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Sires Introduces Legislation Emphasizing the Importance of Freedom of Press in Latin America

Nov 19, 2015
Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) - Today, Congressman Albio Sires introduced H.Res. 536, supporting the freedom of press in Latin America and the Caribbean. This Resolution condemns violations of press freedom and violence against journalists, bloggers, and individuals exercising their right to freedom of speech. H. Res. 536 was introduced with bipartisan support, with Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) serving as the lead Republican cosponsor.

“Freedom of expression is the keystone that holds any democracy together. As a child in Cuba, I witnessed the deterioration of democracy as the Castro regime took over the island and systematically destroyed all aspects of freedom of speech and expression. Being able to speak without censorship is a right that should never be stifled. There is a strong connection between a country’s democratic values and the freedoms afforded to their press. Working to preserve freedom of speech and pushing back against those who seek to quiet their dissenters should be a top priority when engaging with our neighbors in the region,” stated Congressman Sires.

In recent years, many organizations dedicated to freedom of speech and advancing civil societies have been trying to bring attention to the deterioration of press freedom in Latin America. There are numerous reports confirming that states have harassed and fined the media, shut down their operations, and even physically attacked journalists who are trying to expose the state-sponsored crackdown against peaceful political dissenters. In some countries, drug trafficking organizations and gangs operate with impunity and are able to silence critics without fear of being held accountable.

"I am proud to introduce H.Res. 536 with Albio, my friend and colleague. The threats to press freedom in our Hemisphere are a stark reminder of the authoritarian regimes that currently plague Latin America. As Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela continue to restrict civil liberties, censor freedom of expression, intimidate journalists and undermine democratic principles, the United States must remain ever vigilant about these abuses in order to provide a voice to those activists on the ground who are being harassed daily. This important resolution recognizes the plight of those journalists, photojournalists, and bloggers who work hard every day to report on the human rights violations and illicit actions of repressive regimes in Latin America,” said Rep. Ros-Lehtinen.   

H.Res. 536 was also cosponsored by Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel (D-NY) and my partner on the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, Chairman Jeff Duncan (R-SC).