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2015: Journalism under the gun and club in the Americas


Media freedom declined in the Americas in 2015 because of mounting political tension in many countries fuelled by economic recession, uncertainty about the future and weakening solidarity between communities.

The main obstacles to media freedom came from institutional violence, as in Venezuela (139th, down 2) and Ecuador (109th), from organized crime, as in Honduras (137th, down 4), from corruption, as in Brazil (104th, down 5), from concentrated media ownership, as in Argentina (54th) and from cyber-surveillance, above all in the United States (41st).


Colombia and most of Central America suffer from organized crime, including cartels, paramilitary groups and drug traffickers. Investigative reporting is dangerous or impossible in these countries because of the determination of these groups and the level of violence, which includes beheadings.


Mexico (149th, down 1) saw many murders of journalists that were linked corruption and drug trafficking. The region’s biggest fall was by El Salvador (58th), which plunged 13 places. In this small Central American country dogged by cartel violence, media freedom has declined steadily since 2014 and the election that year of President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, who has accused the media of waging a “psychological terror campaign” against his government.


The state often has a tight grip on the media in Latin America. In Panama (91st), which fell eight places, access to information remained partly under state control and coverage of sensitive subjects such as corruption led to defamation proceedings. The region’s two biggest media freedom violators continued to be Venezuela (139th), where opposition and independent media struggled to survive in the face of President Nicolas Maduro’s intimidation and manoeuvring, and – way below the others – Cuba (171st, down 2), where Raúl Castro’s regime maintained its almost total control over news and information.


Costa Rica (6th, up 10) was yet again the region’s leader and this year even entered the world’s top ten. Its legislation is very favourable for the media, it accords journalists proper recognition and it is the only Central American country not to suffer from corruption and its consequences on access to information. Jamaica (10th, down 1) and Canada (18th) were the region’s other leaders, although Canada fell 10 places because media freedom suffered a great deal in the last few months of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration.