Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Reporters Without Borders releases World Press Freedom Index (May 4, 2022)

Reporters Without Borders published the 20th annual World Press Freedom Index yesterday, finding increased polarization in the information landscape, both within and between countries. Disinformation and withering press freedoms have grown at a global level, perhaps most notably within Latin America. A new methodology has been included in the report in comparison to 2021, making comparisons over time difficult, but it is clear that much of the region is facing an increasingly difficult press environment. Even countries such as Uruguay and Chile—democratic stalwarts in the region—dropped down the rankings this year by nearly 30 slots each. 

Uruguay dropped from 18th in the world in press freedoms to 44th this year, a reflection of growing human rights tensions in the country with the Ley de Urgente Consideración (LUC) reform narrowly approved by referendum this past March. The LUC has received criticism for restricting rights to protest and expression (see March 21st LADB). 

In Chile, the organization notes that violence from law enforcement against protesters and journalists during civil unrest has been a key concern, as has the legal framework of the current Pinochet-era constitution. The potential of a new constitution offers the opportunity to “guarantee the right to information.”

El Salvador, meanwhile, dropped from 82nd to 112th, as President Nayib Bukele continues to consolidate power and the country experiences human rights abuses with increasing frequency. This week, Human Rights Watch and Cristosal reported that “there is mounting evidence that El Salvadoran authorities have been committing serious human rights violations since adopting a state of emergency on March 27, 2022,” including arbitrary arrests, a lack of due process, and the deaths of two people in custody. Furthermore, the online newspaper El Faro was hacked using the Israeli spyware Pegasus over the past year, as revealed this past January (see January 13th LADB), with a not-insignificant amount of people believing that the government itself was behind the hack due to El Faro’s repeated criticisms of the Bukele administration and the president’s social media attacks against the organization.


Eight journalists have been killed in Mexico so far this year, according to the index, with the country ranked 127th in the world. This is an improvement from 143rd last year, although that may have more to do with changes in the index’s methodology than actual improvements on the ground. 

Brazil notably sits at 110th in the ranking, on the cusp between “problematic” and “difficult.” Journalists have been increasingly under attack; last month, for example, TV Globo’s journalist Gabriel Luiz was stabbed at night near his home in Brasília, although the motive was alleged to be robbery and non-political (Globo).

While the report ranks Costa Rica as the region’s best when it comes to press freedoms, sitting at 8th on the global index and followed closely by Jamaica at 12th, many countries in the region sit near the bottom of the global ranking. Venezuela, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Cuba are all ranked 159th or worse, with Cuba at 173rd, 8th worst in the world. 

News Briefs

Cyber Attacks

  • Recent ransomware attacks on Peru’s intelligence agency and Costa Rica’s finance and labor ministries by Russian cybercrime group Conti highlight technological deficiencies among many of the region’s governments, according to Insight Crime

Regional Relations

  • In Aula Blog, Fulton Armstrong lays out many of the US’ recent engagements with the hemisphere and suggests a broader US engagement strategy for the region.

  • James Bosworth analyzes the critical challenges facing the region that should be addressed at the upcoming Summit of the Americas in the Latin America Risk Report.


  • Argentina’s government has sent Congress an initiative to increase maternity leave to 126 days, and paternity leave to 90 days, reports El Pais. Current paternity leave in the country is only for two days.


  • “President Joe Biden finally has taken some baby steps toward re-engaging with Cuba on the issue of migration,” but domestic political concerns remain regarding further engagement, writes William LeoGrande at Responsible Statecraft.


  • In Americas Quarterly, Betilde Muñoz-Pogossian offers three proposals for addressing the challenges of migration at the Summit of the Americas: establishing an umbrella forum, documenting the irregular, and standardizing language and policies to improve regional coordination. 



  • As the increasingly dire effects of climate change continue to disrupt agriculture habits, farmers in Central America are turning to crop rotation and adaptation to survive. (Americas Quarterly)


  • “Violence is becoming the new norm in every sense,” says Gabriel Boric following a shooting during a workers’ protest during Chile’s “Day of the Worker” on Sunday (La Tercera). 

  • President Gabriel Boric’s plans for a “Plan B” should the Constitutional Convention be rejected by the plebiscite this September have created tensions with his allies, says La Tercera.

  • This Tuesday, the Chilean Constitutional Convention approved an article to prohibit “the ‘forcible return to the borders’ of people who have requested asylum or are foreign refugees,” notes Selección de Noticias


  • Guyana is heavily investing in healthcare and education to avoid overdependence on its newly-discovered oil, according to the Financial Times.

US-Mexico Border

  • A new documentary short, “American Scar,” by the New Yorker filmmaker Daniel Lombroso, investigates the environmental impact of the US-Mexico border wall. 


  • Following three years of interviews and field work, InSight Crime released a new five-part investigation on cocaine in Venezuela. They note “the Maduro regime has positioned itself as the gatekeeper to the country’s drug trade, controlling access to cocaine’s riches not only for drug traffickers but also for corrupt politicians and the military-embedded trafficking network known as the Cartel of the Suns.’”

  • Crónica Uno reports that less than 40% of Venezuelan media report on the country’s political and economic crisis for fear of repression. 

  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with opposition leader Juan Guaido on Monday, “and reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to talks between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government and the opposition Unitary Platform,” notes Reuters.


  • Brazil’s Supreme Court has rescinded an invitation to the European Union to observe the country’s October elections following objections from Bolsonaro and the Foreign Affairs Ministry, says Reuters.

  • TIME explores Lula’s political trajectory from president to prison to the campaign trail once more. The author notes that “Bolsonaro has taken a hammer” to the transformative policies Lula enacted as president, remarking that Lula is “riding out of his political exile like a white knight.” 


  • Indigenous groups in Brazil were able to share evidence of environmental crime - in this case, illegal gold mining - on social media via recently-acquired access to cell phones, reports Associated Press. For communities that relied on radio communication, these quicker methods of contact allow them to record and address grievances more broadly and effectively. 


  • Mexico, a country with no commercial lithium production but with potential viable lithium deposits, seeks to create a lithium association with Argentina, Bolivia, and Chile, reports Reuters.

  • Animal Politico reports a court order halting all construction of “Tramo 5” of the Tren Maya, set to go from Cancún to Tulum.


  • A Colombian prosecutor in the city of Neiva is arguing that protestors who participated in anti-government demonstrations last year must be tried as organized crime groups, says Colombia Reports.

  • Juliana Martinez’s recent book analyzes Colombian literature, film, and art through the lens of “spectral realism,” addressing the impact of violence that has plagued the country for decades on Colombia’s artistic pursuits. (Aula Blog)

Jordi Amaral is a freelance researcher and writer currently working as a Research Analyst at Hxagon and as an independent consultant with the Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative at the Migration Policy Institute

Arianna Kohan is a Research Analyst at Hxagon and a current M.A. student in International Relations at the Universidad Torcuato di Tella in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She previously worked as a Program Coordinator with the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). 

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