Last week, my colleague and fellow-blogger Jake Johnston, wrote a blog post on the attacks to freedom of the press in Chile, pointing out that media reports and U.S. based human rights organizations often focus on attacks on the press in countries that have elected left leaders, but somehow fail to report on attacks on freedom of the press in other countries.
One would think that the media and human rights organizations would pay specific attention to possible attacks on freedom of the press in countries that have recently suffered breakdowns of the democratic process, particularly in cases where coup d’états have occurred, such as in Honduras three years ago, or more recently, Paraguay.
Hondurans continue to endure the harsh repercussions caused by the coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya in June of 2009 that include widespread political repression, political assassinations and attacks on freedom of the press -not limited to the assassination of journalists- 25 of them since the coup to be exact.
So, after the parody of political impeachment, or the “parliamentary coup”, as others have called the ouster of President Fernando Lugo in Paraguay this past June, reporters and human rights organizations should have been more aware of incidents that could result in censorship and attacks on freedom of the press. Nonetheless, when workers at TV Pública, a state-owned public TV channel, denounced political persecution by the new Franco government after 27 of them were fired for having criticized the coup in June, U.S. media and human rights organizations did not seem to have taken notice. Nor did they take notice two weeks ago when the Union of Journalists of Paraguay (SPP) denounced threats, aggression and intimidation against two reporters, by President Franco and his brother and senator César Franco. In the run up to the April elections that are supposed to restore legitimacy to the government in Paraguay, the French organization Reporters Without Borders, which has noticed the attacks to freedom of the press in Paraguay since the coup, says that the climate is worsening and that pluralism in the press is likely to deteriorate.
The egregious attacks on freedom of the press in Honduras following its coup three years ago should make clear the need for international monitoring by the media and human rights organizations anytime that the breakdown of democracy becomes an issue. Let’s just hope that the situation in Paraguay improves, but in the case that it doesn’t, let’s hope that attention from the press and human rights organizations does.