Latin America: a hostile territory for press freedom

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Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Brazil are three of the countries in the region where journalism and press freedom have the worst conditions 

Latin America: a hostile territory for press freedom

It is not easy to be a journalist in Latin America. Censorship, authoritarianism, repression and persecution against information professionals; as well as the control of the media and the restrictions imposed on digital platforms and social networks, in addition to the misinformation that spreads there, make the conditions of journalists worse every day, with governments that are more and more determined every day in limiting the right to freedom of expression.

Leer en español: Latinoamérica: un territorio hostil para la libertad de prensa

In 2018, LatinAmerican Post wrote about the critical panorama of freedom of expression in Latin America, mentioning specific cases of countries in which the work of journalists was restricted or limited in different ways. This was done taking as reference the annual report that the Reporters Without Borders organization makes to analyze and measure the state of freedom of expression in Latin America.

In that sense, on April 18 Reporters Without Borders published its annual report again, which this year is entitled: "World ranking | Latin America: Authoritarianism and misinformation aggravate the situation of press freedom", which, in a few words, ratifies what was mentioned a year ago and warns of the particular situations of the countries where this problem has become acute, highlighting in a special way what happens in these three countries: Nicaragua, Venezuela and Brazil.

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Censorship and authoritarianism in Venezuela and Nicaragua

For the report published in 2018, Reporters Without Borders had warned about Daniel Ortega's intentions to regulate social networks, in order to control information that could affect his government. Although at present they are still trying to carry out this type of action, the situation is much more serious if we take into account that other factors that the organization has highlighted in the recently published report, such as the repression, threats and arbitrary detentions against journalists:

"Nicaragua sinks: it falls 24 positions and it is ranked 114th in the ranking, the largest setback recorded in the Americas. The repression exercised by the government of Daniel Ortega against the independent press took a new turn in April 2018 as the political crisis and the great protests of the opposition in the country worsened. The authorities constantly stigmatized journalists, who suffered harassment campaigns and death threats, not counting arbitrary arrests. During the demonstrations, Nicaraguan reporters were frequently attacked, as they were considered opponents. Some of them have gone into exile, because they fear that they will be accused of terrorism and that they will be imprisoned, like some of their colleagues", says Reporters Without Borders.

In terms of Venezuela's repression, there are cases that occurred years ago, such as the censorship of the NTN24, RCN Televisión, Caracol Televisión, and CNN Spanish networks, as well as the closure of RCTV. At the beginning of 2019 it is also remembered what happened with the journalist of Univisión, Jorge Ramos, who was prevented from carrying out his work, his teams were with him and with his colleagues, he was also detained and later, expelled from Venezuela. Likewise, in the last day of protests that Venezuela experienced, media outlets such as BBC, as well as the radio network RCR, were also censored.

"The situation is also very worrying in Venezuela (148th), which drops five places and is dangerously close to the black zone of the Classification. The authoritarianism of Nicolás Maduro, in power since 2013, seems to have no limits. In 2018 the repression against the independent press intensified, RWB recorded a record number of arbitrary arrests and violent acts perpetrated by the Venezuelan forces and the Venezuelan intelligence services", the organization warned, adding:

"In parallel, the National Telecommunications Commission of Venezuela (Conatel) deprived radio and television stations of broadcast frequency that it considered too critical of the government, and the authorities detained, interrogated and expelled foreign journalists from its territory. The deterioration of the situation has pushed many journalists to leave the country to preserve their physical integrity, as they have received threats. "

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Brazil and the danger of disinformation and fake news

According to Reporters Without Borders, Brazil is approaching the red zone, because for this classification fell three positions and now stands at the 105th place. 2018 was a very turbulent year in this country, as four journalists were killed and increased, even more, the vulnerability of independent reporters -especially in small and medium-sized cities- that cover issues such as corruption, public policies and organized crime.

However, the campaign for the presidential elections was marked by misinformation, fake news, hate speech, violent acts against journalists and disregard for human rights. The election of Jair Bolsonaro as president, in October 2018, augurs a dark period for democracy and press freedom in Brazil.

"In a country in which two thirds of the population is informed through social networks and WhatsApp, this application represented a key function in the electoral campaign: it was the main source of information for the majority (61%) of the voters of Bolsonaro, who distrusted the national press. WhatsApp replaced the traditional sources of information, through this medium false information was disseminated destined to discredit the work of critical journalists with Bolsonaro, as well as campaigns of discredit and conspiracy theories, which were widely disseminated and shared. In the midst of this tense situation, Brazilian journalists became the target of hatred of some groups of the population, such as supporters of Bolsonaro, especially in social networks, "the report complements.

What the Reporters Without Borders report shows, is that attacks on press freedom are a trend that exists throughout Latin America and that it does not distinguish countries, types, and forms of government.


LatinAmerican Post | Samuel Augusto Gallego Suárez

Translated from "Latinoamérica: un territorio hostil para la libertad de prensa"