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The weak democratic systems that followed decades of military dictatorships in Latin America coupled with the emergence of new authoritarian regimes of the left have had a significant impact on the relationships between the governments and the media. The new populist leaders have challenged the media that have generally reflected the perspectives of the traditional elites. This ideological clash has renewed direct and indirect censorship, curtailing freedom of expression and thus, freedom of the press.

In this context, this paper discusses the mechanisms used by Latin American governments, particularly the new authoritarianism of the left, to silence dissident voices. Many of these mechanisms are legal, found in laws related to personal injury and defamation. Others have been of constitutional nature, invoking states of emergency or national security concerns. Some governments have used institutional means to close down newspapers and other sources of information.

Current media conditions in Latin America show growing polarization. This has led to considerable levels of violence and intimidation against editors, journalists, and news crews in several countries. It is precisely this type of deterioration of fundamental rights that leads to questioning the strength and sustainability of Latin American democracies.


"The views, opinions, and/or findings contained in this report (paper) are those of the author(s) and should not be construed as an official Department of the Army position, policy or decision unless so designated by the official documentation.

Funded by the National Defense Center for Energy and Environment (NDCEE), ID W91WAW-09-D-0022, delivery order number 0616."

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