Freedom of Expression Under Attack in Central America: Four Cases From New AI Report

Out of  almost 300 cases of human rights abuses covered in Amnesty International’s new report, Transforming Pain into Hope:  Human Rights Defenders in Latin America, only four have resulted in the conviction of those responsible.

One of the main reasons why violators continue enjoy impunity is that they target precisely those individuals who expose their crimes.  The report therefore emphasizes the danger posed to journalists, bloggers, and trade unionists who speak up for human rights.

Just within the relatively small region of Central America, the report highlights four important cases of attacks on freedom of expression that seek to cover up other human rights abuses: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Rural Families In Northern Brazil At Risk Of Violence

While violence in Northern Brazil is frequently ignored, local families have no other option but to live in fear.  People are being threatened and guns are being shot.

At this very moment 40 families in the settlements of Assentamento Santo Antônio Bom Sossego and Acampamento Vitória, both located in the state of Tocantins, are being threatened by eight gunmen hired by a local farmer.

On the night of June 6, the gunmen fired shots over the encampment. On June 4, gunmen were overheard arguing about whether to carry out an execution. On May 29 one gunman told a resident: Lá vai morrer gente (people are going to die there). The rural workers have also complained of men with torches walking around the perimeter of the settlements. Five community members are said to be on a hit-list of people targeted by the gunmen.


Death threats for two Sri Lankan journalists

Freedom of expression is again under assault in Sri Lanka.  On October 22, two editors at the Sunday Leader (a Sri Lankan newspaper), Frederica Jansz and Munza Mushataq, received identical death threats in the mail, handwritten in red ink.  Ms. Jansz is the editor-in-chief and Ms. Mushataq is the news editor.  The threats relate to coverage by the paper of a video which allegedly showed Sri Lankan soldiers executing Tamil prisoners.

The paper’s founder and former editor-in-chief, Lasantha Wickrematunge, was killed last January after receiving a similar death threat three weeks earlier.  No one has yet been prosecuted for his murder.

Last month, Dileesha Abeysundera, who works for the Sinhala-language edition of the Sunday Leader, was threatened.  The newspaper has suffered numerous serious attacks on its staff and offices in the past. 

Over the past three years, numerous journalists have been detained in Sri Lanka while others have fled the country.  At least 14 media workers have been killed.  Investigations haven’t resulted in  prosecutions.  For more on this issue, see the AI report, “Sri Lanka:  Silencing dissent.”

Amnesty International has issued an urgent action appeal calling on the Sri Lankan government to ensure the safety of Frederica Jansz and Munza Mushataq, and to investigate the death threats received by them and the attacks on other Sri Lankan journalists and media workers.  Please take action in response to our appeal and write to President Mahinda Rajapaksa (email:  [email protected]).   Thanks for your help.