Friday, May 3, 2013

Latin American Press Under Fire

Today is World Press Freedom Day and, as we mentioned briefly yesterday, Freedom House report found that there is a decline in media freedom throughout Latin America.  Several recent incidents in the region appear to prove Freedom House’s assertion.
  • Mexico
Radio and TV announcer Jose Gerardo Padilla Blanquet has gone missing since Tuesday in Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila state.  Padilla Blanquet works for Radio Grande de Coahuila, a radio station whose director was assaulted months ago after receiving numerous threats.

The disappearances come days after photographer Daniel Martinez Bazaldua was murdered and dismembered in Saltillo.  An editorial in Vanguardia, the newspaper Martinez Bazaldua worked for, subsequently blasted local authorities for implying that the victims worked for one of Mexico’s drug gangs.
  • Colombia
Semana reporter Ricardo Calderón was attacked by gunfire while driving on a Colombian highway yesterday.  The veteran investigative journalist, who helped uncover an illegal and massive wiretapping operation in 2007, may have been targeted in a possible assassination attempt.

The Colombian International Press Association condemned the attack on Calderón and expressed their worry over “the security of all journalists nationwide, especially those in high conflict zones.”
  • Argentina
The Argentine Journalism Forum (FOPEA, in Spanish) denounced the firing of tear gas and rubber bullets by police on media members covering a protest one week ago.  FOPEA alleged that at least seven journalists were injured while covering the demonstration and authorities prevented some of them from receiving medical attention.

Meanwhile, an editorial in Diario Los Andes yesterday blasted the suggestion of Chaco province governor Jorge Capitanich to enact a “press ethics law” on the same day several newspapers reported money-laundering allegations against him.
  • Guatemala
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) yesterday highlighted a series of cyberattacks against the website of major news outlet elPeriódico.  According to the CPJ, the hacking had been occurring for the past several months but had intensified after elPeriódico published an April 8th article that “alleged corruption, embezzlement, and abuse of authority by President Otto Pérez Molina and Vice President Roxana Baldetti”.
  • Latin America
Reporters Without Borders (RWB) issued today its list of thirty-nine “predators of freedom of information” and it includes four figures from Latin America and the Caribbean.  The heads of Colombia’s rightwing paramilitaries, Mexico’s Zetas drug gang and Cuban President Raul Castro are among those criticized by RWB.

RWB said the following on Honduran businessman and political figure M. Facussé Barcum as if he were the one mentioning it:

In June 2010, I had soldiers dispatched to La Voz de Zacate Grande, a community radio station that had been formed a month earlier. The station’s manager, Franklin Meléndez, was injured in a March 2011 shooting attack that was blamed on my militiamen. But the police, who are good sorts, advised him not to file a complaint.

The young freelance journalist Karla Zelaya was kidnapped and tortured in Tegucigalpa in October 2012 after the stupid bitch was warned not to talk about the Aguán. And this Jesuit radio station, Radio Progreso, is still as insolent as ever. Why didn’t the soldiers who “protected” it on the day of the coup just close it down for good? Now, let’s wait for the November 2013 elections. Politicians and media can be bought, can’t they?

We’ll return this weekend to examine several news stories including the post-electoral political crisis in Venezuela and U.S. President Barack Obama’s trip to Mexico and Costa Rica. 

Video Source– YouTube via manavision (According to the Ecuadorian media, there have been at least 657 attacks against the press over the past five years).

Online Sources - Diario Los Andes; Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas; El Espectador;; The State; Hispanically Speaking News; Committee to Protect Journalists; The Latin Americanist; Reporters Without Borders

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