Watchdog says press freedom deteriorating in the Americas because of censorship, attacks

Associated Press

Freedom of expression and the press have sharply deteriorated in the Americas over the last six months due to an increase in censorship and physical attacks on journalists, the Inter American Press Association said Tuesday.

Eleven journalists were killed in attacks "carried out by organized crime, drug traffic hit men and police-style groups on the orders of several governments of the region," the group said in a statement at the end of its 70th General Assembly.

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Journalists suffered violence in almost every country in the region, including Venezuela, where some were attacked by police, and in Bolivia, Brazil and Peru during election coverage. Journalists also experienced violence while reporting on street protests in the U.S. city of Ferguson, Missouri, and the Brazilian cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

The IAPA said it was concerned about four journalists who are serving jail sentences of 7 to 14 years in Cuba, "for the simple act of expressing their political opinions." It also denounced the use of Facebook and Twitter to attack the media and journalists in Argentina and Venezuela.

The media was censored during Brazil's electoral process when the judicial branch accepted 138 requests that forced the media to withdraw content, IAPA said. Censorship also occurred in Bolivia where the opposition had its political propaganda limited to 30 days before elections, while President Evo Morales was not limited.

The group also accused Ecuador of censorship through a Constitutional Court ruling that ratified what was established in a law that turned the work of the press into a public service.

"As part of this crude censorship an agency for the control of content punished 25 media and four newspapers had to stop publishing," the IAPA said.

In Venezuela, the government of President Nicolas Maduro "continues to deny foreign exchange for the purchase of supplies for print media." As a result, more than 30 newspapers have been hit by the lack of newsprint and 12 others have ceased publishing.

In Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile and Haiti, laws have been changed allowing the government and controlling agencies to intervene more in editorial content.

Lack of access and transparency also continues to be a major roadblock to the free practice of journalism in several countries. The IAPA pointed out that President Barack Obama's government continues to ban officials from talking to the press.

The Miami-based IAPA has more than 1,300 member news organizations and promotes press freedoms throughout the Americas.



IAPA statement: