Uruguay's Senate
Uruguay's Senate in session on August 22, 2022. On May 14, 2024, the Senate approved a proposed broadcast law that local civil rights groups fear could be used as a tool of state control over the media. (Photo: AFP/Dante Fernandez)

Broadcast bill passed by Uruguay Senate threatens press freedom

Mexico City, May 30, 2024—Uruguayan authorities should not approve a proposed broadcast law passed by the Senate and should ensure that all media legislation is discussed broadly, including with civil society organizations and journalist representatives, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

On May 14, the Uruguayan Senate approved the proposed “Law of Audiovisual Content Broadcasting Services” without consulting civil society organizations or other groups, according to news reports.

Article 72 of the proposed law states that broadcasting services “have the duty to provide citizens with information, analysis, opinions, comments, and evaluations in a complete, impartial, serious, rigorous, plural, and balanced manner among and regarding political actors.” Local civil rights groups, including press freedom organization CAinfo, have warned this could potentially serve as a state control mechanism over the media.

The House of Representatives must vote in June to either approve or reject the bill without amendments, according to the news reports.

“Uruguayan lawmakers should not approve the proposed broadcasting law and should ensure that any new legislation is discussed broadly,” said Cristina Zahar, CPJ’s Latin America program coordinator, in Sao Paulo. “Control over what constitutes ‘complete, impartial, serious, rigorous, plural, and balanced’ information should never be in the hands of the state.”

Fabián Werner, president of CAinfo, told CPJ that the bill would put Uruguay in a dangerous position, especially ahead of the country’s general elections scheduled for October 27.

“This new law was rushed through the Senate to avoid democratic discussion and goes against international standards of freedom of expression,” he said. “It is very bad for democracy, human rights, and freedom of expression.”

Werner said that Uruguay’s current media law, approved by the government of former President José Mujica in 2013, was widely discussed with civil society sectors and international organizations such as UNESCO before and after passage.

International organizations, including the Inter American Press Association, UNESCO, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, have also expressed concerns about the proposed law.

CPJ emailed the president of the Uruguayan House of Representatives, Ana Olivera, but did not immediately receive a reply.