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ATTACKS ON PRESS IN THE AMERICAS ON THE RISE, SAYS IAPA

Attacks on journalists and media outlets have intensified in the Americas over the past six months, as seen in court cases and judicial rulings against the media, as well as in increasing violence against journalists, said the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) at its mid-year meeting last week.

Five journalists were killed during the past six months: three in Mexico, one in Argentina and another in Honduras. More than 30 were attacked in Peru, and 32 were threatened in Colombia. Paraguay experienced the greatest increase in reports of verbal attacks. Through five separate resolutions, IAPA expressed concern over the impunity surrounding crimes against journalists.

At the conference, held in Caracas, Venezuela, IAPA paid particular attention to the press freedom situation in its host country, as well as in Cuba and Bolivia - three countries where the government is one of the main perpetrators behind attacks on free expression, said IAPA.

The transfer of power in Cuba from Fidel Castro to his brother Raúl did not improve the status of the 25 journalists still in prison or the adverse working conditions of independent journalists, said IAPA.

State-owned media outlets in the region have increased, "clear evidence of new efforts by various governments to control information," IAPA said. In Venezuela and Bolivia, the governments have taken control of several radio and TV stations. IAPA also accused Venezuela of using government-friendly prosecutors and judges to bring trumped-up charges against journalists.

Although IAPA had invited President Hugo Chávez to formally open the conference, he did not attend. Over the same weekend, Chávez supporters opened the "Latin American Meeting on Media Terrorism" to examine what they call slanted coverage of his government and to explore alleged links between media outlets and the U.S. government.

"All efforts by IAPA to open up channels of communication with the government of Venezuela were unfruitful, not only at this meeting but in prior attempts and missions," said IAPA.

IAPA also detailed some of the more subtle threats to freedom of expression in the region, from court cases being used to silence journalists in Brazil to governments continuing to reward "friendly" newspapers with lucrative government advertising contracts in Argentina.

Read about the conference, including a review of the press freedom situation in each American country, here: http://tinyurl.com/yspfdd

(1 April 2008)

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