Press freedom under global attack in 2003

Continuing attacks on journalists and their publications have led to an erosion of press freedom across the globe, according to the World Association of Newspapers’ review of the second half of 2003.

WAN has reported that 26 journalists have been killed doing their jobs since June.

It added: “Serious limitations of freedom of expression in the form of national security laws, terrorism acts and criminal defamation laws have landed scores of journalists in prison and resigned many more to practising selfcensorship” WAN claims the most audacious attempts to create legal barriers to stifle the press can be seen in Uzbekistan, Iran and Zimbabwe, where the country’s only independent newspaper, The Daily News, has been forced off the streets by the government of Robert Mugabe.

The report also cited Tunisia, China, Vietnam and the Central Asian nations as particularly repressive countries.

In Latin America, journalists and the media continued to be attacked with impunity. Out of 112 murdered journalists in Colombia, only 35 cases have been solved.

In Russia, the murder of two journalists since June “highlights the country’s culture of violence”. The use of outdated press laws, including the sentencing of a journalist to a year of forced labour for libelling two regional politicians, is also condemned.

Asia has recorded the highest number of murdered journalists since June and severe political repression, excessive restrictions on the media and simmering ethnic and religious tensions exist in many countries, WAN said.

In China and Vietnam, continued attacks on cyberdissidents in the name of national security have led to scores of journalists being jailed.

Working conditions for journalists in Afghanistan have worsened over the past six months, as measures taken by the authorities have created a climate of fear in which journalists are afraid to openly publish articles that criticise leaders. In Iraq, journalists have continued to suffer the consequences of simmering hostilities and instability throughout the country. In the past six months, four journalists have been killed.

By Jon Slattery

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