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Drug traffickers and corrupt officials were responsible for most of the murders
In total, 24 reporters were killed during the year across the region; seven in Mexico, five in Honduras, four in Brazil, three in Peru and one in each of Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala and Paraguay, according to the InterAmerican Press Association (IAPA).
It added that 2011 had been one of the most “challenging and tragic” years in recent memory for the media in Latin America.
The murders were largely carried out by organized criminals, principally drug traffickers, but often with the collusion of corrupt officials, the IAPA said. It added that the violence was having a chilling effect on freedom of speech in those countries.
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In a statement, the IAPA added: “Together with the impunity surrounding crimes committed in other years and the lack of action on the part of the authorities to deter those who resort to violence a vicious circle has been created that has given rise to high levels of self-censorship.”
It also cited other reverses for freedom of the media in various countries including Ecuador, where legislation is planned that would allow “official gags” on journalists, and Argentina, where the government moved to control the supply of paper used by newspapers.
The statement added: “Also noted are the few advances made regarding freedom of the press and of assembly in Cuba, a country where there was a worsening of censorship and violence against dissidents, independent journalists and bloggers.”
State advertising was being increasingly used as both reward and punishment for independent media in Argentina, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela, the IAPA warned.
On a more positive note, the group praised moves in El Salvador and Mexico to decriminalize defamation, and in Brazil, where a new freedom of information law was passed.