Colombian Journalists Discuss Press Freedom Challenges at Digital Journalism Event

Journalists in Latin America face growing threats to press freedom, but remain resilient in their efforts to report the truth and hold power accountable.

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Colombian Journalists Discuss Press Freedom Challenges at Digital Journalism Event

Colombian Journalists Discuss Press Freedom Challenges at Digital Journalism Event

Journalists from across Latin America gathered at the 17th Ibero American Colloquium on Digital Journalism to discuss innovative projects and the challenges facing press freedom in the region. The event, which took place on April 24, 2024, featured a lightning round where journalists presented on topics ranging from podcasts on women and economics to digital literacy education and initiatives to highlight environmental issues in the Amazon.

However, the event also shone a spotlight on the critical condition of press freedom in several Latin American countries. In a panel discussion, journalists and experts discussed government strategies to persecute the press, including the case of José Rubén Zamora in Guatemala, who has been imprisoned for almost two years despite not being convicted of any crime.

Venezuelan journalist Luz Mely Reyes shared her experience of the 25-year history of attacks on the media under the Chavismo regime. She described the closure of RCTV, the blockade of international media, and the detention of journalists as part of a pattern of criminalization, judicialization, stigmatization, and defamation against the press.

Why this matters: The challenges faced by journalists in Latin America have far-reaching implications for democracy and human rights in the region. The persecution and silencing of the press undermines the public's right to information and hinders accountability for those in power.

The event also addressed recent attacks on journalists in Colombia during anti-government protests. According to the Press Freedom Foundation (FLIP), 13 journalists were targeted, primarily those from the public broadcaster RTVC and alternative media. The journalists were accused of being "traitors," "leftists," and "provocateurs," and subjected to abuse including being pelted with objects, dragged by the hair, and threatened with violence.

RTVC's director blamed the attacks on leaders of the far-right Democratic Center party, calling them "systematic." FLIP condemned the attacks and called on the National Police to adhere to protocols to prevent and respond to violence against media workers. The organization also highlighted cases of gender-based violence, with a network manager and a reporter being targeted.

Despite the challenges, the Ibero American Colloquium on Digital Journalism highlighted the resilience and innovation of journalists across Latin America. As Luz Mely Reyes stated, "We have not stopped doing journalism. We continue to tell the story of Venezuela from different trenches." The event served as a reminder of the critical role of the press and the ongoing fight for freedom of expression in the face of persecution and violence.

Key Takeaways

  • Journalists in Latin America discussed innovative projects and press freedom challenges.
  • Journalists face persecution, including imprisonment without conviction, in countries like Guatemala and Venezuela.
  • Attacks on journalists during protests in Colombia were condemned, including gender-based violence.
  • The event highlighted the resilience and innovation of Latin American journalists despite persecution.
  • Press freedom is critical for democracy and human rights in the region, despite ongoing challenges.