The Listening Post

Latin America’s media battlefields

From Argentina to Venezuela and Mexico, some of the year’s most compelling media stories have come from one continent.

One continent, multiple media battlefields.

This year, some of our most compelling stories have come from Latin America. During the Mexican presidential elections, the country’s media giant Televisa stood accused of colluding with the man who is now president of the Republic, Enrique Pena Nieto and his party. Meanwhile, the media death toll continued to rise in the country’s bloody drugs war. In central America, journalists continued to face the dangers of reporting impunity in a region scarred by the legacy of civil war. Otto Perez Molina, Guatemala’s former army chief and new president pledged to protect journalists and freedom of expression – but will he succeed? And the mother of all media stories: the battle between media conglomerates and democratically elected left-wing presidents around the continent. Ecuador’s Rafael Correa was one of those leaders: press freedom pariah for some, press freedom fighter for others. This year he took the country’s media to court for trying to incite a coup to overthrow him – and he offered WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

As the year comes to an end, we have put together a special edition with three very different stories. In Argentina, the legal showdown between the government and the country’s most powerful media group Clarin. In 2009, the Kirchner government pushed through a media reform law that was as contentious as it was comprehensive. The law is designed to break up media conglomerates. Media reform has been on the cards since the end of the dictatorship and her supporters say the reform is long overdue. Critics say the target of the legislation is just Clarin and that freedom of expression and the president’s credibility is on the line. This is one of Argentina’s most contentious struggles over power and public influence in years and its only just heating up.

In Mexico, journalists are some of the first in the firing line in a drugs war that has claimed more than 60,000 lives. This year alone, at least 27 journalists have been killed; media outlets have been bombed and even those who thought social media might be a safer way to report have died in the attempt to fill the information vacuum. In this part of the show, we team up with Al Jazeera’s documentary programme Witness to bring you the story of a photographer Ernesto Martinez working in the western Mexican state of Sinaloa. Filmed by Rick Rowley and John Gibler, the report follows Martinez for two days and reveals the risks some journalists are prepared to take to report what has become one of the world’s deadliest beats.

And finally, we look at Venezuela’s offering to the global news market, Telesur. Launched in 2005, it was billed as the ‘Voice of the South, from the South’: an attempt to bypass and decentre US-based media representations of the region with a regional alternative. Some say this is a timely alternative to the mainstream. Critics say it is a mere propaganda tool for the man who funds it: the ailing president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. In the past few weeks, there has been round-the-clock coverage of Chavez’s declining health and in a country hard-pressed to find a successor with Chavez’s political or televisual charisma, this is a story that could well shake the foundations of Venezuela’s Bolivarian revolution – and the future of Telesur itself. We will be watching those developments and the others around the continent in 2013. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy the show.


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