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Carlos Lauría

CPJ Senior Americas Program Coordinator Carlos Lauría, a native of Buenos Aires, is a widely published journalist who has written extensively for Noticias, the leading Spanish-language newsmagazine. Follow him on Facebook @ CPJ en Español.

Mike O'Connor at a 2012 press conference in Culiacán. (Ron Bernal)

It is a sad end to 2013 for the global press freedom community.

With the sudden death of CPJ Mexico Representative Mike O'Connor, 67, on Sunday, Mexican journalists have lost one of their most formidable advocates. Mike will be remembered as someone who was on the forefront of the struggle for press freedom. His superb skills as an investigative journalist helped scores of reporters across the country during a period marred by violence and censorship.

For more than a decade, courts and legislatures throughout Latin America have found that civil remedies provide adequate redress in cases of libel and slander. Over this period, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights -- an autonomous judicial institution, which is part of the human rights protection system of the Organization of American States (OAS) -- has issued key decisions supporting press freedom, including a 2004 landmark ruling that struck down a criminal defamation conviction of a Costa Rican journalist.

A presentation at the office of the Uruguayan president: From left, Benoit Hervieu, head of the Americas Desk at Reporters Without Borders; Carlos Lauría, CPJ's senior Americas program coordinator; and President José Mujica. (CPJ)

"Governments pass, but laws stay," said Uruguayan President José Mujica.

During a meeting with CPJ, and representatives from Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders at the president's executive office in Montevideo, the political capital, the former member of the leftist guerrilla group Tupamaros reflected on the upcoming congressional debate over new broadcast legislation. "It is our duty to ensure universal access to radio and television and contribute to freedom of information," Mujica added.

Carlos Lauría's testimony starts at 1:10 in the video.

Carlos Lauría, CPJ's Americas senior program coordinator, provided testimony before the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere of US House of Representatives on Tuesday. Lauría emphasized that violence and government harassment are the main emerging trends that illustrate the major challenges facing the press in the Western hemisphere.

A transcript of the full testimony can be found here.

Foreign Minister of Ecuador Ricardo Patiño speaks about human rights during the Organization of American States general assembly in Washington, D.C., on March 22. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

By reaffirming the autonomy and independence of the regional human rights system and rejecting attempts to neutralize the work of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its special rapporteur for freedom of expression, the Organization of American States (OAS) chose last week to discard proposals that would have made citizens throughout the hemisphere more vulnerable to abuses.

The OAS extraordinary assembly, held at the organization's headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Friday, adopted a resolution by which the 35 member states ratified the ability of the commission to continue receiving voluntary contributions. Analysts and human rights advocates say the decision was a blow to countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, known as ALBA, which have been pushing to preclude outside funding for the IACHR.

Carlos Lauría, left, and Mauri König meet Brazil's chief justice, Joaquim Barbosa, on Wednesday as part of a CPJ mission to Brazil. (Supreme Federal Tribunal)

"Leave me in peace. Wallow in your garbage," Brazilian Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa said in a rage when a reporter with one of the leading national newspapers, O Estado de Sao Paulo, tried to ask him a question Tuesday at a meeting of the National Council of Justice in Brasilia, the capital. Stunned by Barbosa's reaction, the journalist demanded an explanation. "You are a clown," was the response he received from the president of Brazil's highest court.

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa holds the hands of Christine Assange, the mother of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, during a meeting in Quito, Ecuador, Aug. 1. (AP/Martin Jaramillo)

The Quito government's decision to grant Julian Assange political asylum comes at a time when freedom of expression is under siege in Ecuador. President Rafael Correa's press freedom record is among the very worst in the Americas, and providing asylum to the WikiLeaks founder won't change the repressive conditions facing Ecuadoran journalists who want to report critically about government policies and practices.

Álvaro Uribe speaks at a 2011 congressional hearing about his alleged responsibility in the wiretapping of political opponents and journalists. (AP/William Fernando Martinez)

More than a year after he left office, Álvaro Uribe Vélez confessed that "it was not in him" to live as a former president. And in fact, having dominated Colombian politics for eight years, it has been impossible for Uribe to fade from the public eye since leaving office in August 2010. Instead of retiring to his ranch in Antioquia, he has lived in a heavily protected compound in the capital, Bogotá, with his wife and two sons. He spends his time traveling abroad for speaking engagements, has been a scholar at Georgetown University, and more recently announced the creation of a new political platform to oppose current President Juan Manuel Santos.  

Foreign Affairs
Minister Ricardo Patiño said 'ignorance' was behind
international criticism of press freedom conditions in Ecuador. (AP/Dolores Ochoa)

Stressing concerns of human rights groups about the deterioration of press conditions under the administration of President Rafael Correa, 17 members of the United Nations submitted recommendations to Ecuador on freedom of expression issues before the U.N. Human Rights Council this week. While Ecuador tried to pass off the criticism as resulting from ignorance, the states' observations made clear that the international community is fully aware of Correa's repressive tactics against the local media.

Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes denies that his government has engaged in negotiations with gangs to lower the rate of homicides. (AP/Luis Romero)

"El Salvador is committed to guaranteeing the safety of El Faro and its staff so they can continue their investigative work," David Rivas, spokesman for President Mauricio Funes Cartagena, told CPJ in a recent phone conversation. The government's pledge came after groundbreaking reporting by the digital newspaper about secret negotiations in which local gangs, known as Maras, said they would limit murders in exchange for official concessions, like having imprisoned gang members transferred to lower-security prisons.

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