March 5, 2012
Crimes committed by drug cartels in Mexico, criminal gangs in Brazil, belligerents in Colombia and the police in Chile are some of the primary concerns related to the security of journalists who cover human rights issues in Latin America. A vision of these problems and suggestions on how to solve them was presented today (March 3) by Conectas at the 19th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
“Obstructing, threatening or killing journalists has long been a brutally efficient way of breaking the chain of respect for human rights. It is a sordid tactic allowing crimes of corruption, kidnapping, torture, trafficking, land grabbing and many others that negatively impact human rights to go on unnoticed,” said João Paulo Charleaux, Communications Coordinator at Conectas. “Giving international exposure to this persecution and demanding action from governments is a way of protecting journalists from an unacceptable practice,” he added.
Besides “receiving with satisfaction” the document presented by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, Conectas presented new information on the underestimated risks faced by journalists, namely the killing of three Brazilian reporters in the first quarter of this year – which places Brazil in second place in the ranking of the most dangerous countries for journalists, according to the International News Safety Institute (INSI). The more than 30 aggressions against journalists recorded in Chile since March 2010 were also exposed in Geneva, and Conectas suggested that crimes committed by police be judged by the regular justice system. Furthermore, it suggested that the office of the special rapporteur should pursue closer ties with Latin American organizations that monitor these attacks, in order to improve the UN’s understanding of the risks.
At a side event in the Palace of Nations on the same topic, Conectas addressed the judicial or political persecution and the growing polarization between governments and some large private communication companies in Latin America. In these cases – and specifically from the point of view of the security of press professionals – the organization voiced its concern that the use of verbal attacks and defamatory campaigns on a national scale creates an atmosphere that encourages violence.
The side event was organized by Conectas, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the International Service for Human Rights, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Forum Asia and the Human Rights House Foundation, with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Norway.