Journalists arrested or killed in five Latin American countries in 2021

press journalists attacks killed
Brazilian photographers protest the death of a journalist in 2014. Photo: Nelson Antoine/Shutterstock

The Committee to Protect Journalists published its 2021 report this Wednesday, analyzing data on journalists imprisoned or killed for their work this year. Five countries in Latin America made the list:

  • Six press workers were imprisoned in Cuba (3), Nicaragua (2), and Brazil (1), out of 293 globally;
  • Four were killed in Mexico (3) and Colombia (1), out of 24 globally.

The report confirms the region’s status as one of the world’s most dangerous for journalists. “In addition to those reporters killed in Mexico, Colombia, and Haiti, others in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, and Haiti narrowly survived shooting attacks,” the CPJ writes.

“While deadly violence remains a major form of censorship in countries such as Mexico and Colombia, the tactics for silencing journalists in Latin America and the Caribbean are evolving, appearing in legislation and court decisions across the region.”

We showed in our Latin America Weekly newsletter that lawmakers in Colombia shoehorned in an anti-corruption bill an amendment including provisions for criminal and economic sanctions against media outlets that “slander” current or former public officials.

Another way politicians found to smother local media outlets is by profiting from the financial crisis hitting newsrooms, and hiring the very reporters who used to investigate them as press secretaries, on high salaries.

In May, a Reporters Without Borders (RSF) study showed that, between 2011 and 2020, nearly 140 journalists were killed in Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, and Honduras alone. 

The report underscores that “the combination of entrenched criminal syndicates and political elites can be particularly deadly for reporters.”RSF says Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro is a serious threat to press workers. Indeed, data from the Brazilian Federation of Journalists (Fenaj) shows an alarming trend: 2020 was the most violent year since 1990 for journalists in the country and Fenaj noted a 105-percent increase in attacks on journalists between 2019 and 2020.