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The Price of Media Silence

SANTIAGO – In 1986, opposition journalist José Carrasco Tapia was dragged from his home in Santiago, Chile, by one of General Augusto Pinochet’s death squads. He was shot 13 times in the back of his head and dumped in a cemetery, joining a macabre roll call of Latin American reporters brutalized for daring to speak out during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

During that time, kidnapping, torture, and murder had a stranglehold over the Latin American press; stenography was an infinitely safer choice for those reporting the news. As Latin America became increasingly democratic in the years since then, more reporters chose to investigate instead of retyping government press releases.

Particularly by targeting government corruption, brave journalists made raiding the public till more of a gamble than a birthright – and angered many of the corrupt. Today, too many Latin governments, fearful of the media’s ability to expose misdeeds, have altered their tactics but remain determined to limit press freedom.

Latin American journalists may face a diminished threat of murder nowadays, but many still confront a gauntlet of challenges designed to control them. Behind closed doors, governments wield financial incentives and regulatory powers to mute media criticism and twist editorial content in their favor.