By Summer Harlow
AUSTIN, Texas.- Spotlighting Ecuador as one of the countries in the Americas where free speech is in jeopardy, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has launched a new campaign against the criminalization of free speech. The campaign, "Critics Are Not Criminals," comes as journalists throughout Latin America increasingly are facing lawsuits, jail time, and even death for exercising freedom of expression -- the right to which the Inter American Commission on Human Rights has deemed as "indispensable" for democracy.
Offering various resources on free speech, such as information about court cases and international declarations, CPJ noted that "court and legislatures in the Americas have increasingly found that defamation should be a civil matter," rather than a criminal one. Still, some governments throughout the region are using archaic laws to punish and repress any sort of dissent, CPJ said.
As part of the campaign CPJ has compiled a list of organizations fighting for freedom of speech. CPJ also is encouraging the use of the Twitter hashtag #defamation to raise awareness about criminal defamation laws. Follow CPJ's free speech campaign on Twitter at @pressfreedom in English and @CPJAmericas in Spanish.
Meanwhile, the International Press Institute is moving forward with its campaign to decriminalize defamation in the Caribbean countries of the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago.
*Summer Harlow has worked as a newspaper reporter in Kansas City, Mo., Wilmington, Del., Washington, D.C., and Guatemala, where she served as an Inter American Press Association Scholar.