Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Although Uruguay is usually considered to have one of the freest media environments in South America, some negative trends in 2006 raised concern. The constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the government generally respects the law. On September 18, the Supreme Court reinstated the criminal defamation conviction of journalist Carlos Dogliani Staricco, who had written reports denouncing irregularities by a local mayor. The Court’s ruling placed the honor of public officials above freedom of expression, reversing its own decision in a 1997 ruling. In this way, the Supreme Court reinforced a troubling trend of criminalizing reports that criticize government authorities.
Although Uruguayans witnessed few cases of physical attacks on media professionals and organizations in 2006, there was a noticeable increase in the number of verbal harassments of news organizations by public officials, including one incident when President Tabare Vazquez accused major media outlets of conspiring against the government. The military occasionally threatens journalists investigating human rights abuses that took place during the military dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s. In March, confidential military documents were stolen from investigative reporter Eduardo Preve. It was widely believed that the military was behind the theft because the documents reportedly supported claims that the military protected individuals accused of human rights abuses during the military dictatorship. In a separate incident in September, a group of journalists was assaulted when they attempted to approach General Gregoria Alvarez, who was de facto president of Uruguay during the military dictatorship, in order to question him about his alleged past human rights abuses. When the reporters tried to question Alvarez, unidentified persons dressed as civilians began to beat the reporters.
Media ownership continued to be relatively concentrated, but Uruguay has a diverse media system, with more than 100 privately owned papers, though some are linked directly to political parties. There are over 100 private radio stations and at least 20 television stations, as well as one state-owned radio station and one television station that are regulated by the official broadcasting service, SODRE. Advertising is often used by the government to either reward or punish media outlets, and in December the Uruguayan Press Association released a report documenting the government’s manipulation of advertisements to favor media outlets sympathetic to the administration. There are no government restrictions on the internet, which is used by over 20 percent of the population.