The Inter American Press Association has been calling attention to numerous governmental acts intended to censure and inhibit freedom of expression in Latin America. As political leaders in Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela have been leading the efforts in funding media outlets that do little else than disseminate political propaganda, the problem is spreading fast throughout the entire region.
In Ecuador, the federal government seized the newspaper El Telégrafo, after they also confiscated the assets of banker and major shareholder Fernando Aspiazu, who was jailed on charges of fraud and unlawful activity in the now defunct Banco de Progreso he owned. The authorities redesigned the newspaper and are now using it to spread hard-hitting official advertising campaigns.
In Argentina, President Cristina Kirchner declared the two leading newspapers in the country, El Clarin and La Nacion, as enemies of her government. Since then, she has tried to find ways to control their activities. With this objective in mind she took over the nation’s main supplier of newsprint, alleging that the two leading newspapers illegally conspired with dictators to control the company three decades ago and then used it to drive competing newspapers out of business.
In Brazil, with the blessing of the federal government, at least five states are trying to enact legislation intended to create agencies that would allow the local Executive Power to control and overrule local media’s activities.
In Mexico, it is not the action of the government, but its inaction that is affecting local media. In the past six months 14 journalists have been killed. The headquarters of the Newspaper “El Sur”, in Acapulco, were attacked by drug cartels, all because the reporters and the media dared to denounce the illegal activities and organized crimes in the country.
The examples go on and on. Authorities in Latin America are trying to suppress freedom of expression. Without these vital components of democracy, the livelihood of the nations is endangered at its very core. Hundreds, if not thousands of people throughout the region have given money, work and their lives to ensure that their countries may one day enjoy true freedom of expression, uncensored and unadulterated by their governments. But, with the most recent actions (or inactions) of the regions governments, all pro-democratic efforts may result in vain. The progress that had been made is being reversed. The days in which one could give an opinion may soon come to an end. Authorities must stop. And civil society must act now.
To those of you who are reading this article, realize that you are doing so precisely because some freedom of expression is still possible. Together we can and we must ensure that oppressive governments do not put an end to our rights.