The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) has just finished it’s 70th General Assembly, which was held in Santiago, in Chile, it’s conclusions don’t make for good reading. The IAPA noted that freedoms of the press and of freedom of expression in the Americas have seen a "marked deterioration" in the past six months.
It was noted that there had been a "significant increase in direct and indirect censorship and physical attacks on journalists". Violence directed against journalists is being carried out by organized crime, drug traffic hit men and police-style groups on the orders of several governments of the region which resulted in the murder of 11 journalists – three in Honduras, three in Paraguay, two in Mexico, one in El Salvador, one in Colombia and one in Peru.
The Miami-based group stated that media workers in almost all the countries of the region had been affected, but Venezuela was particularly singled out for criticism. The IAPA said Venezuelan police forces and police-style groups on the orders of the government had been left several journalists injured. Physical attacks on journalists were also recorded during coverage of various election processes in Bolivia, Brazil and Peru, and street protests in the American city of Ferguson and in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The IAPA also reported that over the past six months:
In Cuba, the "massive detention of dissidents for the simple act of expressing their political opinions" continued; In Cuba four journalists remain behind bars with sentences of up to seven and 14 years imprisonment, while there continues the massive detention of dissidents for the simple act of expressing their political opinions.
Also in Cuba there has to be mentioned that the online newspaper “14yMedio”, launched in May by journalist Yoani Sánchez, is intermittently being blocked on its Web site. In Venezuela official sectors and criminal gangs used Facebook and Twitter to attack media and journalists. In Argentina, social networks and government-owned media were also used with these purposes.
Censorship of the media during electoral processes was evident in Brazil, where the judicial branch of government accepted 138 requests that media withdraw content, and in Bolivia where the opposition saw political propaganda limited to 30 days before the elections, while President Evo Morales suffer few if any limitations. In Venezuela the government of President Nicolás Maduro continues to deny foreign exchange for the purchase of supplies for print media. More than 30 newspapers are hit by the lack of newsprint and another 12 have already ceased publishing.
In the US, the government was "continuing to prohibit officials from talking to the press". In the USA and Canada legislative reforms aimed at limiting exceptions on the part of these governments to continue restricting public information for reasons always attributed to national security were defeated.
In Bolivia, President Evo Morales "did not suffer any limitations" to political propaganda before this month's elections, unlike the opposition; In Haiti, Chile and Colombia several laws have regulations by which the government and agencies of control can meddle in editorial content and criteria. The same is happening in Argentina with the discriminatory application of the Audiovisual Services Law against the Clarín group, and in Bolivia where the government is threatening enactment of a communication law. In Costa Rica under consideration is a bill to create serious restrictions on media content and editorial criteria.
In Argentina, Nicaragua and Venezuela official corruption has been reflected in the abuse of government propaganda and in the discriminatory distribution of official advertising. The lack of transparency and access to public information continues to be an obstacle to the free practice of journalism in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru and Dominican Republic.
The ISPA has warned that in Argentina, Haiti, Chile and Colombia the government could use existing laws to "meddle in editorial content and criteria". It also stated that the lack of transparency and access to public information continued to be an obstacle to the free practice of journalism in several countries, including Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina and Peru.