Nearly 80% of the murders of journalists in Latin America in the past decade took place in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Honduras, the four countries chosen for this research project, launched in April.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights regards murders of journalists and media workers as the most extreme form of censorship. The Court has ruled that: “journalism can only be exercised freely when those who carry out this work are not victims of threats or physical, mental or moral attacks or other acts of harassment.”
The Organisation of American States says that, to guarantee freedom of expression, member countries must prevent violence against journalists, protect those who are the victims of attacks, and punish the perpetrators of crimes of violence against the media. When a country suffers from structural violence against journalists, it is required to set up specific programmes to protect them.
These mechanisms have suffered from major flaws, especially with regard to the creation of effective measures to reduce the risks and threats to journalists. The flaws include the failure to adapt methods to the reality on the ground, a lack of human and financial resources, poor internal organisation and a low level of participation by civil society organisations.
RSF regards an analysis of the protection policies in effect in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Honduras as a fundamental stage in the defence of freedom of expression and press freedom in Latin America. To this end, RSF will consult the beneficiaries of these programmes (journalists and human rights defenders), those who run them, and civil society organisations that are active in the free speech domain and closely follow public policy in each of these countries.
One of the specific focuses of this survey will be the challenges involved in protecting women journalists, who are not among the leading victims of murders in Latin America but are increasingly the targets of aggression and attacks, especially online.
The project will continue throughout 2021 and will lead to a series of meetings – conducted in compliance with the health measures required by the Covid-19 pandemic – at which RSF will present the recommendations that are the fruit of this research.
RSF hopes that those responsible for the protection programmes in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Honduras, along with government officials in general, lawmakers and journalists will thereby gain a better awareness and understanding of a problem that is a matter for increasing concern in the region.
Honduras is ranked 151st out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index, Mexico is ranked 143rd, Colombia is ranked 134th and Brazil is ranked 111th.