Media and Democracy in the Americas VI: Independent Journalism in the Face of Democratic Decline in the Region

This post is also available in: Español 

Foto de panelistas en evento Medios y Democracia Inter-American Dialogue

Amid the democratic decline in Latin America, independent journalism emerges as a crucial counterbalance, constantly facing risks and challenges. To protect independent journalism, it is necessary to explore collaboration networks, physical and technological protection measures, funding strategies, and international cooperation mechanisms. In the sixth edition of the “Media and Democracy in the Americas” conference, organized by the Rule of Law Program of the Inter-American Dialogue with Fundamedios, Voces del Sur, and Luminate, discussions focused on early warnings of risks to the independent press amidst the democratic decline in the region, as well as protection strategies to counteract the silencing of journalism.

Tamara Taraciuk Broner, director of the Rule of Law Program at the Dialogue, emphasized that, “today the main threat in the region (...) is authoritarian leaders who come to power democratically, but once in power turn their backs on essential freedoms aimed at curbing the abuse of power,” which includes freedom of the press. César Ricaurte, executive director of Fundamedios and member of the Voces del Sur, noted that in 2023, 3.827 alerts of attacks against the press were reported. “Approximately 10 attacks against the press occur every day in the region,” he added.

Claudia Lagos, director of social communication at the University of Chile, referred to the relevance of the intersection between journalism, public policy, and academic research in Latin America, highlighting key issues such as technology, visibility, financial sustainability, and professional training in independent journalism. “Exploring these intersections is essential to understanding and addressing the challenges faced by journalists in our region and ensuring strong and sustainable journalism for the future,” she said. 

During the panel discussion, moderated by Dagmar Thiel, CEO of Fundamedios, Christian Zurita, investigative journalist from Ecuador, emphasized the polarization of political discourse by different governments, which leads to attacks on the personal reputation and credibility of the media. “Since journalists generally work under pressure, it is very difficult for them to see issues clearly, which leads them into this realm of confrontation, resulting in a clear loss of freedom of expression,” he pointed out. In this regard, Sylvia Colombo, columnist for Folha de São Paulo in Brazil who resides in Argentina, highlighted the importance of international cooperation as a way to safeguard the credibility of the media amidst this growing polarization. “The main thing in journalism is credibility. The international community must help to amplify and share the production of independent media, highlighting the importance they have gained on the international stage and giving them visibility,” she added.

Luz Mely Reyes, co-founder of Efecto Cocuyo in Venezuela, reflected on the sustainability issue of independent media. The trend of proliferation of local independent media that Latin America experienced between 2015 and 2016 “is coming to an end due to defunding and the shift in international philanthropy,” she affirmed. In this regard, Juan Luis Font, journalist and co-director of Con-Criterio in Guatemala, emphasized the possibility of creating an entity that brings together public and private funds as a way to finance local press media. “It is a way to help local journalists who are constrained by the local mayor, the local businessman, the landowner in the area,” he added.

Watch the event recording here (in Spanish) here:

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