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“Democracy, the press and free enterprise are inextricably bound up,” says Roberto Civita, director of the Brazilian magazine Veja, the most widely read in Latin America: defending free speech would entail protecting the freedom of businesses, starting with the press. But what happens when a political leader is elected on a programme that includes challenging the interests of the private sector and media bosses? Ever since leaders determined to end (or try to end) neoliberalism came to power in Latin America, and parties defending the traditional elite became weaker, the media has had a mission. As Judith Brito, editor of the conservative Brazilian daily Folha de São Paulo, puts it: “Since the opposition has been weakened so much, it is the media that effectively fulfils this role” (O Globo, 18 March 2010) — sometimes very inventively.

Whose free press? – Le Monde diplomatique on Latin America

Confronting the News: The State of Independent Media in Latin America, by Douglas Farah [June, 2011]. The report calls attention to the deteriorating environments for independent news media in many Latin American countries as governments across the region increasingly push for limits on the press. It explores tactics used by these governments to silence the media and encourages the NGO community and U.S., European, and other Latin American leaders to put pressure on Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, among others, to stop infringing on the right to freedom of expression and access to information.

Many fear that the impact of China’s news media juggernaut will be especially pronounced in countries where freedoms are fragile. In Venezuela, China is building and financing communications satellites for a government that has exercised increasing control over the news media. Similarly, the Ethiopian government received $1.5 billion in Chinese loans for training and technology to block objectionable Web sites, television and radio transmissions, according to exile groups.

“The Chinese are not interested in bringing freedom of information and expression to Africa,” said Abebe Gellaw, a producer for Ethiopia Satellite Television, an exile-run network whose broadcasts are frequently jammed by Chinese equipment. “If they don’t provide these freedoms to their own citizens, why should they behave differently elsewhere?”

Chinese news media officials say such fears are overblown.

“Xinhua is filing hundreds of stories every day for our English service, and these reports are not propaganda,” Zhou Xisheng, the agency’s vice president, said in an interview. “What really matters is which perspective you are coming from.”

Many fear that the impact of China’s news media juggernaut will be especially pronounced in countries where freedoms are fragile. In Venezuela, China is building and financing communications satellites for a government that has exercised increasing control over the news media. Similarly, the Ethiopian government received $1.5 billion in Chinese loans for training and technology to block objectionable Web sites, television and radio transmissions, according to exile groups.

“The Chinese are not interested in bringing freedom of information and expression to Africa,” said Abebe Gellaw, a producer for Ethiopia Satellite Television, an exile-run network whose broadcasts are frequently jammed by Chinese equipment. “If they don’t provide these freedoms to their own citizens, why should they behave differently elsewhere?”

Chinese news media officials say such fears are overblown.

“Xinhua is filing hundreds of stories every day for our English service, and these reports are not propaganda,” Zhou Xisheng, the agency’s vice president, said in an interview. “What really matters is which perspective you are coming from.”