The freedom of expression regressed in 2021 in the Americas, including U.S, with at least 30 journalists assassinated and the “bad example” of Nicaragua that followed El Salvador and Guatemala, denounced this Tuesday Fundamedios.
“The discourse against the press and the attacks gained ground, put democratic systems in check and penetrated even the most solid societies, such as the seizure of the United States Capitol” on January 6 by supporters of then-President Donald Trump , it states.
During the assault on Congress there were “violent attacks and insults” against journalists, in some cases motivated “not only by hatred against the press but by the use of the Spanish language,” he adds.
The Andean Foundation for Media Observation and Study (Fundamedios) highlights the situation in Central America, especially in Nicaragua, which “became a dictatorship without extenuating circumstances and its regrettable practices were replicated by its neighboring countries with a single objective: to silence the dissenting voices”.
Nicaragua’s independent press has been the target of threats and attacks since it covered the 2018 anti-government protests, the repression of which left more than 300 dead, according to humanitarian groups.
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, reelected in November, began to implement the Cybercrime Law and the Foreign Agents Regulation Law, which were used “as tools of persecution, harassment, and harassment against journalists and against all critical voices.” sustains the organization.
Nicaragua closes the year with more than 160 political prisoners and the forced exile of 45 journalists, it warns.
Under the presidency of Nayib Bukele, El Salvador “was not far behind” with the Foreign Agents Registration Law.
His stigmatizing discourse “even involved the media in crimes of tax evasion and forced its journalists to leave the country,” he denounces.
This year the Salvadoran Congress reformed a law that waived some taxes on newspapers, most of them critical of Bukele.
In Guatemala, the presidency of Alejandro Giammattei “has meant a serious setback in respect for fundamental rights,” says Fundamedios.
The proposal known as the NGO Law sought to generate “a gag law” and the attacks on the community media “were relevant,” he warns, and denounces that journalists were accused of “sedition, arson and aggravated robbery.”
Honduras is also immersed “in a cycle of attacks on freedom of expression” and this year a new penal code came into force that regulates libel and slander, which, according to international standards, should be under civil law.
Latin America continues to be one of the most hostile areas in the world to practice journalism, with 30 professionals killed in 2021, Fundamedios reported.
Mexico is the most dangerous country with 16, followed by Guatemala and Honduras, with four cases respectively, Colombia with three, Venezuela with two and Brazil with one. “In their cases, justice has not been done.”
“The stigmatizing speech has been a great theme of the year” in countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Cuba, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, where their leaders “have been in charge of discrediting the work of the press, which has materialized in attacks and aggressions, carried out by sympathizers, against journalists”, he assures.
The organization claims that political leaders who base their speeches on attacks on the media are “proliferating” in the Americas.
He gives as an example the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and the case of Mexico, which is distinguished from Brazil because those in charge of spreading this type of speeches “are more diversified, starting with the highest authority up to mayors and deputies.”
He also denounces an increase in attacks against independent voices in Cuba during protests against the government.
On a more optimistic note, Fundamedios highlights three judgments of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that generate precedents in favor of press freedom: the right of the indigenous peoples of Guatemala to access to frequencies and to pluralism in communication and responsibility Colombia and Ecuador in two cases against journalists.