2021: between threats to the press and the Nobel Peace Prize

Saint Joseph.- The free exercise of journalism In Latin America and the Caribbean, in 2021, it went through recurring ups and downs of greater or lesser repression and setback and progress and successes due to the incessant hostility of the governments of the left, from Mexico to Cuba and from Venezuela to Nicaragua, or from the right, of El Salvador to Colombia and from Brazil to Guatemala.

Faced with the persecution, imprisonment and convictions of journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2021, with 11 murders this year, a story emerged this month with hemispheric impact. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Inter-American Court of Human Rights) ruled in favor of the newspaper El Universo, from Ecuador, a journalist and executives of that medium and against a conviction in 2011 for 40 million dollars that the then president of that country, Rafael Correa , promoted in the Ecuadorian justice.

The Court found Ecuador guilty of violating in 2011 the rights to freedom of expression, movement and residence and to freedom of job security of the journalist, of the directors and of the newspaper. The Ecuadorian justice sentenced each of the four to three years in prison for “serious slanderous insults against the authority,” which in this case was Correa.

A news story with a worldwide impact emerged in October. In support of the free press in the face of the attack by governments of various ideologies, the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Philippine journalist María Ressa and Russian journalist Dmitri Murátov “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace ”.

“Just when these journalists were awarded the Nobel as a gap of hope for the independent press in the face of the hegemonic power, in parallel a law was put into effect in Cuba that criminalizes the access and distribution of information,” said the “non-official journalist ”Cuban María Matienzo, correspondent on the island of Cubanet, a digital newspaper based in Miami, Florida, the heart of Cuban exile in the United States.

A constant victim of the multiple siege of the Cuban communist revolution, which cornered her to stages of virtual house arrest in 2021 in Havana, Matienzo explained to EL UNIVERSAL that she is convinced that the only thing that the independent press in Cuba needs to suffer is the murder of a reporter.

“In the case of Cuba, it has been a year in which the only thing missing is the murder of journalists. There were constant and systematic imprisonment and harassment. The new law includes independent journalists. In order not to change, Cuba has turned its back on the world in terms of free expression rights, ”he said.

Due to the surprising outbreak of social protests in Cuba demanding freedom and democracy on July 11, the regime responded “in the most savage way” with the arrest of a large number of people facing sentences of up to 30 years in prison. story.

“Among the accused are 15 adolescents or children. It is a challenge to live in a dictatorship and not shut up about this. Independent journalism in Cuba, more than a profession or an exercise in writing, becomes an exercise in dignity ”, he indicated.

More repression

Other hostile scenario It was Nicaragua, from where a hundred Nicaraguan communicators fled into exile in 2021 after the government unleashed a wave of arrests of opponents and journalists prior to the questioned elections of November this year. The regime argued that the detainees are criminals.

The (non-state) Collective of Human Rights Nicaragua Never +, from Managua, repudiated the laws that, under the command of the Executive, Legislative, Judicial and Electoral powers, the government approved in 2020 to justify the repression.

With a “muzzle law”, there is a “legislative combo that seeks privacy to silence and demotivate an entire people who have decided to live in freedom,” he reproached.

The harassment also intensified on “non-official” sectors of the Venezuelan press. The Supreme Court of Justice of Venezuela, akin to the Venezuelan regime, sentenced on April 16 prior to the newspaper El Nacional, of Caracas, to compensate the Chavista leader Diosdado Cabello with some 13.3 million dollars for moral damages.

Cabello sued the newspaper for defamation in April 2015 for reproducing a story from the Spanish newspaper ABC that the powerful politician began to be investigated in the US for an alleged link with drug trafficking.

Government clashes with the “non-official” press were repeated in El Salvador. The Salvadoran President, Nayib Bukele, continued to investigate the media for tax evasion and other alleged crimes that uncovered in 2020 the secret negotiation — denied by the government — with the maras or criminal gangs to grant them prison benefits in exchange for votes for the ruling party in the legislative and municipal elections of February this year.

Bukele alleged that his acts are against the “pamphlet” press. El Faro, founded in 1998 as the first exclusively digital newspaper in Latin America, editorially stated that Bukele has an “undemocratic obsession with destroying critical voices or voices that do not pay homage to him.”

The struggles of the governments of Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia and Brazil, meanwhile, with the press also proliferated. The Guatemalan scene evidenced the disputes over the revelations of corruption scandals.

Calling the press “scoundrel”, “garbage” and “shit”, the president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, replied with a “shut up” to a reporter who asked him a question, in an incident in June of this year that aggravated the confrontation.

Journalists in Colombia endure judicial persecution for their work, according to the (non-state) Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), of Bogotá. With the dubious rank of being one of the most dangerous countries for journalism in America, Mexico repeated in 2021 impunity and negligence in the murders of journalists.

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2021: between threats to the press and the Nobel Peace Prize