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Civil society stands firm against abuses and injustice

Protestors hold up signs reading
Protestors hold up signs reading "The media are your voice, defend them", "free press = democracy", ) and "without journalists there is no democracy" during the Day of the Journalist in Caracas, Venezuela, 27 June 2017

Manaure Quintero/picture alliance via Getty Images

This is a translation of the original article.

The Americas have been experiencing hectic times thus far in 2019. In February, Venezuela once again grabbed all the attention, with protests in support of and against both the government of Nicolás Maduro and his opponent, Juan Guaidó. In January, Guaidó invoked the Venezuelan constitution in order to take over presidential powers and call for new elections.

Within this context, the government's brutal repression led to restrictions on the freedoms of media outlets, journalists and civil society members. Part of the repression translated into media outlet closures, detentions of journalists and obstructions to Internet access on several occasions. Local media , including IFEX members IPYS Venezuela and Espacio Público, reported on these issues.

In particular, the detention of a team of correspondents from the Univisión chain, headed by Jorge Ramos, created a major scandal. Ramos's questions in an interview with Nicolás Maduro made the president so uncomfortable that he put an end to the exchange and issued an order for Ramos and his team to be detained. In addition to being held incommunicado for hours, the journalists were verbally abused and their equipment was confiscated.

The incident was condemned by both the international community and a number of civil society organisations.

IFEX-ALC and several IFEX member organisations, such as the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), issued a statement regarding the incident. In the statement, the organisations condemned the detention of the Univisión team and warned that the backdrop of "at least 19 journalist detained in Venezuela to date in 2019 confirms a pattern of contempt for democratic values on the part of Nicolás Maduro."

The statement also emphasised that "restrictions on the freedoms of journalists are being used as a coercive mechanism within the context of the crisis in the country."

In Honduras the level of impunity in cases involving activists and human rights defenders took another critical turn when a group of civil society organisations (among them IFEX members) denounced the use of manipulations of the criminal justice system in order to criminalise the activities of environmental activists.

The case in question is taking place in the midst of deep concern expressed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Honduras regarding various press freedom restrictions that have been applied in the country.

The situation in Nicaragua is no better, as Daniel Ortega's government continues to persecute critical voices. An example of this is the detention of journalists Miguel Mora and Lucía Pineda Ubau, from the 100% Noticias channel. The two journalists were accused of terrorism activities and have been jailed for two months.

Mora and Pineda's situation led some IFEX members to issue a statement calling on President Ortega to immediately free the reporters.

Meanwhile, Mexico has both a new president and a new political party in power, but violence against journalists continues unabated. Thus far in 2019, three journalists have been killed. The latest assassination took place on 18 February, when journalist Reynaldo López was gunned down in Hermosillo, Sonora, northern Mexico.

This incident was part of a total of 54 attacks on commentators documented in February. Faced with this situation, local IFEX member ARTICLE 19 Mexico issued a "Protocol on Impunity in Crimes against Journalists" in which it stated that "the authorities' inefficiency has contributed to the fact that the index of impunity in attacks on the press continues at the level of 99.13%."

Peru meanwhile has an appointment with justice and the fight against impunity, and IFEX-ALC is very attentive to developments in the country. The Peruvian Supreme Court of Justice is scheduled to issue a final decision on an appeal to nullify the acquittal of one of the alleged perpetrators of the murder of journalist Hugo Bustos Saavedra.
For the 23 IFEX-ALC member organisations this crime must not go unpunished. The not guilty verdict must be overturned.

In Brief

In Canada the Supreme Court determined that sharing a computer with others does not imply giving up privacy rights.

Border agents in the United States questioned several journalists about their news coverage regarding migrants. The reporters said they were harassed by the authorities.

In Paraguay, IFEX-ALC recounted the story of how decades of impunity in the murders of journalists came to end in that country.

Finally, Colombia-based IFEX member the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) published its annual report. The report is not encouraging as violence against the press in Colombia has intensified.

If you enjoyed this, check out all the February regional roundups!

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