Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Media freedom in Latin America

Newsweek asks why there are so many crackdowns on the media at a time when Latin America is the most democratic it's ever been.  It is a question well worth asking, though the article gets too much in the "good government" (mostly right) vs. "bad government" ( mostly left) mode (and it also includes a bizarre non sequitur about spanking children).  Colombia gets a pass despite having more journalists killed this year than last, though I suppose the logic is that a few people killed for reporting is not a big deal when dozens were murdered in past years.

But the most glaring omission is Honduras, which is not mentioned despite having eight journalists murdered already this year, and becoming one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists.  The media is under such assault in Honduras that even the Miami Herald published an editorial condemning it.

Overall, it is something everyone should pay closer attention to, though it would be nice to see a higher quality treatment of the issue in the MSM.


boz 7:55 AM  

I'd add that the idea that somehow Peru has been a bastion of media freedom the past few years is a joke. Garcia has arguably been as bad or worse about censoring critical press as Correa or Morales. He's simply not as vocal about it as the other guys, seeing no need to publicly defend his censorship as some kind of democratic action.

Nicolás Tereschuk (Escriba) 9:33 AM  

Excellent post. You may be interested in our blog which frequently analyzes these issues.

leftside 9:07 PM  

Greg and Boz are right about the ideological biases clearly at work here. But there is a deeper issue.

What the article really shows is the emptiness of the "liberal" conception of human rights. This view, perpetrated primarily by those in the West (mostly the US), sees only a negative role for Governments. They can only do harm, and are not expected to be proactive and do good.

This conception sees nothing wrong with murder against journalists as long as the Government didn't pull the trigger. It is the same idea that sees nothing wrong from a human rights point of view with huge prison populations, poor health care, unequal education, unequal opportunities, etc. These are all "natural" human rights abuses, which Governments can not be held responsible for. In other words, taking a position on what a Government SHOULD be doing to protect journalists, elevate the work of the media or ensure basic human rights is considered political and therefore, off limits.

It is the reason the work of Amnesty and Human Rights Watch is so detached from the reality people are living in. They focus on isolated cases abuse affecting one person here, one magazine there. But they miss the forest for the trees - neglecting the situation 99.9% of the country lives each day. They don't value the positive role Governments must play in ensuring basic human rights.

Anonymous,  11:16 PM  

Wow, that was a very bad summary of Newsweek's article. First, the article is not just about the press but about a much broader topic, the governments that seek to regulate and control citizen's actions. It's right there in the top of the page! So far from being a non sequitur, the example from Brazil makes perfect sense.

Also the article is about government actions. Unless you are accusing Honduras' government of killing those eight journalists it is your example that makes no sense.

Justin Delacour 12:46 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin Delacour 2:30 PM  

Also the article is about government actions.

That's precisely the point, anonymous. The bourgeois conception of "press freedom" only focuses on the question of whether governments formally restrict the press, not on the question of whether journalists' freedoms might be restricted by other powerful societal actors (such as wealthy media moguls, paramilitary groups who threaten the lives of journalists, etc. etc.). In other words, there is a gaping blind spot in the bourgeois conception of press freedom.

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