‘International Press Institute (IPI)’ and ‘International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX)’

PRESS RELEASE  http://www.freemedia.at

Vienna, 11 May 2006

IPI Calls on the European Union to raise the issue of press freedom in Latin America and the Caribbean during the EU-LAC Summit in Vienna, Austria

On the occasion of the European Union Latin America and Caribbean (EU-LAC) Summit in Vienna, Austria, the International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, calls on the European Union (EU) to raise the issue of press freedom and freedom of expression.

In the Americas, at least 11 journalists were killed because of their work in 2005. Three journalists were murdered in Haiti, and two each in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. Journalists were also killed in Ecuador and Nicaragua.

Throughout the year, investigative journalists in Latin America continued to receive death threats, or were physically attacked by corrupt officials, drug traffickers and other criminals intent on preventing the media from exposing their activities. Several journalists were forced to flee into exile. In addition, journalists had to contend with a barrage of litigation, including criminal defamation lawsuits and excessive punitive damage awards in civil suits.

Media outlets criticised government restrictions on access to public information, often the result of anti-terrorism legislation introduced in response to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The use of official advertising to punish or reward publications and broadcasters was also condemned as a threat to press freedom. In some countries, the excessive use of force against journalists by the police and army was a cause for concern.

With 23 journalists imprisoned at the end of 2005, Fidel Castro’s Cuba was the world’s second biggest jailer of journalists after China. Those independent journalists not already arrested in the March 2003 government crackdown on political dissidents were systematically monitored, harassed or detained by the state security forces.

Mexico saw an increase in the number of violent attacks against reporters, especially those investigating drug trafficking and official corruption in the northern states bordering the U.S.

The administration of President Hugo Ch?�vez tightened its grip on the press in Venezuela, as the Social Responsibility Law for Radio and Television and amendments to the penal code, expanding the categories of government officials protected by insult provisions, came into effect in 2005.

In the Caribbean, the introduction of restrictive new media legislation, the continued use of civil and criminal defamation laws, and instances of government interference in state-owned media, all encouraged the tendency to self-censor.

Speaking on the press freedom situation in the region, Michael Kudlak, IPI’s press freedom advisor for the Americas and the Caribbean, said, “Increasingly, authorities are attempting to use defamation laws, broadcasting regulations, and other legal measures to stifle critical coverage, posing a serious threat to freedom of opinion and expression in the Caribbean.”

IPI Director Johann Fritz added, “IPI calls on the Austrian Presidency of the European Union and heads of EU member states to address freedom of expression and media freedom in Latin America and the Caribbean during the EU-LAC summit. At a time when journalists suffer harassment and must resort to self-censorship, there is a real need for the EU’s dialogue with many Latin American countries to be informed by greater discussion about press freedom and freedom of expression.”

“IPI urges the governments of the region to uphold everyone’s right to freedom of opinion and expression, including the right ‘to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,’ as outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Fritz said.

IPI, the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, is dedicated to the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information, and the improvement of the practices of journalism.

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International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX)

http://www.ifex.org/en/layout/set/print/content/view/full/74356/