Killed, arrested and harassed press freedom under siege

By Jon Slattery

A new report on press freedom across the world paints a bleak
picture of journalists facing censorship, harassment and threats to
their safety.

The report by the World Association of Newspapers says freedom of
expression, the safety of journalists and independent media are under
siege in most regions of the world.

It says: “The press is simply
muzzled in many countries. Attacks on journalists are common. Too many
killers of journalists remain free.

“A total of 38 journalists have been killed since November 2004. Hundreds more have been arrested, assaulted and harassed.”

In
the past six months, the Philippines and Iraq were the most deadly
places to be a journalist. Ten journalists were killed in Iraq and nine
in the Philippines.

“The suffocation of independent media continues unabated in countries throughout the world,” says the report.

“The
governments of Nepal, Cuba, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Eritrea, China and
Zimbabwe, to name only a few of the worst offenders, have refused to
surrender their monopoly on information, finding more and more
audacious mechanisms to maintain their vice-like grip on media.”

Surprisingly,
the report highlights concerns about press freedom in the US. It
claims: “In the United States, press freedom is currently facing one of
its most challenging periods in recent decades. In December, Jim
Taricani, an investigative reporter with WJAR-TV in Providence, Rhode
Island, was sentenced to six months under house arrest for refusing to
reveal his sources. There are currently 30 cases where journalists have
been ordered by courts to reveal their sources.”

It is scathing about the usual suspects.

China
is condemned for its jailing of journalists and human rights activists,
while the authorities in Russia are criticised for their unwillingness
to investigate the murder of and attacks on journalists.

The report also says that the ruling forces in Iran continue to exert measures to stifle the country’s new independent press.

It
concludes that press freedom in Zimbabwe under President Mugabe’s
regime has deteriorated even further in the past few months,
particularly in the March presidential elections, which saw the
expulsion of the remaining foreign correspondents and the elimination
of the last independent media through licensing and security laws.

● The report is on the WAN website at www.wan-press.org/article7247.html

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