LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Tuesday criticized efforts to clamp down on press freedom in several Latin American countries and said the United States was seeking to strengthen media protections in the region with the most murders of journalists.

Speaking at a press freedom event ahead of the Summit of the Americas, a regional gathering aimed at addressing economic issues and migration, Blinken said governments in the region were using sweeping legislation and oversight to suppress freedom of the press and intimidate journalists.

He pointed to Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, the three countries President Joe Biden excluded from the Summit of the Americas because they were undemocratic, saying the act of independent journalism there constituted a crime.

“No region in the world is more dangerous for journalists,” Blinken said, adding that at least 17 media professionals have been killed this year in the Western Hemisphere, citing the UNESCO Observatory for Journalists. you are.

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Last weekend, British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira disappeared in Brazil while reporting in a remote and lawless part of the Amazon rainforest near the border with Peru.

“Crimes like these persist largely because the people who order and carry them out are so rarely held accountable. It sends the message that these attacks can continue with impunity,” Blinken said.

He also criticized El Salvador.

“Governments are using sweeping legislation to nullify freedom of expression, as we saw in the recent series of amendments passed by El Salvador in March and April of this year,” Blinken said.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Mary Milliken)

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