BUENOS AIRES, Argentina: Amid demonstrations against the press outside of the hosting hotel and difficulties distributing several daily newspapers due to a union protest, the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) held its 65th General Assembly here this week to discuss the state of press freedom in the Americas.
Country-by-country reports outlining the legal and professional challenges facing the news organizations showed increasingly difficult issues in many countries, but particularly in Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.
Most shocking however, was the revelation that 16 journalists were killed in the past six months (eight in Mexico, three in Honduras, two in Guatemala, two in Colombia and one in El Salvador) – the highest number in recent years. And although the countries facing the most serious challenges to press freedom aren’t in Central America, the death toll was concentrated in that region.
The IAPA concluded that the deaths were due to the extreme violence of organized crime as well as the growing deterioration of public safety.
The Costa Rica country report, presented by Abby Daniell of The Tico Times, highlighted the fact that the murder rate in Costa Rica has nearly doubled since 2006.
Participants also had the opportunity to hear the observations of ex-Presidents César Gavíria of Colombia, Carlos Mesa of Bolivia and Julio María Sanguinetti of Uruguay regarding freedom of expression in Latin America.
“The absence of war doesn’t necessarily mean there is peace, and the absence of censorship doesn’t necessarily mean freedom of expression exists,” said Bolivia’s Mesa.
David Hawley, of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), spoke of the changes in IMF lending around the world, including the weakening of conditions on loans.
He also spoke of the importance, especially in times of economic crisis, for news organizations to cover financial issues.
Julio Muñoz, the executive director of the IAPA, said that nearly 600 industry directors and professionals registered for this year’s meeting. The 66th General Assembly will be next October in Santiago, Chile.