Chapultepec Index, journalist, and broadcaster Álvaro Baldo Rodríguez was found alive after having disappeared for several days.

In other cases of aggression against press freedom, Honduras's National Emergency System 911 commissioner unjustifiably expelled the media from the institution's headquarters. "They took us out of 911, but first they photographed us," revealed a photojournalist from El Heraldo newspaper.

In Panama, during coverage of a protest by students and parents at a school, a journalist was assaulted. Meanwhile, a Honduran journalist in Nicaragua was forced to leave the country because she supported Catholic priests persecuted by the Sandinista dictatorship.

In Venezuela, the NGO Espacio Público recorded at least ten violations of freedom of expression during July, the primary victims being journalists and media outlets.

IAPA Bot is an artificial intelligence tool of the Inter American Press Association that monitors press freedom violations in real-time. It tracks information published in the media, Google News, Twitter, and from a selection of IAPA notes and denunciations. In addition, it contains a heat map that allows observing the press freedom climate in each country, a button to make complaints, and a menu that highlights the statements of government leaders, citizens' conversations, and relevant events.

IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending and promoting freedom of the press and expression in the Americas. It comprises more than 1,300 publications in the Western Hemisphere, based in Miami, Florida, United States.