THE WORST AREAS TO PRACTICE JOURNALISM IN THE SECOND SEMESTER 2007
During the succession currently underway, Cuba is maintaining control over public communications.
In almost every country in the region, presidents criticize media outlets and journalists on a regular basis, as well as journalism in general.
The revenue bonanza many Latin American countries are enjoying is strengthening government-owned media.
In the context of a worsened institutional culture, Argentina maintains a government communications model that has proved successful at preserving governability and winning elections.
- In Mexico, most cases of attacks on journalists are still linked to government authorities and police or military forces. However, the most serious -and cruel- cases are linked to drug trafficking.
- There is a judiciary awakening taking place in Latin America. “Today, at this moment, there are 82 people in prison, including some intellectual authors”, said Alberto Ibargüen, President of IAPA’s Commission Against Impunity.
- During the succession transition it is currently undergoing, Cuba is maintaining control over public communications. Raúl Castro’s leadership has not displayed any signal of openness as far as official media are concerned, while keeping high levels of repression against dissident communications within the island.
- In almost every country in the region, presidents criticize media and journalists on a regular basis, as well as journalism in general. This trend does not recognize ideological frontiers and seems to be in crescendo.
- There are also dozens of governors and hundreds of mayors in all Latin America who take part in this criticism of the press. As the quality of government recedes, from the federal to the local level, the possibility of critical discourse being coupled with violent practices against journalism rises. The growing amount of investigations into the murders of journalists frequently reveals mayors –or people in their entourage- as their intellectual authors.
- The revenue bonanza many Latin American countries are enjoying is strengthening government-owned media. Other countries, like Bolivia, are seeing a growth in government-run media financed by Venezuelan state resources.
- Civil society practically has no role in the discussion over the adoption of digital television in Latin America. Mexico chose the American system, ATSC. Brazil picked the Japanese system –ISDB-, while Uruguay opted for the European DVB. The rest of the countries have not yet defined their choice. More important than selecting one system or the other, what is urgent is the creation of a debate framework in which not only government employees, broadcasting companies and current licensees can debate. The current discussion between these three parts may stop new technologies from producing the democratizing effect the media system needs. There must be a fourth leg to this stool: civil society.
- There is a growing recognition among politicians of a non-government non-profit part of the media industry, aside from commercial and government media.
- The conscience clause is growing. Many countries in the region are establishing conscience clauses, which recognize a journalist’s right not to undertake actions that go against their conscience as part of their professional work. The new Bolivian Constitution has incorporated it, and the recent ethics code approved by Bolivia’s Asociación Nacional de Prensa (ANP, National Press Association). It has just been added to the ethics code of FENAJ, Brazil’s journalists’ union; it is also part of a law proposed by Chile’s Colegio de Periodistas, and it is in a law promoted by congressional representative Fabiola Morales in Perú.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Fernando Javier Ruiz
Professor at the Seminars on Journalism and Democracy and on History and Culture of Communications, at the Austral University School of Communications.
Advisor to the Democratic Strengthening Area of the Centre for the Opening and Development of Latin America (CADAL). Ph.D. in Public Communication from the University of Navarra Degree in Political Science from the Universidad Católica Argentina (UCA).
Author of the following books:
-Otra grieta en la pared: Informe y testimonios de la nueva prensa cubana, 2003,(Another crack in the wall: Reports and testimonies of the new Cuban press) CADAL / Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
-Las palabras son acciones: historia política y profesional del diario La Opinión de Jacobo Timerman, (Words are action: Political & professional history of the La Opinión newspaper belonging to Jacobo Timerman), 1971-77, Perfil Libros, Buenos Aires, 2001.
-El señor de los mercados. Ambito Financiero, la City y el poder del periodismo económico,(The master of the markets: Ambito Financiero, the City & the power of the financial press), El Ateneo, Buenos Aires, 2001.