The Inter American Press Association representing journalists from across the Americas condemned violations of press freedoms in both Latin America and the United States on Tuesday, including the killings of 14 journalists, the secret seizure of Associated Press phone records and a new censorship law in Ecuador.
IAPA also cited the large-scale government acquisition of media outlets in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Bolivia and Argentina as well as advertising restrictions in Argentina aimed at hurting independent media outlets as among the worst problems of the last six months during discussions of its 69th general assembly in Denver, Colorado.
In addition to the 14 journalists killed in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, Ecuador, Honduras and Paraguay, statutes of limitations for prosecuting the killers of 17 journalists in Colombia and Mexico in previous years is expiring this year, IAPA said in its annual declaration.
Ecuador’s gag law, which took effect in June, created government bodies that have the power to control media ownership, censor content and define who may be a journalist. IAPA asked President Rafael Correa to seek an advisory opinion on the law from the Inter-American Human Rights Court as well as Ecuador’s constitutional court to consider petitions against it.
IAPA called on Venezuela to end judicial persecution of journalists and media executives and to allow media outlets access to foreign currency so they can buy vital supplies such as newsprint.
Regarding the secret seizure of AP’s phone records, IAPA called upon the U.S. Justice Department “to vigorously adopt and comply” with proposed department guidelines to ensure advance notice is given the media in similar cases. The records were seized in 2012 as part of an investigation to find the source of an AP story about the foiling of an attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner, but AP was only notified about the seizure this year.
The IAPA resolution said the seizure was “an overreaching action by the U.S. government” that “had a chilling effect on an open and vigorous pursuit of journalism in the public interest.” The organization also cited Gary Pruitt, president and CEO of the AP, who in Denver “described for the (IAPA) General Assembly how fear of government surveillance has led some of the news agency’s sources to engage in self-censorship.”
IAPA also urged the U.S. Senate and House to pass legislation establishing a “robust” shield law that protects journalists from being forced to divulge their sources — a law that would prevent journalists from being jailed for refusing to do so.
The Miami-based Inter American Press Association has about 1,400 member news organizations and promotes press freedoms throughout the Americas.