Attacks on the Press in 2011

Attacks on the Press   |   Philippines

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Philippines

Despite high levels of press and Internet freedom, provincial journalists worked under constant threat of reprisal. Two broadcast journalists, Gerardo Ortega and Romeo Olea, were shot and killed for their reporting. Both cases were unsolved by year's end, underscoring the country's third worst ranking on CPJ's 2011 Impunity Index, which calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of a country's population. The vow of President Benigno S. Aquino III to reverse the trend went unfulfilled as legal proceedings in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre, in which 32 media workers were ambushed and slain, stalled amid numerous defense motions to disqualify witnesses and suppress outside scrutiny. In another high-profile case, an appeals court denied a dismissal motion filed by two government officials accused of plotting the 2005 murder of reporter Marlene Garcia-Esperat. Although the decision cleared the way for arrests, the long-running prosecution has been beset by delays. Press advocates were critical of a new freedom of information bill, which they said would curtail access to official documents.

February 21, 2012 12:21 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Pakistan

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Pakistan

Meeting with a CPJ delegation in May, President Asif Ali Zardari committed his government to the pursuit of justice in journalist murders. But with seven journalists killed, five in targeted killings, Pakistan was the world's deadliest country for the press for the second consecutive year. High-profile investigations into the drive-by shooting of Wali Khan Babar in January and the abduction and fatal beating of Saleem Shahzad in May yielded no prosecutions, replicating the country's long-standing record of impunity in journalist murders. Intelligence officials were suspected of complicity in the Shahzad case and other anti-press attacks. With Zardari's government unwilling or unable to protect journalists, media organizations stepped up efforts to protect reporters working in the field. But widespread violence in Baluchistan, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Karachi, and the Swat Valley--combined with the war in Afghanistan--made the challenge exceptionally difficult. At least three Pakistani journalists fled into exile during the year.

February 21, 2012 12:20 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Nepal

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Nepal

Anti-media attacks and harassment flourished in a power vacuum left by the ruling coalition's political struggles. Baburam Bhattarai of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) became prime minister in August, securing support with his proposal to offer amnesty for war crimes, including journalist murders. Four assailants were convicted in two separate journalist slayings, but masterminds remained unpunished as authorities struggled to address the nation's entrenched culture of impunity. Of several assaults on journalists, at least one caused life-threatening injuries. Journalists received threats nationwide for their reporting, many from politicians or political youth groups. Assailants targeted at least six newspaper offices and burned hundreds of newspapers to limit distribution.

February 21, 2012 12:19 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Indonesia

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Indonesia

With no work-related deaths reported in 2011, Southeast Asia's largest economy and most populous country pulled back from its record high of three fatalities in 2010. The country's vibrant media remained under threat, however, particularly in remote areas. Banjir Ambarita, a contributor to the Jakarta Globe, suffered serious injuries in a March stabbing in apparent reprisal for coverage that linked police to a prisoner sex abuse scandal. No prosecutions were brought in the case by late year. CPJ research shows that corruption was an extremely dangerous beat for reporters; corruption itself was widespread, according to international monitors. Three men were acquitted in the 2010 murder of TV journalist Ridwan Salamun in remote Maluku, with no new arrests made. In June, the Supreme Court acquitted Playboy Indonesia publisher Erwin Arnada, who had been unjustly jailed for eight months on politicized charges of public indecency. While Internet penetration was a relatively low 9.1 percent, Indonesia had the world's second largest number of Facebook subscribers. Legislation passed by the Senate in October would give the intelligence agency expansive new powers to tap telephones and track other communications. The measure awaited President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's signature in late year.

February 21, 2012 12:18 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   India

Attacks on the Press in 2011: India

Although the motives remained unconfirmed in late year, the murders of Chhattisgarh's Umesh Rajput and Mumbai crime reporter Jyotirmoy Dey reminded colleagues of the risk of violence. India remained on CPJ's Impunity Index, a ranking of countries in which journalists are murdered regularly and authorities fail to solve the crimes. Violent clashes between insurgents and government forces in states such as Kashmir challenged reporters' ability to work. In a mid-year report, The Hoot, a media issues website, recorded nine journalist assaults between January and May, including four in Orissa, where industrialization and Maoists had each displaced local residents. Authorities retaliated against critical reporting with antistate charges: Two journalists were jailed for allegedly supporting rebels after they criticized the impact of anti-Maoist campaigns on civilians. Journalists who exposed police ineptitude and corruption faced jail time. Politicians and businessmen muzzled reporters with legal action, including defamation, which authorities failed to decriminalize. Internet penetration was relatively low but growing, prompting the government to pass regulations that could suppress online dissent.

February 21, 2012 12:17 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Ethiopia

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Ethiopia

Trumpeting economic growth on par with India and asserting adherence to the authoritarian model of China, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi pushed an ambitious development plan based in part on ever-hardening repression of critical journalists. The government aggressively extended application of a 2009 anti-terrorism law, designating rebel and opposition groups as terrorists and criminalizing news coverage of them. Authorities were holding seven journalists in late year on vague accusations of terrorism, including two Swedes who reported on separatist rebels in the oil-rich Ogaden region, and three Ethiopians with critical views of the ruling party. The government provided no credible evidence against the journalists, and both Zenawi and state media proclaimed the journalists' guilt before trial proceedings started. The Human Rights Committee of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights raised numerous questions about the use of the terror law in its periodic review of Ethiopia's record. In November, government intimidation led to the closing of the independent Awramba Times and forced two of its journalists, including 2010 CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee Dawit Kabede, to flee the country. Another journalist fled into exile in September after his name appeared in unredacted U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. Police threatened to arrest the journalist after the cable showed he had spoken to U.S. diplomats about a potential press crackdown.

February 21, 2012 12:16 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   China

Attacks on the Press in 2011: China

Authorities blocked reporting of unrest occurring around the world, from Inner Mongolia to the Occupy movement. More than half of the 27 journalists imprisoned on December 1 were from Tibet and Xinjiang, reflecting crackdowns after earlier unrest in minority regions. After online calls for Arab Spring-style demonstrations, dubbed the Jasmine revolution, CPJ documented the worst harassment of foreign journalists since the 2008 Olympics, including beatings and threats. Police detained dissidents--including outspoken artist Ai Weiwei--and writers they feared could galvanize protests, often without due process, and kept them under surveillance after release. Draft revisions to the criminal code would allow alleged antistate activists to be held in secret locations from 2012. Officials obstructed reporting on public health and food safety issues, among other investigations. President Hu Jintao’s U.S. visit and two bilateral dialogues, one on human rights, made little headway on press freedom, but domestic activists successfully challenged censorship using digital tools, especially microblogs.

February 21, 2012 12:15 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Burma

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Burma

Burma's news media remained among the most restricted in the world, despite the transition from military to civilian rule and President Thein Sein's vow to adopt a more liberal approach. The Press Scrutiny and Registration Department reviewed all local news journals prior to publication, censoring a vast array of topics. Criticism of the government and military was forbidden, although censors allowed more coverage of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and some political and economic topics. Authorities exercised control with a vengeance: The nation was still among the world's worst jailers of the press. Exile-run media continued to fill the news gap, but at a high cost: At least five undercover reporters for exile media were imprisoned. Regulations adopted in May banned the use of flash drives and VoIP communication services in Internet cafés.

February 21, 2012 12:14 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Afghanistan

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Afghanistan

As NATO and Afghan military forces faced off with militant groups, the news media worked in a hostile and uncertain environment. Two journalists were killed for their work, both during major insurgent attacks. Accusations of widespread fraud marred the second post-Taliban parliamentary elections, which were resolved only by a presidential decree that ousted several apparent winners. International aid organizations continued to pump resources into developing local media, although many Afghan outlets faced severe challenges in sustaining their work. In May, diplomatic missions circulated a memo to international journalists warning of possible kidnappings, though the threat never materialized. Three France 3 television crew members were released in June after 18 months in Taliban captivity. Abductions, which had spiked in 2009 and continued into 2010, appeared to decline during the year. Afghanistan's mass media law, introduced in Parliament in 2003, had yet to be enacted because of a political stalemate. Under discussion were several draft versions, most of which threatened to be more restrictive.

February 21, 2012 12:13 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Yemen

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Yemen

A besieged government and its supporters retaliated fiercely against journalists covering the months of popular protests that sought an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's rule. Authorities detained local journalists, expelled international reporters, and confiscated newspapers in an effort to silence coverage, while government supporters and plainclothes agents assaulted media workers in the field. Two journalists covering anti-government protests were killed by gunfire, one by security forces who fired live ammunition to disperse a demonstration, the other by a sniper suspected to have been acting on behalf of the government. The government singled out Al-Jazeera in a months-long effort to silence its coverage. In March, plainclothes agents raided the station's Sana'a bureau, confiscating equipment. The raid followed the expulsion of two Al-Jazeera correspondents. Days later, authorities ordered Al-Jazeera's offices shut and its journalists stripped of accreditation. Other newsrooms were under direct fire. Armed men in civilian clothes tried to storm the offices of the independent daily Al-Oula, seriously wounding an editorial trainee, while military forces shelled the Yemeni satellite broadcaster Suhail TV, whose staff endured numerous other threats and detentions. In a rebuke to the regime, the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to renowned Yemeni press freedom activist Tawakul Karman, chairwoman of Women Journalists Without Chains, along with two female African leaders.

February 21, 2012 12:12 AM ET

2011

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