Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Press Threats, Legal and Not

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Press Threats, Legal and Not

Article excerpt

Legislators in pinstripes and judges in black robes are joining masked gunmen as the greatest threat to journalists in this hemisphere, according to the Inter American Press Association (IAPA).

In its annual review of press freedoms in the Americas, IAPA said the seven murders of journalists in the past year represent a decline in violence.

"Yet even as the assassinations of working journalists appear to be dwindling, a more subtle and spreading attack on the press is under way," the IAPA said. "Even in democratic nations, politicians uneasy with a free and independent press are using every means at their disposal to silence or pressure their critics and limit the watchdog role of the media."

The means most often chosen are new laws that limit press freedoms and increase penalties, plus aggressive libel claims. The IAPA said: "Intimidating libel suits are being filed in alarming numbers, some with no greater pretext than a public official who claims insult or embarrassment as a result of published accounts [that] prove to be factual. The libel claims often carry the prospect of prison terms as well as crippling financial penalties that could overwhelm individual owners and publishers. …

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