Silencing the Messenger: Global Threats to Press Freedom

Freedom of the press is under attack around the globe, but for journalists in Latin America in particular, reporting has become a matter of life and death. Populist leaders in the region have consolidated power and clamped down on press freedom, making the area the deadliest in the world for reporters. With anti-journalist sentiment on the rise, can a free and fair press prevail in an increasingly polarized world?

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting

Asher Ross - Supervising Producer

Markus Zakaria - Audio Producer and Sound Designer

Molly McAnany - Associate Podcast Producer

Episode Guests
  • Carin Zissis
  • Jan-Albert Hootsen
    Mexico Representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Neil Brandvold
    Documentary Filmmaker and Photojournalist

Show Notes

Last year was deadly for journalists around the world. Even as the Russian invasion of Ukraine sparked the largest land war in Europe since World War II, it was Latin America, where there are currently no wars, that was the deadliest region for journalists. 


This violence against the world’s reporters comes amid growing anti-journalist sentiment and a consolidation of power by populist leaders. Killings of journalists increased 50 percent last year; more journalists’ deaths were recorded in 2022 than at any point in the past five years. About half of those killings took place in Latin America, where leaders such as Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele have cracked down on press freedom. Meanwhile, the rise of spyware has made it easier for governments to track journalists and their sources. In this episode, journalists in the region explain how their jobs have gotten harder—and why healthy democracies need press freedom.





From CFR


Diana Roy, “Why Has Gang Violence Spiked in El Salvador?” 


Kali Robinson, “How Israel’s Pegasus Spyware Stoked the Surveillance Debate


Shannon K. O’Neil, “Mexico’s Democracy Is Crumbling Under AMLO



From Our Guests


Carin Zissis, “LatAm in Focus: The Strange Case of El Salvador’s Plummeting Homicide Rate,” AS/COA Online


Jan-Albert Hootsen, “For Mexican Journalists, President López Obrador’s Pledge to Curb Spyware Rings Hollow,” Committee to Protect Journalists


Read More


Jennifer Dunham, “Deadly Year for Journalists as Killings Rose Sharply in 2022,” Committee to Protect Journalists


Sam Cutler and David Pegg, “What Is Pegasus Spyware and How Does it Hack Phones?The Guardian


Sarah Kinosian, “Trolls, Propaganda and Fear Stoke Bukele’s Media Machine in El Salvador,” Reuters


Watch and Listen


Mexico’s Democratic Backsliding, With Shannon K. O’Neil,” The President's Inbox


Neil Brandvold, Unforgivable, VICE


Who’s Killing Mexico’s Journalists?The Take, Al Jazeera


Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the most popular man in India. On track to be elected for a third term, he has transformed the country’s economy and global standing while silencing dissent and galvanizing majoritarian support for his Hindu nationalist agenda—all while growing closer to the United States. How could Hindu nationalism reshape India?


In a wide-ranging conversation, Foreign Affairs Editor Dan Kurtz-Phelan joins Why It Matters to discuss nonpartisan publishing in a polarized political climate, the state of press freedom around the world, and the future of journalism.

Genocide and Mass Atrocities

Thirty years ago, Rwanda’s government began a campaign to eradicate the country’s largest minority group. In just one hundred days in 1994, roving militias killed around eight hundred thousand people. Would-be killers were incited to violence by the radio, which encouraged extremists to take to the streets with machetes. The United Nations stood by amid the bloodshed, and many foreign governments, including the United States, declined to intervene before it was too late. What got in the way of humanitarian intervention? And as violent conflict now rages at a clip unseen since then, can the international community learn from the mistakes of its past?

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