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Latin America Blog

Press freedom falls in Latin America, French journalist missing in Colombia

Freedom of the press is under threat in much of the Americas, according to a Freedom House report.

By Staff writer / May 3, 2012

This undated photo provided by France 24 television shows Romeo Langlois, the French journalist who was apparently kidnapped by FARC rebels in Colombia over the weekend while embedded with the Colombian military.

Woow/France 24/AP

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Colombia and the European Union are appealing for the release of French journalist Romeo Langlois, who was apparently kidnapped by FARC rebels in Colombia over the weekend while embedded with the Colombian military.

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The troops, who were dispatched to eradicate cocaine fields, came under attack on April 28. Mr. Langlois, who was filming a documentary on drug trafficking, took off his bullet proof vest and helmet, according to press accounts, and identified himself as a civilian. He went missing after the skirmish, however, and a woman claiming to be a member of FARC said he is being held as a “prisoner of war.”

Colombia's environment for journalists has improved greatly in the past decade. The country has cracked down on guerrilla violence and dramatically reduced kidnappings, including those of journalists. But as the world marks World Press Freedom day today, the overall decline in press freedom in the rest of Latin America is evident, according to the 2012 Freedom House survey on the world's press freedom rankings.

In fact, Summer Harlow at the Knight Center, who helped produce the 2012 Freedom House survey for the Americas, writes, “While the rest of the world saw no real decline in press freedom – and even improved in the Arab world – in the Americas, press freedom deteriorated in 2011.”

The survey ranks countries as "free," "partly free," and "not free." Overall the region is considered relatively free, with 39 percent of residents living in “free” countries and 44 percent in “partly free” nations.

But two countries, Chile and Guyana, saw declines in their ranking for 2011, downgraded to “partly free.” Ecuador has seen a big slide in the past years under President Rafael Correa, who has sued journalists and media outlets and drawn rebuke from around the globe. In one high-profile case that we wrote about here, Carlos Lauria, Americas director for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), told The Monitor: “Since Correa took office five years ago, the situation has seriously deteriorated in Ecuador.”

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