Press Freedom in Europe and North America, Part 2

by Kai Prager, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire/Frankfurt
Kai Prager

Kai Prager, Media Relations Specialist, BW Frankfurt

After looking at the situation of press freedom in Europe in Part 1 of our interview with the Committee to Protect Journalists, we will now focus on North America. CPJ’s Advocacy and Communications Director Gypsy Guillén Kaiser gives us an overview:

In North America, as the Occupy movement has spread beyond Wall Street, U.S. journalists have been detained and some have been attacked by U.S. law enforcement officers during turbulent encounters between police and protesters.  Another more visible issue has been the investigation into Wikileaks, which CPJ warned in 2010 could have dire consequences for press freedom. In a letter to President Obama we stated that the US Constitution protects the right to publish information of important interest to the public. That right has been upheld through decades of American jurisprudence and has served the people well. Our concern is and remains, that a Wikileaks prosecution would reverse these long-standing positions and threaten grave damage to the First Amendment’s protections of free speech and the press.

In Mexico, our biggest concern right now is stopping the ceaseless violence against journalists. After promising a CPJ delegation in 2008 and again in 2010 that Mexico would address rising anti-press crimes in the country, finally in 2012, President Felipe Calderón’s administration approved legislation making attacks on the press a federal offense. As newly elected president Enrique Peña Nieto prepares to take office in December, CPJ is continuing its work for justice in the killings of Mexican journalists and a stop to silencing by murder.

Gypsy Guillén Kaiser

Gypsy Guillén Kaiser

In Honduras we are concerned that the press continues to suffer from the violent fallout of the 2009 coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Due to political and drug-related violence as well as widespread impunity, Honduras, a nation of 7.5 million people, is one of the most dangerous countries in the region for journalists, CPJ research shows. It is also important to contextualize this violence and note that Honduras is one of the world’s most violent countries. A 2011 United Nations report found that it has the world’s highest per capita homicide rate, with 82.1 murders per every 100,000 inhabitants.

At least 14 journalists have been killed since President Porfirio Lobo took office in January 2010. The systematic failure of Honduran authorities to investigate these crimes has frustrated any attempt to solve the murders, CPJ said in a letter sent to President Lobo in December 2011. A 2010 CPJ special report, “Journalist murders spotlight Honduran government failures,” found that the government has been slow and negligent in pursuing journalists’ killers. As a result, many journalists fear the murders have been conducted with the tacit approval, or even outright complicity, of police, armed forces, or other authorities.

The climate is so intimidating that reporters told CPJ that they don’t dare probe deeply into crucial issues like drug trafficking or government corruption. Many print reporters have removed their bylines from their stories.

Besides damaging the country’s democracy, the June 2009 military-backed coup that ousted leftist former President Zelaya fractured the national press corps into opposing camps. Journalists in favor of the coup or who work for media outlets that supported Zelaya’s ouster are known in Spanish as “golpistas” or “coup-backers,” while those who opposed it have been pigeon-holed as “resistencia,” or part of the political resistance. Local journalists state that when “resistance” journalists are attacked or killed, the news receives scant attention or comment from pro-coup media—which includes most of the country’s major television, radio, and print outlets.

After this overview on press freedom in Europe and North America, we will talk some specific issues in Part 3.

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