A very important alignment of Latin American and
It can be said that representative organisations of Latin America and the
Mixed feelings on this aspect of the discussion occur because there have always been relatively close relations between these two countries and the English-speaking
But, this does not reduce
Persons on the so-called “left” of
Good feelings about programmes of direct and indirect financial aid from
For reasons such as these, Caribbean people need to spend more time attempting to understand what makes the countries of
The participation of the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers (ACM) at the Annual Meeting of the IFEX Latin American and Caribbean Alliance in
The ACM’s contribution to the meeting focused on defining New and Emerging Challenges to Freedom of Expression and Improving Collaboration on Free Expression Issues between Latin American and
The Association also contributed to and endorsed a conference statement which defined ten key challenges to freedom of expression in Latin America and the
1. Illegitimate mechanisms of governmental control over the media that allow undue political interference. Political control is exercised via the discretionary granting of licenses or the regulation of broadcasting; through abuse in the distribution of State advertising to influence editorial lines; through the ownership or significant control of the media by political leaders or parties; as well as through procedures against independent media based on political motivations, including the defense of obsolete regulations - such as sedition laws or the requirement of "truthfulness" in the news – such policies are destined to criminalise the criticism of governments and public officials.
2. Criminal laws against defamation, such as contempt of court laws or those that criminalise libel and slander are often used to restrict freedom of expression. The abuse of such laws and the existence of excessively severe sanctions, such as imprisonment or suspended sentences, result in the loss of civil rights.
3. Violence against journalists remains a very serious threat to the freedom of expression; particularly against those journalists who cover social problems, including organised crime or drug trafficking; who criticise the authorities or others in positions of power; who cover violations of human rights or corruption; or who work in conflict zones. An increasing number of violent attacks on journalists remain unpunished and not enough resources are allocated to prevent them or to investigate them and seek justice when they do take place. This phenomenon often leads to journalists' self-censorship and therefore diminishes citizen access to information on matters of public interest.
4. Limits to the right to access information, despite having been widely acknowledged as a basic human right. Most of the region's States have not approved legislation to ensure full compliance.
5. Discrimination in the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, against historically disadvantaged groups (women, indigenous people, among other vulnerable groups and other minorities) who are still struggling for their views to be taken into account and to be able to access information that is relevant to them. Among the principal violations are obstacles to the creation of media outlets for these populations, and the minimal representation of their members in the newsrooms of the major media, including public outlets.
6. Economic pressures that threaten the media's capacity to cover matters of public interest, due to the increasing concentration of media ownership, with serious consequences for the diversity of sources and content. The strains on the advertising market and other commercial pressures have led the media to take cost-cutting measures that are detrimental to the coverage of local issues and to investigative journalism, and instead promote low-level intellectual entertainment. These factors increase the risk of only existing media outlets reaping the benefits of the transition to digital frequencies, thus preventing greater diversity and access to public interest media.
7. Lack of support for public and community-based stations, which can play an important social role, face increasingly frequent obstacles to public financing access and suffer the lack of specific legal recognition with appropriate criteria in fair and democratic conditions that guarantee their development and prevent discriminatory measures based on technical or sustainability based issues.
8. Using national security as a guise to restrict the freedom of expression, which has historically been used to impose unjustified restrictions on freedom of expression through overly broad definitions of what constitutes "apology" or "promotion" of terrorism or violence.
9. Governmental control of Internet use, to control or limit this outlet of free speech through the blocking of websites. Also, certain corporations that provide search, access, messaging and publishing services, among others, do not make enough efforts to respect the privacy rights of users to access the Internet without interference.
10. Restricted access to new information and communication technologies. Although most of the population still has limited or no access to the Internet, States in the region continue to maintain pricing structures that prevent the use of the Internet by the least privileged sectors and fail to extend connectivity to all their countries' territories, leaving rural users, in particular, with less information and diminished spaces for free expression.
The Caribbean context on the question of free expression was framed by a presentation on defining the
It was explained that, unlike many areas of Latin America, there is a long tradition of democracy and
State monopolies in the
In the Caricom countries there remains direct censorship in the form of official censorship of movies and some broadcasting content – mainly on grounds of decency, security and protection of the public interest. There was also censorship that came in the form of judicial edicts and the rulings of presiding officers in parliament. There also existed widespread self-censorship often influenced by commercial and political factors.
The ACM pointed out that criminal defamation and criminal speech are on the books of all English-speaking Caribbean countries and there have been recent examples of the use of these provisions in countries such as
The challenges to free expression have come via the chilling effect not only of the presence of strong defamation laws, but the presence of social attitudes toward what constitutes “decency” and issues of good taste. There is also a sense that free expression should not harm children, offend religious practices or promote social discord.
State advertising and government fiscal prerogatives have been used in some countries to punish errant media, performers and other social groups.
Importantly, the ACM indicated, a vulnerability to natural disasters has led to temporary and permanent media closures and has created a level of vulnerability since state support can be selectively applied post-disaster.
The ACM also pointed to the fact that disparities in access to online media/mobile technologies continue to exist in some states. This meant that the freedom to seek and access expression was often not honoured. The Association also pointed to instances in which state officials have expressed a desire to impose restrictions on internet content and had, in at least one instance, been cited as a measure possible under telecommunications regulation.