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Impunity persists in the Americas with 18 slain journalists in 2013: human rights report

Flag of the Organization of American States. Photo via Flickr.

In their presentation before the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemned that most of the 18 killings of journalists committed in 2013 continue to go unpunished.

Last year, four journalists were killed in Brazil, four in Guatemala, three in Mexico, two in Colombia, two in Haiti, two in Honduras and one in Peru, according to the IACHR's latest annual report on freedom of expression on the American continent.

According to the document, many news professionals in those countries, plus others in Venezuela, Argentina, Canada and the Dominican Republic, were also the targets of attacks while covering protests. They were detained by police, treated violently and, in many cases, had their material confiscated or destroyed.

Last year, IACHR admitted only 123 petitions from the OAS' 35 member states, including 10 from Mexico, 25 from Colombia, 16 from Peru and 15 from Chile. Mexico leads the list of countries with overall pending petitions, which at the end of 2013 was around 1,806. In total, there are 8,548 unprocessed petitions pending at the international organization.

The report highlighted the situation in Venezuela, where many journalists faced obstacles during their coverage of some high-profile public interest events, chiefly the health and death of former president Hugo Chavez, his funeral, the election of his successor.

The IACHR's main concerns in Venezuela were the lack of independence in the judicial power and the limited resources Venezuelan citizens have to defend their human rights.

In Ecuador, with the creation of the Organic Communications Law, promoted by president Rafael Correa, the state has the ability to censor news and prevent the diffusion of public interest information.

Ecuador’s representative before the OAS, Marco Albuja, questioned the IACHR’s annual report, especially the Special Rapporteurship on Freedom of Expression's chapter, accusing it of being biased, imprecise and manipulating information.

In the concluding chapter, the IACHR calls authorities of all member countries to contribute to the construction of a climate of tolerance and respect in which all people can freely express their thoughts and opinions without fear of being attacked, sanctioned or stigmatized because of it.

Regarding the internet, the organization asked authorities to not apply the same laws made for other media – like TV and phones – and to design an alternative framework especially for this medium that is in compliance with international standards on freedom of expression.


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