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Press freedom suffered a clear setback in the Americas

Press freedom in the American continent suffered a “clear throwback”In the last year and Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela are in general terms the countries with the worst conditions to practice journalism, but Mexico is the most dangerous in terms of physical integrity for journalists.

This is the balance made by Carlos Jornet, president of the Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), at the start of the 77th General Assembly of that body in virtual format on Tuesday.

Seventeen journalists have been murdered since the previous general assembly, also held virtually in October 2020, and of those murders, nine occurred since last April, when the annual mid-term assembly took place.

Six journalists died violently in Mexico, one in Colombia, another in Brazil and another in Haiti, says Jornet, of the Argentine newspaper La Voz del Interior, about these latest cases of the most extreme harassment that a journalist can suffer for their work.

The biggest killer of journalists

Organized crime is the main responsible and, in the second instance, groups linked to the different powers”, He explained.

What worries most is impunity”, He adds to point out that in most cases neither the Police can find the perpetrators nor the Justice can convict them.

But physical violence is not the only problem facing the hemisphere’s press.

The reports on the situation in each country, prepared by the respective deputy directors of Freedom of the Press and Information, compose a rather dark picture with mentions of harassment and stigmatization of the media, censorship, closure and legislation that hinders the work of journalists.

The closures of the newspapers El Nacional in Caracas and La Prensa in Managua are two other black spots in the panorama of press freedom, which will give rise to debates in this Assembly.

Regarding the diatribes of power against the press, cataloged as “stigmatization”, he emphasizes that presidents such as Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of Mexico, Jair Bolsonaro, of Brazil, and sectors of the new Government of Peru “play with fire” when they present journalists and the media as enemies of the people.

“That speech encourages violence”Against journalists, underlines the IAPA director.

Transparency becomes opaque

Another worrying issue in the last year was the restrictions on access to public information, precisely when “transparency was most required” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jornet explains that he is concerned both about the public’s need for abundant information to protect themselves and about public purchases made by governments in emergency situations and subject to less control.

It is a problem that occurs in all types of countries from Canada and the United States to almost all of Latin America, he emphasizes.

Many executives have governed during the pandemic by decree without going through the Legislature and have shielded themselves from the need to combat disinformation to regulate the internet and social networks and impose limitations on freedom of expression.

The axis of dictatorships

In the reports from countries where social protests have been registered, such as the United States or Colombia, there are reports that the Police acted with force against journalists without taking into account that they were doing their job.

For Wednesday 20 the panel “Freedom of the press and the Axis of dictatorships: Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela” is scheduled, followed by another on “Freedom of the press and lack of judicial independence”, Referring to cases from El Salvador and Argentina, among other countries.

The dictatorship loses the battle on the internet and struggles not to lose the street as well. This has been the most difficult semester for Cubans and the dictatorship in the last 25 years“Begins the report on Cuba, still pending approval by the Assembly, which indicates that the repression unleashed by the authorities after the July 11 protests has reached”one dimension” never seen before.

The one from Venezuela points out that “The grievances against freedom of expression intensified in this period” and in Nicaragua that “in this semester the government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo has continued with the attacks on journalists and the media ”.

During the General Assembly of the IAPA, the results of the Chapultepec Index, which measures the state of press freedom in each country of the continent, for the last year will be presented.

Jornet announced that at the end of the list are Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, with the worst, and that there are countries like Argentina that have dropped “quite a lot”Positions and others like the Dominican Republic that have improved and risen in the table, in both cases coinciding with changes of Government.

Uruguay, Chile and Costa Rica remain in high positions.

Soon the IAPA will present an interactive tool that, with the help of artificial intelligence, allows us to know how the climate of press freedom is in a country from measurements on social networks.

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