Journalism in a Polarized Pandemic

Journalism in a Polarized Pandemic

Presidential smear tactics. Criminalized speech. The imperative and challenges of producing quality local news in US Latinx communities ravaged by Covid-19.

This stellar panel of journalists and legal experts explores risks and resiliency during a time of unprecedented challenges to journalism and freedom of expression across the Americas.

About the participants

Cristina Zahar, Executive Director Abraji (Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism). Brazil

Sandra González Cotto, Independent journalist. Puerto Rico

Andrea Forcada, Local Editor,  Qué Pasa North Carolina, USA

Frank LaRue, Former UN Freedom of Expression Rapporteur and Advocacy Director at Fundamedios. Washington, DC. USA


Sallie Hughes

Associate Dean for Diversity, Inclusion and Global Initiatives, School of Communication, University of Miami

Faculty Fellow for Crime, Corruption and Conflict Research Area, University of Miami Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas


Cristina Zahar joined Abraji (Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism) in 2018 as its executive director. She has a degree in Journalism from Cásper Líbero and 30 years of experience. Zahar was assistant editor of Sports and Economics at Folha de S.Paulo, editorial director of Abril Coleções and CEO in Brazil of English publisher Eaglemoss. She has a DEA (Masters) in Communication from Michel de Montaigne University (Bordeaux III) in France and an MBA in Business Management from FIA-USP.

Frank LaRue, Fundamedios Human Rights and Legal Advisor.  He has a long history as a Human Rights defender in Guatemala, focusing his work particularly toward vulnerable groups such as children, youth, women and indigenous people, for which in 2003 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He has wide experience in Human Rights, Democratic Development, Social Communication, Education, Latin American Analysis and political issues. He has been a Human Rights Lawyer in cases presented to the Interamerican Human Rights Commission and the Interamerican Human Rights Court and lobbying before the United Nations System on Human Rights. He is former Director of the RFK Center for Human Rights Europe, Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection for the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2008. At present he is the member of the Board of Directors of the DEMOS Institute from Guatemala.

Sandra D. Rodríguez Cotto is a journalist with decades of experience in Puerto Rico, the United States, and several Latin American countries. She works as a news and policy analyst, radio commentator, television producer, columnist, and blogger. She conducts her syndicated radio program on a series of regional stations that make up the Puerto Rico Information Network, is an analyst at radio station WPAB Ponce, and publishes a weekly column in the cyber newspaper NotiCel. She is also a contributor to several media outlets in the U.S. (El Diario La Prensa, All Digitocracy, Huffington Post, USA Today, Politico Magazine) and the Public Relations Portal of Latin America, based in Argentina. She has authored several books on communication and journalism, most recently Bitácora de una Transmisión Radial (Log of a Radio Transmission; Trabalis Editores, 2018), chronicled during the passage of Hurricane Maria.

Sandra Rodriguez Cotto and Rafelli Gonzalez, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Puerto Rico, filed a First Amendment challenge against Puerto Rico’s two recent “fake news” laws.

Andrea Forcada Fraile is a journalist and communications specialist focusing on migration issues. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, a Master’s in European Journalism from the Institute des Hautes Études des Communications Sociales (Brussels), and a Master’s in International Development and Cooperation from the European Institute Campus Stellae (Santiago de Compostela). Andrea was born in Barcelona and has worked in Belgium, India and Sri Lanka. Andrea is currently the editor of Qué Pasa newspaper in the Piedmont-Triad area, North Carolina.

Sallie Hughes is Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism in the School of Communication and Faculty Fellow for the research area addressing Crime, Corruption and Conflict at the Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas (UMIA), both at the University of Miami. She coordinates the Latin American region of the Worlds of Journalism Study, the largest cross-national study of journalists’ working conditions, professional values and occupational epistemologies. She is the author of Newsrooms in Conflict: Journalism and the Democratization of Mexico and co-author of Making a Life in Multiethnic Miami: Immigration and the Rise of a Global City. Her current research interests include journalist safety, coping and resiliency, and she recently joined a team of invited researchers who are advising Reporters Without Borders on the methodology of their annual Press Freedom Index.

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