We Puerto Ricans do not pay enough attention to what happens in Latin America and we ignore what many countries in our region suffer for doing journalism.
Good journalism consists of informing, overseeing, revealing, debating, opening the world, but journalism does not exist without freedom of expression and the free circulation of ideas and people.
The state of journalism in the world has been degrading.
In the United States, it is still unknown where the legal obstacles against confidential sources imposed by the government of Barack Obama will end, nor Trump’s poisonous personal attacks against the media or the promotion and presidential promotion of fake news. In the European Union, the killing of three journalists this year already worries the authorities.
It is true that in Puerto Rico there are systematic impediments to accessing information, especially government information. However, right now, Puerto Rican journalists do not suffer physical systematic persecution or material barriers to the practice of their profession.
However, in other Latin American countries things are different. There, journalists risk their lives to inform, trying to oversee or prove the government or the powerful wrong. Leaders or mafia companies can’t´ bear the fact that there are versions different than theirs.
Today, journalists in countries such as Nicaragua, Venezuela and Mexico suffer persecution for freely exercising their profession.
Since April 2018, hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans have taken the streets to protest against the government and President Daniel Ortega has reacted with brutality. The suppression of public liberties and clashes have resulted in more than 500 deaths, 1,000 disappeared and 500 political prisoners.
Since then, journalists have been beaten, threatened, persecuted and even had their cameras stolen. In the first weeks, a government sniper killed a young journalist who was filming the protests. The government has decreed the temporary closure of television and radio stations.
Persecution mainly happens against local journalists in small towns. To prevent international media from reporting, the government has expelled five foreign correspondents from the country. Government officials devote themselves to dismissing the information with falsehoods through social media.
With the approval of a comprehensive counter-terrorist law, it is feared that Ortega will criminalize the press.
Closer to us, in Venezuela, the government of Nicolás Maduro inherited –and took them further- the tricks that President Hugo Chávez devised to control and subdue the press.
From compulsory broadcasting overriding planned programming on radio and television to defamation suits files by government officials and overwhelming fines against media, government control of newsprint, digital censorship or the purchase of television or radio by government allies to silence them, Maduro has not stopped attacking those who do not circulate his propaganda.
In Mexico, it is not the government the most aggressive force against journalists, but drug traffickers, the cartels that, often in complicity with the police, the army, politicians, kill journalists with impunity, mostly from small media, when they inform or investigate about their criminal business.
In Colombia, threats against journalists are our daily bread. The almost inevitable election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil increases the concern for journalism in our region.
However, in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Mexico there are bold, obstinate journalists who continue to inform, telling people about important facts, opening perspectives, monitoring.
Democracy consists of a series of rights that must be fought daily and constantly. We must not forget that, in Puerto Rico as well as in the rest of Latin America and the world, it is essential to protect this precious right to inform and be informed, to read, write, see, say and listen about what is happening, those inescapable facts that enable the growth of societies.
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