Long gone are the days of repressive, military dictatorships in the Americas. Still, journalists are facing new forms of censorship, as well as threats from non state actors that make some countries in the hemisphere some of the deadliest places in the world to be a journalist.
Despite some improvements in the past few years, more journalists have died covering the drug war in Mexico than covering the war in Afghanistan, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In fact, if you also take into acccount the number of journalists whose murder has not been confirmed as related to their work, the number of deaths is close to the rate in Syria. Colombia remains one of the deadliest places to be a journalist, and much like Honduras and Guatemala, a majority of the killings are left in impunity.
But it’s not just violence that’s censoring journalists. In South America, democratically elected governments with strong popular support have passed laws and other measures to curb press freedom, like Ecuador’s Organic Law of Communication. These laws receive popular support because of a history of entrenched media monopolies that are seen as serving private interests.
And even though the United States has some of the strictest protections for freedom of speech in the world, it’s 49th on the 2015 Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, falling three places since last year. In a 2013 report, the Committee to Protect Journalists criticized the Obama Administration’s persecution of leakers, the pressure on reporters to reveal their sources and the harassment of journalists covering national security issues, like documentary film-maker Laura Poitras.
Maria Hinojosa spoke with former NPR colleague John Dinges, professor of journalism at Columbia Journalism School and Carlos Lauría, senior Americas coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent non profit organization that advocates for press freedom and journalists’ rights around the world.
In the extended version, we go in deeper into threats against netizens and citizen journalists and the meaning of press freedom in Latin America vs. the United States.
Carlos Lauría is the Senior Americas Program Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists since November 2002. At CPJ, he is responsible for monitoring, documenting, and developing responses to press freedom violations in Latin America. He serves on the board of judges of the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes for outstanding reporting on Latin America.
John Dinges is in charge of the Columbia Journalism School’s radio curriculum, which he revamped to emphasize public radio journalism. He received a BA from Loras College and an MA in Latin American Studies from Stanford University. He joined National Public Radio as it was building up its foreign coverage, serving as deputy foreign editor and managing editor for news. His awards include the Maria Moors Cabot Prize for excellence in Latin American reporting, the Latin American Studies Media Award, and two Alfred I. du Pont-Columbia University Awards (as NPR Managing Editor). He serves on the advisory boards of Human Rights Watch and the National Security Archive.
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