By Bruce B. Brugmann
Cartagena, Colombia March l9–The Inter American Press Association has condemned the U.S. government for jailing Josh Wolf and called for his immediate release from federal prison.
IAPA, at its annual mid-year meeting in Cartagena, noted that Wolf “remains in jail for refusing to turn over his videos and has now been in jail for refusing to comply with a subpoena for longer than any journalist in U.S. history.”
IAPA said that “numerous journalists in the United States have been subpoenaed by prosecutors and required to testify in state and federal court, including the requirement that they name their confidential sources.”
It noted that San Francisco Chronicle reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams faced l8 months in prison until their confidential source recently came forward.”
IAPA relied on principle 4 of the Declaration of Chapultepec, the organization’s version of the First Amendment,
that states, “Freedom of expression and of the press are severely limited by murder, terrorism, kidnapping, intimidation, the unjust imprisonment of journalists, the destruction of facilities, violence of any kind and impunity for perpetrators. Such acts must be investigated promptly and punished harshly.”
IAPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to defending freedom of expression and of the press throughout the Americas. It has a membership of more than l,300 representing newspapers and magazines, with a combined circulation of 43,353,762, from Patagonia to Alaska.
In other action, IAPA found that six journalists were killed and one disappeared in the last six months in Mexico, and another was killed in Haiti. “The assassinated journalists were all victims of drug and gang wars, reflecting how throughout the region organized crime was a bigger physical threat to journalists than old-fashioned political differences,” IAPA said. “There were nearly two dozen more cases of reported death threats, in Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, Paraguay, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Peru,Venezuela, and Brazil, some related to the reporting of corruption.”
IAPA said that Cuba and Venezuela were the worst countries in terms of government pressure on the press.
President Hugo Chavez threatens to shut down the country’s leading television network, Radio CaracasTelevision, by not renewing its license. And in Cuba, after Fidel Castro replaced himself with his brother Raul as the president, repression has escalated against independent journalists and foreign correspondents.
IAPA reported 47 acts of harassment of journalists (police threats, interrogations, ‘acts of repudiation’ organized by the government, public beatings, temporary arrests, fines for disobedience, raids of people’s homes, evictions, seizures of money and personal items, firings, and restrictions on travel within Cuba). Three foreign correspondents were expelled from Cuba on the grounds that “their approach to the situation in Cuba is not in the best interests of the Cuban government.” In an attack on news sources, four people are being prosecuted for manufacturing or repairing satellite television equipment and may go to prison for three years. Meanwhile, IAPA said, 28 journalists remain behind bars, serving sentences of up to 27 years.
Cuba is now extending its repression to internet users. No Cuban may access the internet freely. Ramiro Valdes, the minister of computers and communications, ahs announced the government’s intention to tame the “wild horse” of new technologies, which it describes as “one of the most horrible means of global extermination ever invented.”
Argentina, Uruguay, Ecuador, and Bolivia had “lesser but still worrying” tensions between their governments and the media. In Argentina, the government continued to “arbitrarily classify journalists and media outlets as friends and enemies, and use the placing of official advertising to support the one and punish the other. B3