BRASILIA, Brasil — Journalists in Latin America have many opportunities to chase stories dealing with armed conflict and organized crime. The region is rife with gang activity and government sanctioned violence against those who have the courage to speak out.
UNESCO’s 2014 report on the state of the worldwide press and media, titled “World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development,” details the different ways journalists are being targeted and harassed. The publication reports a notable escalation of violence toward journalists in Latin America during the past six years.
Print, TV and radio journalists have all been targeted and suffered losses this year as they sought to reveal the corrupt underside of governments and crime syndicates operating within the region. This year, up to the end of July, 18 Latin American journalists were assassinated. Police and political corruption, coupled with drug-related violence, create the perfect storm for Latin American journalists who find that their inquisitiveness has taken them down a path of threats, kidnapping, torture and even murder.
From Brazil to Honduras to Paraguay, many perpetrators of abuses against press workers continue to walk free. However, Mexico and Colombia are leading the charge toward greater protection for journalists, creating legislation focused on increasing journalists’ security as well as reopening past investigations.
At the beginning of the decade, journalist deaths in Latin America accounted for one third of the world’s total press casualties. Most eyes are drawn to deaths in official war zones like Afghanistan and Iraq, but countries wracked by drug violence like Mexico and Brazil are equally insecure and perilous for media personnel.
“In Mexico there’s another no-less-deadly front line,” said Anthony Mills of the International Press Institute. “[Mexican reporters] are no less heroic, no less committed to the cause of gathering and transmitting news to serve the public interest in a country facing a very real, extremely violent and often deadly conflict.”
The reporters of Latin America who try and uncover venality and blow the whistle on corruption wield their pens, cameras and voices more powerfully than those who are pointing threats and guns against them.
– Kayla Strickland