A newly released index ranking the countries where journalists' murders are most likely to go unpunished names three Latin American countries in the list of worst offenders, as regional moves to counter the problem have yet to yield results.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) 2014 Global Impunity Index compiles worldwide cases of unsolved journalist murders between 2004 and 2013, comparing individual countries' figures to their populations to produce a rating. Any nation with five or more unsolved cases is then placed on the final index (see CPJ statistics table below), with Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil all appearing.
Of the three nations, Mexico comes off worst, ranked seventh globally -- the same position it held in the 2013 index. Throughout the decade analyzed by the new report, 16 journalists' murders went unpunished, with one more in 2014. "Justice continued to evade Mexican journalists who face unrelenting violence for reporting on crime and corruption," noted the CPJ. Notably, of the six nations above Mexico on the list, three -- Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan -- are essentially warzones, while a fourth, Somalia, is widely considered a failed state.
Colombia moved from fifth to eighth place overall, though the CPJ said this had less to do with justice -- no one has been convicted of killing a journalist since 2009 -- and was instead linked to an overall decline in fatal anti-press violence. With the decade-long test period moving forward a year, Colombia's improved performance is essentially due to two cases slipping out of the study's timeframe.
Brazil ranked in 11th place, where the resolution of three cases of journalists' murders in 2013 was offset by three more unsolved killings, outlining a situation of "sporadic but significant progress in prosecuting journalists' killers weighed against new killings."
InSight Crime Analysis
Violence against journalists is a major problem in Latin America, often resulting in media self-censorship. Colombia and Mexico -- where organized crime is deeply embedded -- have been notoriously dangerous places for journalists, while Brazil has seen an escalation of violence against the press in recent years.
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The killing of journalists has frequently provoked calls for increased government action to address the problem.
In Brazil, there have been moves to increase penalties for contract killings, although the CPJ has criticized the country's lack of effective action, amid "mainly rhetorical" moves to protect the media.
Elsewhere, the CPJ has praised efforts to combat violence against journalists, as in the case of legislation approved in Mexico in April 2013 to give federal authorities broader jurisdiction to prosecute crimes against freedom of expression.
Yet while the response may differ from country to country, the reality for journalists in the region has changed little, as political will to effectively confront the issue remains in short supply.