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Ileana R.
Republican FL 27

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  • Supporting Freedom of the Press in Latin America and the Caribbean

    by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

    Posted on 2015-12-15

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    ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman of our committee, again, the gentleman from California (Mr. Royce), and the ranking member, the gentleman from New York (Mr. Engel), for bringing this important resolution to the floor in such a speedy manner.

    I want to thank my dear friend, my legislative brother, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Sires), for bringing forward House Resolution 536, which is a resolution to support freedom of the press in Latin America and the Caribbean and condemning violations of press freedoms and violence against journalists, bloggers, and individuals who are exercising their right to freedom of speech. I am honored to be the Republican lead on Mr. Sires' resolution.

    Basic freedoms are being threatened all over Latin America, Mr. Speaker, by rogue regimes that seek to quash dissenters in any way that they can.

    Earlier this year we held a subcommittee hearing, as the chairman pointed out, on this very subject of the threat to press freedom. Carlos Ponce of Freedom House stated that, when it comes to press freedom, only three countries in Latin America were rated free by this organization.

    Can you imagine that, Mr. Speaker? Out of all of the countries in Latin America, only three could be labeled as free when it comes to freedom of the press.

    More and more, we see countries like Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Cuba taking steps to muzzle broadcast and print media into submission, leaving journalists and editors no choice but to self- censor their very own content.

    Venezuela's 2004 Ley de Responsabilidad Social en Radio y Television, or Law of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, has provided the legal framework to quash and censor the press, and its provisions have been replicated by Ecuador and other countries in the region.

    Due to the provisions in this law, television stations and newspapers have been bullied by the regime or forced to sell their outlets. In the case of RCTV, broadcasts were suspended by the Venezuelan regime.

    Owners of Globovision and El Universal, both critical of the regime, were forced to sell their outlets to business interests with close ties to the regime.

    Ecuador faces equally daunting challenges to press freedoms. A large number of journalists are being sued. Watchdogs such as Fundamedios are being harassed constantly. Newspapers such as El Universo are being fined for running articles that are not in agreement with the regime.

    In Nicaragua, the Ortega regime has also restricted media outlets by making it difficult for journalists to operate. With the recent promulgation by the Law of Sovereign Security, it has nearly ensured a muzzle on all reporters.

    Former President Cristina Kirchner of Argentina and her court often demonize journalists and charge popular media outlets, such as El Grupo Clarin [[Page H9320]] or the daily Ultima Hora, with inciting collective violence and terrorizing the population. These are actual charges.

    Mexico, one of our closest allies in the region, is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. This year alone, six journalists were killed in direct connection to their journalism work.

    In my native country of Cuba, despite the misguided normalization effort by the Obama administration, the Castro regime continues to hold total control of information. There is no free press in Cuba. Foreign media outlets usually censor their own information because they don't want to be kicked out of the country.

    Last week, Mr. Speaker, I had the honor of meeting a Cuban artist here in Washington, D.C., known as El Sexto, the sixth one. He was jailed for nearly a year for announcing that he would take part in a performance art that criticized the Communist regime leaders.

    The mere announcement was enough to be jailed for almost a year. Citizen journalists who defy the Castro brothers on the island are regularly subject to death threats, arbitrary arrests, beatings, and torture by the repression apparatus of the regime.

    Mr. Speaker, this is a critical time for basic freedoms in our hemisphere. Free and independent media are instruments to fight against the scornful, tyrannical regimes that plague our hemisphere today.

    We in the United States must remain ever vigilant amongst our friends and foes in this key moment in history for press freedom and freedom of expression in our region.

    This vote today, Mr. Speaker, overwhelmingly supporting efforts like the one spearheaded by our good friend, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Sires), is a good place in which to start.

    I thank the chairman, ranking member, and Mr. Sires for their work on this important topic.

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