Attacks on the Press in 2011

Attacks on the Press   |   Tunisia

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Tunisia

The press enjoyed new freedom after Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted in January amid widespread protests, although a photographer was killed covering the unrest. The release of veteran journalist Fahem Boukadous after several months in prison was welcome news for a press corps accustomed to continued harassment and detention during Ben Ali's 23-year reign. News media were able to report freely during parliamentary elections in October; no major press freedom violations were reported during the voting. But throughout the year, journalists were still vulnerable to assault. In May, plainclothes police attacked several local and international journalists who were covering anti-government demonstrations. Licenses were issued to more than 100 new publications during the year, but some vestiges of censorship lingered. Hannibal TV, a station owned by a Ben Ali relative, was forced off the air for more than three hours in January.

February 21, 2012 12:11 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Syria

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Syria

The regime enforced an effective media blackout in March, banning international journalists from reporting or entering the country and detaining local journalists who tried to cover protests seeking an end to Bashar al-Assad’s rule. In a widespread campaign to silence media coverage, the government detained and assaulted journalists, expelled foreign journalists, and disabled mobile phones, landlines, electricity, and the Internet in cities where the protests broke out. The regime also extracted passwords of social media sites from journalists by using violence, and defaced social networking pages, while the pro-government online group Syrian Electronic Army hacked social media sites and posted pro-regime comments. In April, Al-Jazeera suspended its Damascus bureau after several of its journalists were harassed and received threats. Three days after the brutal assault of famed cartoonist Ali Ferzat in August, the government passed a new media law that “banned” the imprisonment of journalists and allowed for greater freedom of expression. It then followed up by jailing several journalists. In November, cameraman Ferzat Jarban was the first journalist to be killed in Syria in connection with his work since CPJ began keeping detailed records in 1992.

February 21, 2012 12:10 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Sudan

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Sudan

Sudan continued to impose extensive censorship by confiscating newspapers and shutting news outlets, and it maintained a hostile atmosphere through the frequent use of harassment and detention. Numerous press freedom violations were reported in the run-up to the January referendum that led to independence for South Sudan. On the eve of South Sudan's independence in July, the state-run National Council for Press and Publications announced the withdrawal of licenses for six newspapers partly owned by South Sudanese citizens that had run commentary critical of the Khartoum government. In September, the council ordered the suspension of another six sports-oriented publications for allegedly “inciting violence between teams.” In June, authorities filed politicized criminal defamation charges against several journalists who covered the alleged rape and torture of a youth activist. After the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, President Omar al-Bashir announced that he would pardon all imprisoned journalists. Jafaar al-Subki Ibrahim, a reporter for the private daily Al-Sahafa who had been held incommunicado and without charge since November 2010, was released after the announcement. But no formal pardon was ever issued, and four journalists were still in detention in late year. In September alone, the National Intelligence and Security Services blocked the distribution of four opposition newspapers without cause.

February 21, 2012 12:09 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Saudi Arabia

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Saudi Arabia

Saudi authorities maintained a suffocating atmosphere of censorship as they further tightened the country's highly restrictive media law. In May, a royal decree amended five articles of the law, barring the publication of any material that contravened Sharia law, impinged on state interests, promoted foreign interests, harmed public order or national security, or enabled criminal activity. In January, the Kingdom issued new regulations for online media that included several restrictive and vaguely worded provisions that grant the Ministry of Culture and Information sweeping powers to censor news outlets and sanction journalists. The government withdrew the accreditation of Riyadh-based Reuters correspondent Ulf Laessing in March, apparently angered by his coverage of a pro-reform protest. Reuters stood by the reporting. The same month, amid popular uprisings across the region, authorities banned three critical columnists working for the government-controlled daily Al-Watan. Authorities did not cite a reason, but all three had written about the region's political unrest. In late year, as demonstrations broke out in the kingdom's eastern province, authorities blocked local and international journalists from gaining access to the region. With a few exceptions, the demonstrations went uncovered.

February 21, 2012 12:08 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Morocco

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Morocco

King Mohamed VI pledged a series of constitutional reforms in March after the region’s wave of popular uprisings passed through the kingdom. But the reforms did not extend to opening up the press. Authorities took concerted measures to suppress coverage of mass protests in Casablanca’s streets. During a March protest in the capital, Rabat, uniformed police assaulted  several journalists covering its violent dispersal. The biggest and most controversial case in the kingdom was that of Rachid Nini, a prominent government critic, executive editor of the Moroccan daily Al-Massae, and owner of Al-Massae Media Group. He was detained in April and sentenced to one year in prison on charges of “denigrating judicial rulings” and “compromising the security and safety of the homeland and citizens.”

February 21, 2012 12:07 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Libya

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Libya

Journalists worked in extraordinarily dangerous conditions during the eight-month uprising that ended 42 years of rule by Muammar Qaddafi and led to his death. Five journalists were killed amid fierce fighting between rebels and loyalists. Qaddafi's regime unleashed a widespread campaign to silence foreign and local journalists, detaining dozens in abusive conditions. In February, Qaddafi invited reporters to the capital, Tripoli, only to restrict them to the Rixos Hotel, monitor their every move, and prevent them from reporting on anything other than the government line. In their efforts to block news coverage, authorities also jammed satellite signals, severed Internet service, cut off mobile phone networks and landlines, and attacked news facilities. While the crumbling regime was able to orchestrate coverage for a time in Tripoli, it failed to prevent the press from disseminating information about rebel advances in the rest of the country. Press freedom violations persisted after the Libyan rebel government, known as the National Transitional Council, or NTC, took power in August. One journalist was brutally assaulted in Benghazi that month, and the NTC placed one pro-Qaddafi journalist under house arrest.

February 21, 2012 12:06 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Jordan

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Jordan

Security forces tried to restrict coverage of the country’s civil unrest by attacking journalists covering pro-reform protests, often confiscating or destroying their equipment. Authorities raided the office of a news website in April, destroying equipment and threatening staff members. The same month, Al-Jazeera received a series of threats that its offices and journalists would be attacked if the network did not tone down coverage of the protests; the network’s Amman bureau chief said he had received death threats by telephone and social media. Other attacks included the hacking of a news website in February for refusing to take down a critical statement from a group of Jordanian tribesmen calling for political and economic reforms. In an Orwellian maneuver, the lower chamber of parliament passed a bill in September that was marketed as fighting corruption. In fact, some provisions would accomplish the opposite: They would impose heavy new fines against journalists who report on corruption without “solid facts.” Facing heavy opposition from journalists, the upper chamber sent the bill to committee for further review. Despite a long list of press freedom abuses, Jordanian leaders escaped criticism from the United States, which sought to maintain close relations with the kingdom.

February 21, 2012 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Italy

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Italy

Silvio Berlusconi’s government crumbled in November amid the country’s economic crisis, ending a tenure marked by manipulation and restriction of the press. As prime minister and media owner, Berlusconi owned or controlled all of Italy’s major national television channels, ensuring news coverage favorable to his administration. He worked methodically for three years to enact controversial legislation to prevent print and online media from publishing embarrassing information about alleged corruption in his government and his dalliances with young women. Even in the final days of his tenure, Berlusconi sought to revive a bill that would have limited the use of police wiretaps, penalized journalists for publishing the contents of wiretaps, and forced websites to publish “corrections” to information considered damaging to a person’s image within 48 hours of receiving a complaint. Parliament had already postponed action on the measure, termed Berlusconi’s “gag law,” in 2010. In Perugia, prosecutor Giuliano Mignini used Italy’s harsh defamation laws to intimidate journalists, authors, and media outlets--in Italy and the United States--that reported critically about his performance in two high-profile cases.

February 21, 2012 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Hamas forces in Gaza cracked down on journalists covering March demonstrations that called for Palestinian unity. Local journalists were attacked, media bureaus raided, and journalistic material confiscated. In April, three photographers were assaulted in the West Bank while covering skirmishes between Palestinians and Israeli settlers in a village south of Nablus. In May, an Israeli soldier shot and seriously wounded Palestinian photographer Mohammed Othman, who was covering clashes between the Israeli military and Palestinians near the Erez Crossing. New legal restrictions were introduced: In July, the Israeli parliament passed an “anti-boycott” law making it a civil offense to support any boycott, divestment, or sanction campaign aimed at Israel based on its Palestinian policies. Journalists could face legal action for even insinuating support of a boycott. Hamas, meanwhile, adopted a new requirement that international journalists obtain Interior Ministry permission before entering Gaza, news reports said. Israeli authorities were holding four Palestinian journalists without charge in late year; Hamas was imprisoning three others, also without charge.

February 21, 2012 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   UK

Attacks on the Press in 2011: United Kingdom

The News of the World phone-hacking scandal and subsequent public inquiry raised concerns that public interest journalism could suffer from efforts to curtail unethical practices through regulation. While investigating related police leaks, Scotland Yard invoked the Official Secrets Act to pressure a journalist to reveal sources for her coverage of the scandal. Authorities ultimately backed down from the unprecedented effort. Several journalists came under attack while covering mass riots in urban areas in August. Prime Minister David Cameron said news outlets must hand over raw footage of rioters and suggested the government restrict social media tools to curb street violence. The government drafted a defamation bill aimed at reforming the U.K.'s much-criticized libel laws. The measure had yet to go through parliament.

February 21, 2012 12:03 AM ET

2011

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