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Bloodbath: Six journalists assassinated in the Americas in June (Demo)

This is a translation of the original article.

As we reach the halfway mark in 2019, violence against journalists in the Americas continues unabated. In June, two journalists were killed in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro State, and another two were murdered in Colombia. In addition, a reporter was assassinated in Mexico, the sixth media worker to be killed in that country thus far this year. Meanwhile, the ongoing social unrest in Haiti also claimed the life of a journalist.

Romário da Silva Barros, a journalist for the Lei Seca Maricá (LSM) news site, was assassinated on 18 June in the municipality of Maricá, in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro. The 31-year-old journalist was in his vehicle when a man approached and shot him in the head. According to local media outlets, Barros founded LSM in order to report on local news in Maricá.

Robson Giorno, the owner of the Jornal O Maricá digital daily news outlet, was also killed in the same municipality just a few weeks earlier.

In Colombia, journalist José Libardo Montenegro, a member of the Samaniego Estéreo community radio station, was killed in the municipality of Samaniego (Nariño department) on 11 June. International and local organisations, including IFEX member the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), condemned the journalist’s murder.

According to the non-profit organisation Fundepaz, it is not just journalists that are in danger in Nariño. Fundepaz reported that fifteen human rights defenders have been killed in the department thus far in 2019, demonstrating the extremely fragile state of affairs encountered by those exercising their right to freedom of expression in that area of the country.

And, finally, a week after Libardo Montenegro’s murder, Ánderson Pérez, an audiovisual commentator, political activist and former FARC combatant, was killed in Caloto (Cauca department). FLIP released a statement condemning Pérez’s assassination, and noted that as an organisation they are of the opinion that “it is very important that people who are in the process of returning to civilian life after the signing of the Colombian peace agreement are able to carry out journalism as one of their life options, serving to ensure that their voices are also heard. In order for this to take place, the State must provide guarantees for the practice of journalism free from violence and censorship.”

Mexico continues on its streak of violence. This time journalist Norma Sarabia Garduza was assassinated at the door to her home in the municipality of Huimanguillo, Tabasco State, on the night of 11 June.

Sarabia Garduza had been a journalist for more than 20 years, primarily covering security and policing issues in Tabasco. In addition to her journalism, she was a single mother and worked as a secretary at a secondary school, all while studying in her final year of a psychology program.

Local IFEX member ARTICLE 19, commented on Sarabia Garduza’s assassination, saying, “This crime is reflective of the increasing violence, impunity, and situation of risk faced by journalists in Mexico.”

Meanwhile, in Haiti, the media and journalists have come under attack during violent social protests. On 10 June, radio host Pétion Rospide was assassinated in Puerto Príncipe. In addition, several journalists were assaulted during demonstrations on the same day.

The Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) condemned both the assassination and other attacks on journalists that have been taking place in the country.

Haiti ranks 62nd of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index.

Statements and Monitoring

Despite the dismal situation in June, civil society groups continue fighting against impunity in the region. A year after a historic ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that held the Colombian state responsible for the death of journalist Nelson Carvajal and the violation of his right to freedom of expression, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organisation (RFK Human Rights) assessed compliance with the reparation steps ordered by the Court.

IAPA and RFK Human Rights came to the conclusion that the Colombian government has complied with the Court’s order to carry out a public act recognizing the state’s responsibilities in the emblematic case. The organisations, however, noted that resolutions referring to continuation of the investigations and the judicial process in the case have not been fully complied with, nor have the time periods stipulated by the Court been adhered to.

Meanwhile, IFEX-ALC issued a statement to the member states of the Organisation of American States (OAS). The statement, which was signed by IFEX-ALC’s 24 member organisations, called for the OAS member states to elect commissioners to the Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) who meet all the requirements of the position. The statement also noted the lack of transparency and civil society participation in the election process.

In Brief

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michele Bachelet, conducted an official mission to Venezuela. During her visit, Bachelet called for political prisoners to be freed and urged Nicolás Maduro’s government to initiate dialogue with the opposition.

Bachelet’s visit took place within a framework of ongoing intense social and political upheaval in the country, which has led to bloody acts of repression and arbitrary detentions. In this context of instability and violence, the media have been a favourite target of Maduro’s regime. IFEX member IPYS Venezuela has disclosed that in the first half of 2019 more than 300 incidents involving restrictions on freedom of expression took place in the country.

In Ecuador, a terrible precedent was set by President Lenín Moreno’s administration with a ruling against César Ricaurte, the director of IFEX local member Fundamedios.

Ricaurte was sentenced to 15 days in prison for speaking out against Jorge Jurado, who served as ambassador to Germany during former president Rafael Correa’s time in power. The ruling was also linked to an alleged confrontation between Ricuarte and the former ambassador that, according to the charges, resulted in Jurado sustaining injuries. Fundamedios disseminated information about the sentencing and highlighted the manner in which the right to freedom of expression is being violated in Ecuador.

In Peru, journalist Paola Ugaz was notified that she must appear in response to a new, obligatory judicial summons.

A report by IFEX member the Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (Association for Civil Rights, ADC) has documented recent growth in the financial technology (fintech) sector in Argentina, in light of new dynamics being promoted for development of the digital economy.

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

Asia & Pacific
Middle East & North Africa

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