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Uruguay: Social media users face criminal charges for posting videos of prison brawls

This statement was originally published on on 21 November 2016.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today condemned criminal charges being brought by the government of Uruguay against social media account holders on the alleged grounds that "they arouse fear in the citizenry" in disseminating videos showing brawls in prisons.

The Interior Ministry filed a criminal charge against "Chorros­_uy" (Uruguay Thieves) for showing videos of fights among inmates in an Uruguayan jail. "Chorros_uy" opened accounts on Facebook and Twitter that they offer for users to denounce and combat crime.

The Ministry argued that "the conduct displayed by those responsible for the accounts can have solely the motive of causing fear among the citizenry regarding the prison population and presenting public contempt for the police authorities," which could lead to an attack "on institutional democracy."

The chairman of the IAPA's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Roberto Rock, of La Silla Rota, Mexico, criticized the action taken by the government, which he said was "contrary precisely to democratic norms," in which members of the public use information tools at their disposal in order to learn of the state of public matters. This recourse, he said, "falls into the bad habit of blaming the messenger."

In its press freedom reports on Uruguay the IAPA has recorded multiple episodes in which the authorities blame the media of "encouraging violence" by publishing incidents of lack of public safety. During a recent summons to Interior Minister Eduardo Bonomi to appear before the Senate government party senator Eduardo De León said that the growing wave of crimes in the country "is due to the way the media record acts of violence."

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