Press Restrictions Still Prevalent in Many Latin American Countries

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

( - The Inter-American Press Association, opening its annual conference in Chile, said Tuesday that Colombia, Cuba, Peru and Venezuela continue to impose what the association calls "curbs on journalistic freedom." The association called on the governments of those countries to relax restrictions that prevent journalists from carrying out their work.

The association in its annual "Freedom of the Press" report says more than 220 journalists have been killed in Latin America since 1990, making it one of the most dangerous regions in the world for the media.

"While many might believe the press now operates without limits in a climate of democracy throughout the Americas, the truth is that the situation is far more complex. Even in democratic nations, politicians uneasy with a free and independent press are using every means at their disposal to silence or pressure their critics and limit the watchdog role of the media," the report said.

The report also said, "Publishers and owners everywhere, from Argentina and Uruguay to Peru and Colombia, face the specter of crippling libel convictions handed down by hostile judges. The mere filing of a case before a judge hostile to the media can be an effective form of intimidation even if the case is not supported by the facts. In some cases, governments are moving to use a willing judiciary to threaten the outright seizure of media properties."

In Cuba, the association found that "official press repression" remains.

"Those who believed the visit of Pope John Paul II to Cuba in 1998 would usher in government liberalization of Cuban press policies instead have seen the [Castro] regime harden its position. Several independent journalists remain jailed. Others have fled the country. Independent journalists working in Cuba are an endangered species. Access to Cuba for the US press remains restricted," according to the report.

The association criticized Venezuela's newly-elected constituent assembly for proposing "government regulation of the press and limitation to citizens' right of freedom of expression."