Vietnam intensified its grip on old and new media through a campaign of censorship, surveillance, and imprisonments. Central Propaganda Department officials held weekly meetings with top newspaper editors, outlining news agendas and identifying banned topics. The list of prohibited topics expanded to include criticism of the government's economic management, land conflicts between the state and local communities, and the business dealings of the prime minister's daughter, CPJ sources said. Courts handed down harsh prison sentences to six journalists in 2012. Nguyen Van Khuong, a reporter with the Vietnamese daily Tuoi Tre, was sentenced to four years in prison on trumped-up bribery charges filed after he investigated police corruption. Bloggers Dinh Dang Dinh and Le Thanh Tung were sentenced to six and five years respectively for postings deemed critical of the ruling Communist Party. Three other bloggers--Nguyen Van Hai, Ta Phong Tan, and Phan Thanh Hai--were sentenced to terms ranging from four to 12 years on anti-state charges related to their critical journalism. An executive decree pending in late year threatened a further clampdown on the Internet, including new prohibitions against pseudonymous or anonymous blogs. In a September directive, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called for police to identify and arrest contributors to three critical, politically oriented blogs that had been operated anonymously. The directive also ordered that the sites be blocked domestically.
Sri Lanka remained a highly restrictive and dangerous nation for the press. Critical or opposition journalists continued to face a climate of intense intimidation. More than 20 journalists have gone into exile in the last five years, one of the highest rates in the world. Work-related murders have declined since 2009, but the slayings of nine journalists have gone unsolved over the last decade, one of the worst records of impunity in the world. The government moved aggressively to obstruct the flow of information. In July, the Ministry of Media and Information blocked efforts to introduce freedom of information legislation before parliament, saying national security would be threatened if citizens were given access to public documents. The government had barred previous right-to-information efforts, including one in 2011. In June, police raided the offices of two opposition news websites, arresting staff members and confiscating equipment. At least five other critical websites were blocked. And in March, the authorities told all news organizations they must obtain prior official approval before issuing any text or SMS news alerts that carried information about the military or police.
The Philippines remained one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. At least one journalist, Christopher Guarin, a broadcaster and newspaper publisher, was killed in relation to his work. Four others were killed under unclear circumstances, and at least two more were attacked by unidentified gunmen. Despite President Benigno Aquino III's vow to achieve justice in journalist murders, the Philippines ranked third-worst worldwide on CPJ's Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and killers go free. The landmark prosecution of suspects in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre moved at a sluggish pace and was dealt a severe setback with the killing of a key witness. A new Cybercrime Prevention Act gave officials discretionary power to shut down websites and impose prison terms of up to 12 years for online defamation. Amid an outcry by press freedom and civil society groups, as well as legal challenges by petitioners, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order blocking the law's implementation.
Pakistan remained one of the deadliest nations in the world for the press, a situation that appeared unlikely to change given the government's unwillingness to confront the problem. In March, Pakistan joined with Brazil and India in raising objections to a comprehensive UNESCO proposal to protect the press and combat impunity in journalist murders. Pakistan has been one of the world's worst nations in combating deadly anti-press violence, CPJ's Impunity Index shows. At least 23 journalist murders have gone unpunished since the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. A 2012 report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan showed growing ties between political repression and the rising incidence of violence against news media. Threats to journalists in Pakistan were no longer confined to traditionally violent areas such as the border region, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or Baluchistan, CPJ research found. Reporters in Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Karachi, and Lahore faced persistent threats. And in another troubling development, several international journalists told CPJ that militants had begun threatening them more frequently, as the groups started paying more attention to their global reputations.
Nepal's ruling coalition failed to meet the Supreme Court's May deadline to complete a constitution, dissolving the legislature amid political rifts that left the republic's leadership in doubt. Nationwide strikes by political activists and ethnic minority groups advocating federalization resulted in journalists' being harassed and attacked for perceived negative coverage. The majority Maoist party-controlled magazine Lal Rakshak called Kanak Mani Dixit, director of Himal Media publishing group, a "people's enemy" for his criticism of the party's violent tactics. The government moved to classify 140 categories of information relating to politics and the judiciary. The Supreme Court temporarily stayed implementation of the new classifications in February; a decision was pending in late year. Police arrested some journalists' assailants but murder investigations stalled, keeping Nepal on CPJ's Impunity Index of countries where journalists are murdered regularly and killers go free. An international media mission, which included CPJ and other global press freedom groups, met with Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai in February to demand effective prosecution for past slayings and refine press freedom safeguards in the draft constitution.
Journalists faced numerous attacks during a tumultuous year marked by the ouster of President Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected leader. Nasheed opponents attacked TV stations and journalists in the capital, Malé, after protests against his government escalated in early year. Nasheed, a former human rights defender and political prisoner who was elected president in 2008, stepped down in February but accused his successor, Mohammed Waheed Hassan, and former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of having orchestrated a coup. As Nasheed’s supporters took to the streets in protests seeking new presidential elections, numerous attacks on the press were reported. News coverage reflected the country’s political polarization. Raajje TV, a pro-Nasheed station, said that vandals briefly forced it off the air and that police assaulted and harassed its journalists. Police accused Raajje of falsely reporting officer misconduct and said vaguely that they would not “provide support” to the station. New elections were slated for July 2013, but tensions remained high in late year after Nasheed was arrested on abuse-of-office charges. The worst attack of the year came in June when unidentified assailants slashed the throat of Ismail Rasheed, a secularist who blogged about gay rights. His supporters said Hassan had stoked religious extremism and failed to ensure a proper investigation into the attack on Rasheed, who survived.
Violence plagued journalists in northeastern Assam, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh, including four attacks on the Arunachal Times. Tongam Rina, a columnist for the paper, survived a shooting that put her in intensive care for a time. The authorities blocked hundreds of websites they claimed incited ethnic and religious protests in Assam and beyond, but the blocking also affected numerous online news outlets, along with sites that were rebutting calls for violence. The September arrest of anti-graft cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on sedition, insult, and other charges outraged civil society. Trivedi made bail as the sedition charge was dropped, but at least two freelance journalists facing anti-state charges remained in jail without trial for more than a year. A third reporter was imprisoned in late year on retaliatory charges filed after he exposed assaults on young women in Karnataka state. India placed 12th on CPJ’s Impunity Index of countries that fail to solve journalist murders. A botched inquiry into the 2011 killing of Jyotirmoy Dey was seen as emblematic of the failure. In Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra, assailants obstructed coverage of politics, courts, and religion. Nationwide, coverage of corruption was risky: Rajesh Mishra was slain in March for reporting on financial irregularities in Madyha Pradesh schools. In May, Jharkhand authorities threatened videographer Mukesh Rajak for asking questions about local expenditures. Twenty-five percent of journalists killed in India since 1992 covered corruption.
As the leadership handed over power to new Communist Party appointees in a November congress, censors aggressively blocked coverage of dissent, including reports on blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng's escape from house arrest. Coverage of corruption was tightly controlled in foreign and domestic media. The New York Times and Bloomberg News were censored domestically after they revealed the fortunes held by the families of top leaders, including the incoming president, Xi Jinping. The Foreign Ministry declined to renew the credentials of Al-Jazeera correspondent Melissa Chan, forcing her to leave Beijing amid troubling anti-foreign rhetoric. Authorities removed top executives at two outspoken domestic papers, Guangzhou's New Express and Shanghai's Oriental Morning Post. Internet users debated environmental disasters and the high-profile ouster of former leadership candidate Bo Xilai over a corruption and murder scandal, setting off fresh censorship and anti-rumor campaigns. China continued to jail a large number of online journalists, many of whom sought to cover issues affecting ethnic minorities. Two Tibetan writers were jailed in 2012 for documenting a debate on the preservation of Tibetan culture. CPJ honored jailed Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen with an International Press Freedom Award in November.
Burma eased media restrictions in line with its historic transition from military to quasi-civilian rule. At least 12 journalists, including those associated with banned exile media groups, were released in a series of pardons. The government abolished pre-publication censorship--a process that had forced private newspapers to publish in weekly formats--and it allowed coverage of many previously banned topics, including stories on opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. But the government did not dismantle its censorship body as promised, and it required newspapers to submit copies for official, post-publication review. Several restrictive laws remained in effect, including the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Act and Electronic Act and the 2000 Internet Law. Two news journals, Voice Weekly and Envoy, were temporarily suspended in August for violating censorship guidelines. The government began allowing foreign journalists to enter the country, although some were still refused visas. Passage of a new media law was delayed amid journalists’ protests after a leaked draft of the legislation showed that it would fail to guarantee press freedom. A defamation case filed by the government against The Voice newspaper for reporting on alleged corruption in the Ministry of Mines signaled a possible shift to the use of courts to suppress the press.
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