Network academics under threat
The network was created by researchers Francesca Lessa and Rosario Figari Layús in 2018 as a result of the workshop “The persistence of Impunity in the Struggle for Truth, Justice, Memory and Reparation in Latin America: Human Rights Trials Defenders at Risk,” organised within the framework of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) Conference, held in Barcelona in 2018. The workshop, which brought together researchers and activists from various social sciences and human rights disciplines, allowed for an exchange of experiences of harassment, restrictions and violence faced by activists and academics in different countries of Latin America. The workshop made evident the urgency of this problem in the current political and social landscape in Latin America and the need to take collective action in order to make visible, combat and prevent further cases of harassment and attacks.
The types of harassment and violence faced by academics and professors include threats, physical assault, vandalism of their homes and offices, threats to family members, theft of documentation and surveyed materials, stigmatisation and smear campaigns in the press, public accusations by governmental authorities, legal actions and prosecutions and police raids in their homes and workplaces, blockage of publications and even rejection of research projects on issues deemed inconvenient by some academic institutions.
These instances of harassment can be more or less serious and have consequences at different levels, such as the personal and professional level and the academic and social one. The attacks not only seriously affect the physical, economic, psychological and emotional integrity of those who suffer them directly, but they also imply an attack on academic freedom, critical thinking and the production and dissemination of knowledge, which are fundamental for the social, political and democratic development of any society.