The media is fairly free but journalists still run into obstacles when investigating human rights violations under the former military dictatorship. The supreme court has also made a decision that harms freedom of expression.
No media outlets were ransacked or censored and only one physical attack and very few threats were recorded in 2006, when Uruguay maintained its long-standing reputation as the “Switzerland of Latin America,” at least for press freedom. But as the country began to call to account those involved in the 1973-85 military dictatorship, the army still seemed unwilling to allow the media to look too closely at this painful period.
An expert on the dictatorship, Alfonso Lessa, of the TV station Canal 12 and the daily paper El País, received written death threats in October 2006 from a self-styled “active soldier” after he publicly supported the recent start of legal proceedings against soldiers and police for human rights violations, notably retired Gen. Gregorio Álvarez, who was president from 1981 to 1985.
The Montevideo apartment of investigative journalist Eduardo Preve, of the TV station Canal 10, was mysteriously burgled on 26 March despite two policemen guarding the building, after he had received secret army documents about the Condor Plan for cooperation between military intelligence services in six Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s. He had reported that this cooperation had continued after the dictatorships had fallen.
Parliament has still not decriminalised media offences and Gustavo Escanlar Patrone, of Canal 10, was sentenced on 18 May to three months imprisonment for “insults” after making fun of a media proprietor in a talk-show. The supreme court confirmed on 18 September a suspended five-month prison sentence passed on Carlos Dogliani, of the now-closed weekly El Regional, for libelling a politician. He had earlier been cleared on appeal, but the court reversed this, ruling that reputation was more important than freedom of expression. It had said the opposite in a similar case in 1997.