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March was a dismal month in the Americas, marked by the killing of two journalists in Mexico and another in Honduras

March was a difficult month in the Americas, going from extreme violence and journalist assassinations in Mexico and Honduras, to government abuses in Venezuela and Cuba and, finally, to subtle but dangerous forms of disinformation in the United States.

Journalists protest outside of the State Government building during a commemoration marking one year since the murder of journalist Miroslava Breach in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, 22 March 2018
Journalists protest outside of the State Government building during a commemoration marking one year since the murder of journalist Miroslava Breach in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, Mexico, 22 March 2018

HERIKA MARTINEZ/AFP/Getty Images

This is a translation of the original article.

As the third month of 2019 came to an end, the violence in Mexico is unceasing. A change of government, protective mechanisms and new strategies have all failed to stop the wave of attacks on journalists and the media that have made the country one of the most dangerous in the world in which to practice journalism.

Two journalists were killed by hired assassins in March, bringing the total for the year thus far to five. On 16 March, 47-year-old journalist Santiago Barroso was shot at least three times upon opening the door to his home in the municipality of San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora State. A few days later, on 24 March, the body of sports journalist Omar Iván Camacho was found in the community of La Escalera, Sinaloa State.

On 25 March, President Manuel López Obrador acknowledged the shortcomings of the country's protective mechanism for journalists. According to IFEX Member ARTICLE 19, however, the government still needs to commit to the development of a comprehensive protective policy to halt violence against the press.

Honduras added to this tragic list with the assassination of journalist Gabriel Hernández, who was shot to death on 16 March when he was returning to his home. His death adds to an increasing deterioration in the freedom of expression situation in the country, where, according to IFEX member C-Libre, the judiciary is being used to silence critics.

March also marked the third anniversary of the assassination of Honduran activist Berta Cáceres, who spent her life creating a movement defending indigenous rights. Hundreds of demonstrators commemorated the anniversary by taking to the streets and demanding justice in her case. The masterminds behind the crime have not yet been identified.

In Venezuela, there is no truce either. In March, the government of Nicolás Maduro continued pressuring and harassing the media, reinforcing the anti-democratic positions for which he is being condemned by a number of countries and organisations. The low point in the month involved the kidnapping and arbitrary detention of journalist Luis Carlos Díaz, in whose case the IFEX-ALC network issued a statement demanding his unconditional release.

Meanwhile, German journalist Billy Six was fully freed and returned to his home country after spending four months in prison. He was accused of spying and violating security areas.

At the same time, limitations within the country on access to information about the Venezuelan crisis are being maintained via Internet blockages and pressure applied against independent media outlets, as well as the abusive use of the official media's dominant position.

Meanwhile, in the United States, preparations have begun for the 2020 elections and special attention is being paid to disinformation and fake news. A report by IFEX member PEN America warned of the normalisation of these types of tactics in the electoral campaigns and American political system. In addition, PEN revealed that "Russian disinformation" continues to be a "silent threat" during the country's election.

At the continental level, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' (IACHR) Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression released its annual report, in which it warned that patterns of violence and stigmatisation against the press persist in several countries. Concern was expressed in particular over the repression and criminalisation of social protests, in addition to the persecution of journalists and critical voices.


In brief

In Cuba the government is increasing its censorship of artistic expression with a decree that attempts to regulate and supervise artistic works via the creation of inspection groups for that purpose.

In Argentina, 1634 media jobs were lost between 2017 y 2018 according the 2017-2018 Report of the Journalists' Observatory and Employment Monitor published the Foro de Periodismo Argentino (FOPEA), an IFEX member organisation.

In an unprecedented and historic event, amends were made to the relatives of Colombian journalist Nelson Carvajal, who was murdered in 1998. In accordance with a ruling issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Colombian state must be held responsible for its errors and shortcomings in dealing with and resolving the case. The reparation to the family took place via a "public act of recognition of international responsibility" concurrent with the biannual meeting of IFEX member the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) in Cartagena.

A year has passed since the kidnapping and murder of the Ecuadoran El Comercio journalistic team on the border with Colombia. In a public ceremony held on 26 March, the anniversary of the event, relatives and others demanded concrete responses from the government of Lenín Moreno regarding the deaths of Paúl Rivas, Javier Ortega and Efraín Segarra.

In Bolivia, the governor of the department of Chuquisaca, Esteban Urquizu, questioned the position of the local daily Correo del Sur for having failed to highlight on its cover page the demonstrations in favour of President Evo Morales, as well as his office's institutional activities.

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

Africa
Asia & Pacific
Europe & Central Asia
Middle East & North Africa

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