Press Freedom: A fundamental right for democracies

Press freedom is a fundamental human right according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, however, many countries lack these freedoms despite their signatures.

In Latin America, according to the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, which measures the level of freedom that is available to journalists in respect to the pluralism of news sources, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country and region, the atmosphere of the freedom of the press is in decline.

The World Press Freedom Index ranks countries out of 180, 180 as the least free and 1 as the most free. In Latin America, journalists are vulnerable to the experience of violence, harassment, and governmental censorship.

Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are among the countries considered the least free within Latin America. Many of these countries face corruption, censorship, and the lack of legislation to protect the freedom of the press.

Venezuela ranks 148 out of 180 on the World Press Freedom Index in 2019. Venezuela faces censorship, limiting the ability of the media to report stories. In 2018, many journalists fled the country because of threats and physical dangers that exist in the country.

In Mexico, ranking at 144 in 2019, it is not uncommon for journalists to flee their homes due to threats and in 2018, three journalists were killed because of their profession.

Cynthia Valdez, a mother of four and co-founder of La Pared which reports on security and drug trafficking, left her home in Sinaloa due to threats from the drug baron who had killed another reporter, Javier Valdez.

However, progress has been made in the past five years, in Mexico City 2015, the Ley de Protección a Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos y Periodistas del Distrito Federal was passed Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera.

The law states that it will promote and protect journalism and human rights, guaranteeing physical, psychological, moral, and economic integrity of journalists at risk; it also guarantees these rights and protection to the families and assistants of journalists at risk. Regardless, this law exists locally in Mexico City, and is not country-wide, therefore it hopes to create a ripple effect in other states to follow suit in the allocation of resources to regulate legislation that protects the rights of the freedom of the press.

Nevertheless, not all Latin American countries experience hostile media environments, Costa Rica and Uruguay rank in the top twenty most free presses. Costa Rica ranked 10 in 2019. Although Costa Rica lacks in the pluralidad of news sources, little violations to the freedom of the press exist in Costa Rica as the legislation regulates the freedom of information.

Uruguay comes in at number 19, although in 2017 investigative reporters experienced judicial harassment, the overall environment of journalism is well regulated and laws continue to develop to protect the freedom of the press. For example, in 2014, the Law on Broadcast Communication Services was passed to improve pluralism and create an independent Broadcast Communications Council.

These examples demonstrate the improvements in Latin America and serve as encouragement in the region to further improve the freedom of the press throughout the region.

Ciudadanía Inteligente, a supporter of transparency and democracy promote the actions taken to improve the freedom of the press throughout the Latin American region.

We want to inform the public of press freedom violations, remind them of the existence of censorship in many countries, encourage press freedom initiatives, and remind governments to continue to respect this right and to recognize its importance. We do this in order to finally stop the violence against the press and against journalists.

Ciudadanía Inteligente

Written by

Latin American NGO using technology and innovation to transform democracies. Based in Chile and Brazil, we work to fight inequalities in our entire region.

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