THE PRESS: 2009
• Main Index
• In the Americas,
Big Brother is watching reporters
• United States
• Other developments
An anonymous caller threatened Raphael Ramírez, editor of the national daily La Prensa, twice on the evening of April 12. The caller threatened to kill the editor if he “did not stop publishing lies,” the paper’s director, Carlos Morales, said. Morales told CPJ that he received three similar anonymous calls at home the following day warning that he would be killed if he did not stop reporting on a corruption scandal involving high-ranking government officials.
Andrés Rojas, news director for the El Alto-based television channel Canal de Televisión Virgen de Copacabana, announced on April 13 that, after several death threats against him and his family, he had decided to resign. Rojas told local reporters that he believed the threats were linked to the station’s critical coverage of local social organizations.
At 6 a.m. on July 26, two unidentified individuals attacked Marcelo Lobo, a cameraman for the La Paz-based television network Gigavisión, outside the broadcaster’s offices, local news reports said. The assailants hit Lobo on the head until he lost consciousness, and cut his cheek and part of his tongue, Gigavisión’s director, Alex Arias, told local reporters. According to the local daily El Deber, Lobo had reported on corruption and antigovernment protests in the city of Santa Cruz. Alberto Aracena, director of Bolivia’s Special Force for the Fight Against Crime, said the attack was premeditated and that investigators were looking into the journalist’s work as a possible motive.
Three hooded assailants beat Jagdish Singh Grewal, editor and publisher of the Punjabi Post, in October as he was leaving the paper’s offices in Brampton, Ontario, news reports said. Grewal said the assailants smashed a window in his van, dragging him out into the parking lot. He said one assailant put a gun to his forehead, but fled with the other two men when another Punjabi Post employee appeared on the scene, according to local news reports. The Peel Regional Police were looking into Grewal’s journalism as the main motive for the attack, the daily Globe and Mail reported. Grewal said the paper had recently reported on opiate use among the local Punjabi community, and had been highly critical of extremist groups seeking a separate Sikh state in India.
Canadian authorities detained and questioned Amy Goodman, host of the syndicated radio and television program “Democracy Now!” as she tried to cross the border south of Vancouver for a book promotion in November. After 90 minutes, authorities issued her a restricted visa requiring her to leave the country within 48 hours. Goodman said authorities wanted to know whether she would be discussing the 2010 Olympics to be held in and around Vancouver. The Canadian Border Services Agency would not discuss details of the incident.
Dozens of journalists attempted to photograph the wedding of Brazilian supermodel Giselle Bündchen and U.S. football player Tom Brady on April 4 in the western city of Santa Teresa de Cóbano. According to news reports, Yuri Cortez, a Salvadoran photographer for Agence France-Presse, was approached by a man claiming to be a bodyguard for the supermodel who tried to grab Cortez’s camera. Cortez and Rolando Aviles, a photographer for the Costa Rican daily Al Día, got into their vehicle and were followed by at least one man who fired a gunshot, shattering the car’s rear window, AFP said.
The bullet-ridden body of veteran French filmmaker and photojournalist Christian Gregorio Poveda Ruiz, 52, was found on September 2 on an isolated road in the town of Tonacatepeque, north of San Salvador, according to news reports. The journalist had worked throughout 2008 on a documentary on one of the country’s most violent gangs, Mara 18, which was scheduled for wide release that month. Poveda, who lived with the gang for months, had received death threats from some of its members. Police arrested five alleged members of Mara 18 and a police agent on September 8, and charged them with aggravated murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and illicit association, the Attorney General’s office said.
Rolando Santiz, a reporter for the national television station Telecentro 13, was killed and Antonio de León, a station cameraman, was injured when two men on a motorcycle fired several shots at them in Guatemala City on April 1, according to news reports and CPJ interviews. Santiz had worked as a reporter for more than 30 years and was well-known in Guatemala. He told colleagues that he had received death threats, but it was not clear whether they were linked to a specific story. Local authorities said they were investigating the attack but did not disclose information about the possible motive or suspects. De León was hospitalized with head, jaw, and chest wounds.
An unidentified gunman killed television reporter Marco Antonio Estrada on June 6 in the eastern city of Chiquimula, 140 miles (225 kilometers) east of Guatemala City, according to local news reports and CPJ interviews. Estrada had worked for more than 20 years as a journalist, local reporters told CPJ. He covered general news, including organized crime and drug trafficking, for the national television station Tele Diario. Local authorities said they were looking into Estrada’s work as a possible motive, colleagues told CPJ.
A judge in February sentenced journalist Jean Marcel Chéry to two years in prison on trespassing charges. The verdict followed a series of complaints from Supreme Court Justice Winston Spadafora. Chéry said he had a guard’s permission to enter Spadafora’s property to report a 2001 story saying that the official had used public funds to build a nearby road. Chéry was free on appeal.
The Peruvian Supreme Court convicted former President Alberto Fujimori of human rights crimes on April 7. Among other crimes, Fujimori was convicted of masterminding the 1992 kidnapping of prominent journalist Gustavo Gorriti, a 1998 recipient of CPJ’s International Press Freedom Award. The former president was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was sentenced again, in September, to six years in prison for secretly wiretapping politicians, journalists, and businessmen, along with bribing congressmen and buying off a television station and a newspaper editorial board to back his 2000 re-election campaign.
On June 10, the Uruguayan Chamber of Deputies, the lower chamber of parliament, passed a measure repealing criminal defamation on issues of public interest involving officials, according to local news reports. The bill, approved by the Senate in December 2008, was signed into law by President Tabaré Vázquez.