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Attacks on Journalists Persist: Although Only Two Totalitarian Governments Remain, Free Press Efforts in the Western Hemisphere Are Still Being Hampered

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Attacks on Journalists Persist: Although Only Two Totalitarian Governments Remain, Free Press Efforts in the Western Hemisphere Are Still Being Hampered

Article excerpt

Although only two totalitarian governments remain, free press efforts in the Western Hemisphere are still being hampered

ALTHOUGH TOTALITARIAN governments have disappeared mostly from this hemisphere - with the exceptions of Cuba and Haiti - newspapers and journalists are still under attack for their efforts in behalf of a free press.

The Committee on Freedom of the Press of the Inter American Press Association reported to the midwinter meeting of the board of directors in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last week that at least nine journalists have been killed in the last eight months in Latin America. Dozens more have been detained or harassed or driven into exile.

IAPA is pursuing a policy of carrying the fight for a free press into the enemy camp when possible. In the last six months, it has organized four missions to different countries. One of them to Santiago, Chile, headed by IAPA president Alejandro Junco de la Vega of El Norte, Monterrey, Mexico, met with President Aylwin and succeeded in delaying the introduction of a controversial press law. The president has called for more extensive study.

Another mission was sent to southeast Mexico to gather information with respect to the murder of publisher Ignacio Mendoza Castillo.

In that area "there is a climate of hate and antagonism between certain sectors of the press and the officials," president Junco reported. "Criminal law in the southeastern Mexican states can be, and has been, used to threaten critical journalists with imprisonment. It has been used at the discretion of state officials, including public prosecutors, agents of government ministries and judges to carry out unilateral prosecution of journalists."

The IAPA board voted to continue the mission practice and voted to send fact-finding missions to Venezuela, where there has been continued harassment of journalists by government officials, and New York, where it has been more than a year since the murder of journalist Manuel de Dios Unanue.

A third mission is planned to investigate the illegal takeover of the newspaper Vanguardia by employees in Chihuahua and neither the courts nor the government has done anything to stop it. The IAPA board voted to inform all international companies doing business in the state of Chihuahua of those dangers. …

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