Friday, February 15, 2013

CPJ Blasts Ecuador and Brazil in New Report on Press Freedom

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released its yearly assessment of press freedom around the world yesterday, reserving special criticism for Ecuador and Brazil. In “Attacks on the Press in 2012,” the CPJ slams the two countries for using coercive measures to silence dissent.

The New York-based NGO also placed the two on its Risk List -- alongside Syria, Somalia, Iran, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Turkey, Pakistan, and Russia -- which identifies the 10 countries around the world where press freedom was most under fire in 2012. In compiling the list, CPJ staff examined six factors: journalist deaths, imprisonments, restrictive legislation, censorship, failure to investigate and punish attacks on journalists, and having driven journalists into exile.

According to the CPJ, four journalists were killed in Brazil last year, making it the fourth most dangerous country for journalists in 2012. Despite this, the organization says the government has failed to pursue serious investigations of the murders. It also accuses Brazilian courts of restricting press freedom through extensive libel laws.

In Ecuador, the CPJ criticized President Rafael Correa for his decision to pursue a multi-million dollar libel suit against two of his critics in the press. Although he later pardoned them, the CPJ alleges that it served to intimidate the Ecuadoran media, and has made journalists there less willing to criticize him in the press.

The CPJ also blasted Correa for his role in leading a region-wide campaign to limit the role of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, proposing changes which would minimize its ability to monitor freedom of expression and place it under greater control of member states. The campaign has gained preliminary support in the Organization of American States, and will be addressed by the General Assembly next month.

News Briefs
  • As President Correa cruises towards an easy victory in Sunday’s elections in Ecuador, BBC Mundo profiles the seven other candidates running for president in the country. The list includes ex-president Lucio Gutierrez, who, despite being removed from office by Congress in 2005 after months of escalating protests against him, promises “not to make the same mistakes.”
  • Speculation that Chavez’s recovery has deteriorated went into overdrive after Venezuelan Foreign Minster Elias Jaua canceled a Friday meeting with Peruvian President Ollanta Humala at the last minute in order to attend an emergency meeting in Havana. This morning, however, the government released the first photos of post-operation Chavez in Havana, in which he can be seen smiling with his daughters and holding up a copy of yesterday's Granma.
  • The Miami Herald reports that Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, who was granted a passport under Cuba’s new travel rules, will begin an international speaking tour next month. Sanchez will travel to Puebla, Mexico on March 9, where she will take part in an Inter-American Press Association-sponsored forum on censorship in Cuba, and from there will travel to the U.S., where she is expected to speak at a number of press conferences and academic seminars in New York and Washington DC.
  • Prensa Libre and the Associated Press report that prominent Guatemalan lawyer Lea Marie de Leon was gunned down in Guatemala City yesterday. De Leon had worked on a number of high-profile criminal cases in the country in recent years, and was the wife of Prensa Libre editor Edin Hernandez.
  • The criminal trial against 10 farmworkers accused of killing six police officers in a land dispute that triggered the ouster of former Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo last year has been indefinitely put on hold after the defendants accused the judge of being impartial. The judge had previously ruled against the farmworkers in 2009, finding that a local politician could annex the land in question.
  • The planned release of two Colombian police officers held captive by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) yesterday was canceled at the last minute, apparently because the rescue operation turned into a media circus. International Community of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokesman Jordi Raich said that a “cloud of journalists” had descended on the humanitarian mission, which made it impossible to conduct safely. It appears that another attempt will be made today, as El Tiempo reports that the government has extended its freeze on military operations in the area until midnight tonight. It is unclear whether the planned release of a third FARC prisoner, a soldier, will proceed as scheduled on Saturday.
  • Meanwhile, the ICRC has confirmed that it is working with Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) to coordinate the handover of six civilian hostages held since January 18, although a date for their release has not yet been set.
  • The government of Bolivian President Evo Morales is expected to deliver a report today on the heavy flooding that has hit parts country of the country in recent weeks, and the AP reports that the president is considering declaring a state of emergency due to flooding.
  • Residents of the Cañaris district in Peru’s northern Lambayeque region have suspended their protests against a proposed copper mining project in the area, which had been raging since January 20. According to Peru21, locals said they would postpone demonstrations until after an upcoming meeting with government and company officials on March 2.
  • The New York Times’ Simon Romero looks at the Catholic Church in Brazil and its efforts at retaining followers as evangelical Christianity becomes increasingly popular in the country. With Brazilian Catholic priests experimenting with new kinds of services and messaging, Romero describes the country as a “laboratory of sorts for the church’s strategies for luring followers back into the fold.”
  • The Washington Post reports that the so-called “currency wars” are heating up in the hemisphere, as policymakers in Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru are increasingly joining Brazil in criticizing competitive currency devaluations in the U.S. and other major world economies.
  • The Chicago Crime Commission announced on Thursday that it has designated Mexican drug trafficker Joaquin " Chapo" Guzman as Chicago’s new “Public Enemy Number One,” a term the watchdog group hasn’t used since it was created for Al Capone in 1930. The commission’s executive vice president, Art Bilek, said the designation was made because Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel supplies most of the narcotics sold in the city.
  • Mexico’s Zapatista movement has presented a new “subcomandante” in a new communique, La Jornada reports. Unlike the well-known Subcomandante Marcos, Subcomandante “Moises” is believed to be an indigenous Mayan. The fact that Moises is the only other living person that the movement has identified as a subcomandante suggests he is a potential successor to Marcos, who is rumored to be dying of lung cancer.
  • Writing for The Guardian’s global development blog, Annie Kelly looks at recent progress made in the fight to decriminalize abortion in Latin America, while noting that the region remains a “bastion of draconian anti-abortion laws.”
  • The Congressional Research Service has released a new report (.pdf) outlining the key issues regarding U.S. policy towards Latin America and the Caribbean.

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