San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Press Freedom Day: Latin America even more dangerous for journalists

VIENNA – Latin America is continuing on its track to become the region of the world most dangerous for journalists, with two countries – Mexico and Honduras – experiencing almost a quarter of all reporters killed while practicing their profession in 2010, the International Press Institute said Monday.

The region, with 31 deaths last year or about one third of the 92 journalists who lost their lives worldwide, was exceeded only by Asia with 35, said the Vienna-based IPI in its World Press Freedom Review 2010.

The figures for 2010 are better, in any case, than those for 2009, when 110 reporters were killed, setting a record.
Mexico, with 12 reporters murdered, is the world’s second-most-dangerous country for journalists after Pakistan, where 15 reporters were killed.

The IPI said although public attention tends to focus on the deaths of journalists in war zones like Afghanistan and, more recently Libya, “in Mexico there’s another no-less-deadly front line.”

Many Mexican reporters “are no less heroic, no less committed to the cause of gathering and transmitting news to serve the public interest in a country facing a very real, extremely violent, and often deadly conflict,” according to the report’s author, Anthony Mills.
The IPI noted that many of the journalists killed in Mexico were kidnapped and tortured before they were executed, and it cited the case of Valentin Valdes Espinosa, who worked for the daily Zocalo Saltillo in the northern state of Coahuila, whose body turned up with a note attached warning: “This is going to happen to those who don’t understand.”

In Honduras last year, 10 journalists were killed “with complete impunity,” an increase in the number of reporters murdered since the toppling of Manuel Zelaya in 2009 in a coup and the later election of Porfirio Lobo as president.

That figure made the Central American country the third-most-dangerous in the world for reporters, who often fall into the practice of self-censorship amid intimidation by authorities, the IPI said.

Throughout the region, the main problem, according to the IPI, is the prevailing impunity for those who murder, attack, harass and intimidate journalists.

“We urge our colleagues in more democratic countries in the Americas to add their voices to ours in calling for authorities to bring murderers of journalists to justice,” IPI Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said.

In Colombia, two reporters were shot to death by unknown gunmen and a third was stabbed to death. In Brazil, two other reporters were also shot and killed.

Although in Cuba the government freed 29 journalists from prison, reporters in that country “continue to work under asphyxiating restrictions.”

The IPI noted that in September 2010 Havana prevented blogger Yoani Sanchez from traveling to Vienna to receive her award as one of the IPI’s 60 World Press Freedom Heroes.

In regional rankings, Costa Rica fares much better in terms of press freedom, ranking first in Latin America and 23rd in the world, according to a Freedom of the Press 2011 report by the non-profit The Freedom House, Costa Rica’s daily La Nación reported.

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