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by on April 30, 2014

Since 1961, the right to freedom of expression has been central to Latin American values, but more than fifty years on, freedom of expression remains a luxury not a right. According to the delegates from the IFEX-ACL (Alianza de las America Latina y el Caribe de IFEX) alliance 2013 annual report on impunity, most crimes against journalists remain unresolved. The report states that Latin America is going through a critical moment for freedom of expression and that the dimension of threats to journalists depends on different factors such as place, criminal groups or institutional weaknesses. According to the 2013 IFEX report, 670 journalists have been killed in the last twenty years, both by governments and none-governmental organisations.

The Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) also concluded recently that, “The gloomy record of journalists being murdered continued to expand during the last few years in Latin America. Freedom of expression deteriorated enormously in nearly all of the Americas, particularly in Argentina and Ecuador .” IAPA also highlighted violence against media in Mexico, threats of government control in Venezuela and Ecuador, and called on the governments of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru to ensure that justice is done in cases of murder or disappearance of journalists.

Many states in the region do not guarantee freedom of expression by going through controversial legal processes that severely limit journalists from criticising such governments. Authorities and public officials use defamation lawsuits to silence the voice of journalists, well established media outlets and vulnerable sectors. The main sources of aggression against journalist are public officials who actively seek to discredit those who oppose them.

In the last two or three decades, freedom of expression has deteriorated at an alarming rate across the region; in fact, freedom of expression has worsened in Latin America faster than anywhere else. At the moment, the Americas are undergoing a critical time as some countries have declared war on newspapers, TV broadcasters, and radio stations that go against corruption or lack of transparency. For instance, Ecuador recently approved a new communication law that has been used as a tool to punish independent media. In 2007, the government owned one radio station; today the Ecuadorian government controls twenty media outlets such as radio stations, magazines, newspapers and news agencies. So far, the Ecuadorian President, Rafael Correa, has spent well over 420 million USD in constant propaganda to censure independent media and to maintain his popularity.

The revolutionary government of Ecuador has initiated civil and criminal proceedings for distortion in various occasions,  procedures that have created a dangerous environment that conditions freedom of press in an alarming scale. An example of this trend is ‘El Universo’ newspaper sentence. President Rafael Correa accused three executives and a journalist to three years in prison and the payment of $80 million, later reduced to $40 million in damages for publishing a critical editorial. Furthermore, President Correa said that “El Universo sentences were guaranteed, and that punishment establishes an important precedent regarding the criminal liability of media executives. He has insisted that El Universo sentence should serve as an example for Ecuador and Latin America in the fight against what he calls “Corrupt press.”

For many years, independent media in the Americas have been under serious interference with governments. Ecuador, Venezuela, Argentina, Nicaragua and Bolivia are going through direct violation of freedom of expression and human rights by using governmental institutions; restrictions as a form of law to criminalise media outlets that go against these governments. Additionally, independent media outlets are criminalised by using tax regulations to put media organisations out of business.

Venezuela pioneered aggression against private media in the region by not guaranteeing free flow of information since President Hugo Chavez took office in 1998. The government has closed many Television broadcasters, radio stations and newspapers as a response to critiques against public officials’ wrongdoings. President Hugo Chavez and the current president Nicolas Maduro have argued for a number of occasions that independent media in Venezuela is against the revolution they started fourteen years ago.

In Colombia and Mexico, on the other hand, powerful non-state actors, particularly organised crime presented serious threats to journalists and media owners for informing drugs trafficking and corruption of public security. In 2011, twenty four journalists were killed in the most violent ways.

Overall, freedom of expression in the Americas is under a tremendous decline, as most governments do not guarantee the free flow of information. Instead, free media has been suffocated by authoritarian regimes that are after power and corruption.




Higuera, S. (2013) Impunity, the biggest treat to freedom of expression in the region. Journalism in the Americas [Online]. Available from: [Accessed on 15/04/14]









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