On their way back, after covering the presidential elections in Venezuela, the Argentine journalist Jorge Lanata and his team were arrested by the security forces of that country.
During their detention they were held in isolation, and all journalistic materials they had on them was destroyed.
Not long ago, an Ecuadorian journalist rebuked César Ricaurte, President of Fundamedios (a civil society organization that advocates for freedom of expression in Ecuador), and accused him of being a CIA agent while he was presented with an award by Editorial Perfil in Argentina. A worrying scenario, indeed, for freedom of expression in the region, which, in Fundación LED´s opinion, should be comprehensively analyzed as the consequence of an intentional policy aimed at weakening basic rights.
Unacceptable Conduct against the Press
The illegal detention of Jorge Lanata and his team of journalists in Venezuela, followed by typical cold-war questioning and the subsequent erasure of any and all materials recorded by them sends us back in time, and not just to 20th century spy films—it also reminds us of the persecutions which were organized and coordinated by South American dictators last century.
Lanata was held back upon entering Venezuela (and this alone should have put the top Argentine authorities on the alert) merely for being an independent journalist.
This might seem an isolated event but it is certainly not. Some days ago the Ecuadorian journalist Elena Rodríguez (from El Ciudadano, whose website is owned by the Office of the President of Ecuador) was present at the Perfil award- giving ceremony with a camera supplied by the news agency Telam. On that occasion César Ricaurte, founder of Fundamedios (an organization active at denouncing the abuses by Rafael Correa, the President of Ecuador), received the Perfil award for International Freedom of Expression. At that time Rodríguez rebuked Perfil´s owner, Jorge Fontevecchia, asking him if he did not know that he was giving an award to a CIA agent.
In recent years Argentina, Venezuela and Ecuador have hunted down independent media and journalists, having now launched these last cross-border attacks against Argentine journalists in Venezuela. Faced with this, we cannot stop asking ourselves if we are witnessing the beginning of a REGIONAL PLAN against the media or against journalists who are a hiccup for these three governments.
Hugo Chávez´s attacks against the Globovisión television chain, the complaint filed by Rafael Correa against the newspaper El Universo and his persecution against the NGO Fundamedios, the aggressions by the Argentine Government against Clarín, La Nación and any journalist who refuses to follow the official guidelines, together with the shutting down of media, such as the newspaper Crítica, of Argentina, or the takeover of LT9 in the Province of Santa Fe, have led us to this conclusion: regional government authorities are intent on curtailing opinions other than their own, on attacking anybody who thinks differently and on limiting the independent press by creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidating journalists of the region into self-censorship or silence.
As so many times before, we are once again witnessing the infringement of individual freedom, thus jeopardizing freedom of expression throughout the region. Fundación LED, therefore, is once again cautioning the general public about the need for greater support in defense of freedom and constitutional guarantees in the heart of Mercosur.