Supporting Freedom of the Press in Latin America and the Caribbeanby Representative Albio Sires
Posted on 2015-12-15
SIRES. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank Chairman Royce, Ranking
Member Engel, and all the staff for their support in promoting
democratic values around the world and in their efforts to bring this
resolution to the floor.
I also want to thank my good friend Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for serving as the Republican lead on this legislation. I also want to recognize the leadership of my colleague, Chairman Jeff Duncan, on this issue.
Freedom of expression is the key to a thriving democracy. It is the number one tool to hold people and governments accountable for their actions. In recent years, many organizations dedicated to freedom of speech and advancing civil societies have been trying to bring attention to the deterioration of press freedom in parts of the Western Hemisphere, specifically in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Cuba has consistently been characterized as having one of the most repressive media environments in the world, with the Castro brothers controlling all aspects of the print and electronic media.
Venezuela and Ecuador have harassed and fined the media, shut down press operations, and even physically attacked journalists who were trying to expose the state-sponsored crackdown against peaceful political dissenters.
In other countries, such as Mexico and Honduras, an increase in drug- related violence and worsening security situations have created a culture of impunity, allowing violence against journalists and the press to go unpunished.
As a child in Cuba, I witnessed the deterioration of democracy as the Castro regime took over the island and systematically destroyed all aspects of freedom of speech and expression. There is a strong connection between the country's democratic values and the freedom afforded to their press.
Working to preserve freedom of speech and pushing back against those who seek to quiet dissenters should be a top priority when engaging our neighbors in the region. That is why I introduced H. Res. 536, a resolution condemning violations of press freedom, violence against journalists, bloggers, and individuals exercising their right to freedom of speech.
This resolution condemns these violations and urges countries in the region to implement the recommendation of member states made by the Organization of American States, Office of Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.
This resolution also urges our administration to assist the media in closed societies to promote a free press.
I urge my colleagues to support H. Res. 536 to help foster better protections for the press around our hemisphere.