Photo: El Estímulo retrieved

There is a growing sense of fear among the advocates of free press around the world. That’s the conclusion of the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, released this week by NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF). And it was more palpable in Latin America, according to RSF’s findings. The environment for journalists is more and more hostile and coverage of sensitive subjects increasingly triggers violence, intimidation and harassment of every kind.

Venezuela was ranked 148th among the 180 countries analyzed by RSF, dropping five positions from last year, and showing Maduro’s ongoing effort to stifle press freedom. Just for comparison, when Hugo Chavez died in 2013, the country ranked 117th. The descent into authoritarianism by President Nicolás Maduro’s government continues. As the crackdown on independent media intensified in 2018, RSF registered a record number of arbitrary arrests and cases of violence by the Venezuelan police and intelligence services. At the same time, the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) stripped critical radio and TV stations of their broadcast frequencies, while several foreign journalists were arrested, interrogated, and in some cases deported. The worsening situation drove many Venezuelan journalists to flee the country to escape retribution, including threats to their physical safety.“

There is not much to add. This is just corroboration of what many have reported, including Caracas Chronicles

But the fact that the entire region is also facing an overall decline is quite worrisome, especially considering the terrible repression in Nicaragua or the constant violence against Mexican journalists. From the surge of self-censorship in Central America to the spread of disinformation in Brazil through channels like WhatsApp, the curtailment of free press in Latin America isn’t abating, but rather diversifying.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela local reporters are still arrested while doing their job and foreign correspondents are being deported with no explanation.

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