Attacks on the Press in 2011

Attacks on the Press   |   Kazakhstan

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Kazakhstan

The convictions of three men in the 2009 murder in Almaty of prominent Kyrgyz journalist Gennady Pavlyuk was a bright spot in Kazakhstan's otherwise grim press freedom record. The government had yet to reform its media laws in line with international standards, despite its promises to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE. To the contrary, the upper chamber of parliament approved a bill in December requiring international broadcasters to register with the government and imposing limits on foreign content aired by local cable carriers. Editor Ramazan Yesergepov continued to serve a three-year prison term on fabricated charges of collecting state secrets after a local court denied him early release. In November, an Almaty court convicted reporter Valery Surganov on defamation charges stemming from an article alleging police improprieties; the court imposed severe restrictions on his movements as penalty. The cases were a sobering reminder of the cost of critical journalism. In April, President Nursultan Nazarbayev won a fourth term in an election so uncompetitive that he took 95 percent of the vote, according to official results. OSCE monitors criticized the restrictive media climate in the run-up to the vote.

February 21, 2012 12:51 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Hungary

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Hungary

On January 1, 2011, the day Hungary assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union, a restrictive new media law came into force. The law created a National Media and Infocommunications Authority--staffed with appointees of the ruling Fidesz party--that was given vast powers to regulate news media. The law established heavy fines for violations such as carrying "imbalanced news coverage" or running content that violates "public morality." The law applied to all news media, reaching beyond national borders to foreign outlets "aimed at the territory of Hungary." The measure triggered protests in Hungary and throughout Europe, where it was seen as violating the Charter of Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. Hungarian lawmakers agreed to minor changes in response to pressure from the European Commission. In December, the country's Constitutional Court struck down a provision that would have obliged journalists to reveal confidential sources. The court also exempted print media from the law as of May 2012, although it left intact most other anti-press provisions. The domestic media scene reflected deep polarization between supporters and adversaries of the center-right Fidesz. Political pressures were rife in public broadcasting: In July, 570 employees of the four state-run media companies were dismissed, representing about 16 percent of the workforce. Authorities reassigned the broadcast frequency of the largest opposition radio station, Klubradio, to an entertainment broadcaster in December, citing a higher bid.

February 21, 2012 12:50 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Belarus

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Belarus

After a rigged December 2010 presidential vote, authoritarian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko unleashed two waves of repression against critics and political opponents, one in early year and one in summer. The KGB and police raided independent newsrooms and journalists' homes, confiscated reporting equipment, and jailed independent reporters. Politicized courts handed suspended prison terms to prominent journalists Irina Khalip and Andrzej Poczobut. Police used brutal force against reporters who covered nationwide anti-government protests. Critical news websites experienced multiple denial-of-service attacks and official blocking. The suspicious 2010 death of Aleh Byabenin, founder of the pro-opposition news website Charter 97, remained unexamined. With a domestic economy suffering, Lukashenko promised to free jailed critics if the European Union lifted travel and trade sanctions. During a year of relentless attacks on journalists, the Lukashenko administration reinforced its reputation as Europe's most repressive regime for the press.

February 21, 2012 12:49 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Azerbaijan

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Azerbaijan

Four years after Eynulla Fatullayev was imprisoned on a series of fabricated charges, and more than a year after the European Court of Human Rights ordered his immediate release, the editor finally walked free. In an interview with CPJ, Fatullayev praised the international community for its sustained support. Attacks against domestic journalists covering sensitive subjects continued with impunity. Freelance reporter Rafiq Tagi, who wrote critically about Islamist politics and government policies, died after being stabbed on a Baku street. Two reporters for the pro-opposition newspaper Azadlyg were beaten in reprisal for their work, while the editor of the independent newspaper Khural was jailed in late year on retaliatory charges. Hostility toward international reporters was on the rise: Members of a Swedish television crew working on a human rights documentary were deported; a U.S. freelancer and a British researcher were assaulted; and a photojournalist was denied entry based on her Armenian ethnicity.

February 21, 2012 12:48 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Venezuela

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Venezuela

President Hugo Chávez Frías’ administration continued its systematic campaign to stifle critical reporting through regulatory, judicial, and legislative avenues. The telecommunications regulator fined Globovisión, the country's sole critical television station, more than US$2 million for its coverage of deadly prison riots in June and July. The regulator invoked the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, one of the region’s most restrictive measures. Prosecutors brought criminal charges against two executives of a critical weekly concerning a satirical article and photo montage that depicted high-ranking female officials as playing roles in a “cabaret” directed by Chávez. The weekly was briefly shut, and one executive was imprisoned for nearly three months. The Chávez administration used its extensive state media operation to spread political propaganda and wage smear campaigns against its critics. Chávez’s announcement that Cuban doctors had found and removed a cancerous tumor fueled speculation about the country’s political future as the October 2012 presidential election approached. Official information about the president’s health was scarce and treated as if it were a state secret.

February 21, 2012 12:46 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   USA

Attacks on the Press in 2011: United States

A federal judge ruled in favor of reporter James Risen, who invoked his First Amendment rights to protect a confidential source. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and other groups called the ruling an important victory for the press. The Department of Justice, which appealed the decision, continued to take an aggressive approach in filing criminal charges against people who leak classified information. U.S. journalist groups were also troubled that increasing numbers of case documents were being sealed by the Supreme Court. CPJ reported that the State Department fell short in its first year of implementing the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, which requires that press freedom issues be incorporated into the agency's annual country reports on human rights. WikiLeaks was in the headlines again when it disclosed thousands of classified, unredacted U.S. diplomatic cables. An Ethiopian journalist was forced to flee his country after he was cited in a cable. Police in five cities arrested reporters and photographers covering Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, often claiming the journalists did not have sufficient accreditation. At least three other journalists covering Occupy events were attacked by protesters or police officers.

February 21, 2012 12:45 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Peru

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Peru

Press freedom suffered notable setbacks in 2011. In the run-up to the presidential election in June, journalists reported an alarming rise in attacks and threats in response to campaign coverage. In northern Peru, one journalist was murdered in reprisal for his work, while two others were killed under unclear circumstances. Trial courts convicted four journalists under archaic criminal defamation laws, with one reporter imprisoned for more than six months until his conviction was overturned on appeal. President Ollanta Humala pledged upon assuming office in July to be a “defender of human rights, freedom of the press, and freedom of expression.” In July, Congress passed a bill that would eliminate jail terms for defamation, but by late year the president had not signed the measure into law.

February 21, 2012 12:44 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Mexico

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Mexico

Criminal groups exerted extraordinary pressure on the press as they extended their control over virtually every sector of society. Journalists were killed or disappeared, media outlets were bombed and threatened. Pervasive self-censorship was a devastating consequence of this environment. In an information vacuum, journalists and citizens increasingly used social media to inform their communities. The murder of a Nuevo Laredo reporter was the first case documented by CPJ worldwide in which a person was killed in direct relation to reporting done on social media. At least three journalists were granted political asylum in the United States and Canada, and several others sought refuge in other countries. Several major news organizations agreed on a professional code in which they set protocols for journalists at risk and pledged not to be propaganda tools for criminals. But President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa's administration failed to implement effective reforms. Despite efforts to rejuvenate the office of the special prosecutor for crimes against free expression, anti-press violence went virtually unpunished. The government's new journalist-protection program was widely seen as ineffective. And while the Chamber of Deputies passed a bill to federalize anti-press crimes, the legislation remained pending in late year.

February 21, 2012 12:43 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Honduras

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Honduras

The Honduran press continued to suffer the violent fallout of the 2009 coup that ousted Manuel Zelaya. Four broadcast journalists were murdered in 2011 under unclear circumstances. CPJ is investigating to determine whether the killings were work-related. A climate of violence and widespread impunity has made the country one of the most dangerous in the region. The government's stance on media killings has worsened the situation. Authorities have minimized crimes against journalists and been slow and negligent in pursuing the culprits. No progress was reported in solving the murders of three journalists killed in direct relation to their work in 2010, CPJ research shows. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission composed of Honduran and international representatives delivered its much-anticipated report on the military-led overthrow of Zelaya. The commission labeled the takeover a coup--a decision met with controversy in Honduras--but it also accused Zelaya of improperly ignoring a Supreme Court decision concerning presidential term limits. The report found major press freedom violations during the coup, including the torture of journalists and the takeover of media premises.

February 21, 2012 12:42 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Guatemala

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Guatemala

Journalists increasingly practiced self-censorship as Mexican drug cartels expanded their presence in Guatemala. In May, criminals in four provinces hung banners in public places, threatening journalists with harm if gang activities were covered. A television journalist in southern Escuintla province was killed under unclear circumstances after receiving several threats. While the rise of criminal groups posed a growing risk, journalists also faced danger for coverage of official corruption and domestic security issues. In the southwestern city of Quetzaltenango, a television journalist and his family escaped injury when their van came under gunfire. The reporter had received death threats related to his coverage of police corruption. A columnist in the western city of Panajachel was forced to relocate after receiving a series of intimidating text messages concerning her coverage of a citizen security committee. The local press group CERIGUA documented an increase in press freedom violations in the months leading up to the November presidential elections, as well as a number of assaults and threats against journalists on Election Day. Otto Pérez Molina, a retired general running on the conservative Patriotic Party ticket, defeated businessman Manuel Baldizón in a runoff. Facing a murder rate among the highest in the world, Pérez pledged a tough approach on crime.              

February 21, 2012 12:41 AM ET

2011

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