Attacks on the Press in 2013

Attacks on the Press   |   Italy

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Italy

In 2013, at least four journalists were convicted of libel in Italy, one of the few European Union states where defamation is still a criminal offense. In May, a Milan magistrate found three journalists guilty of libel and sentenced them to prison. In a separate case, a 79-year-old editor was sentenced to house arrest in October in connection with at least eight libel convictions against him between 2007 and 2012. The convictions were related to his articles and commentaries on public life in Italy, focusing on public figures involved in corruption cases. The independent newspaper La Stampa was attacked twice with explosive devices. Journalists continued to face threats and physical attacks from extremists and organized crime. According to OSSIGENO per l'Informazione, a local press freedom watchdog, scores of journalists received threats from unidentified persons throughout the year; several of them lived under police protection as a result.

February 12, 2014 1:23 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Kazakhstan

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Kazakhstan

The overall climate of press freedom continued to deteriorate although authorities took a step forward in combating impunity in one anti-press attack. Four individuals were convicted and sentenced to jail, and one more suspect was awaiting his trial at year's end in relation to an April 2012 attack on journalist Lukpan Akhmedyarov, but no mastermind was named or brought to justice. In February, authorities upheld verdicts ordering dozens of critical news outlets to be shut or blocked domestically on accusations of spreading extremism. As if unsatisfied by the ban, prosecutors continued to harass journalists with the now-outlawed independent newspaper Respublika and barred them from practicing journalism. Citing technical violations, authorities ordered at least three other critical newspapers to suspend publishing. According to the Almaty-based press freedom group Adil Soz, the unfounded and illegal ban on dozens of news outlets, intimidation of individual journalists, unsolved violence, hefty fines, and anti-press freedom laws cemented self-censorship among local reporters. During his June visit to Kazakhstan, British Prime Minister David Cameron tried to discuss these and other human rights abuses with President Nursultan Nazarbayev, but the Kazakh leader publicly told Cameron “not to lecture Kazakhstan.”

February 12, 2014 1:22 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Kyrgyzstan

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Kyrgyzstan

While President Almazbek Atambayev urged the state council in March to enforce rule of law and guarantee the protection of human rights, he demonstrated little political will to bring about such changes. Authorities showed no intent to revive the Uzbek-language media that thrived in southern Kyrgyzstan prior to the June 2010 conflict, in which clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks left hundreds dead and thousands displaced. Broadcasting in the largest minority language remained limited--only one broadcaster produced news in Uzbek. While access to the independent regional website Ferghana News was restored by most Internet service providers, the Kyrgyz government failed to repeal the June 2011 ban that recommended the outlet be blocked in connection with its coverage of the 2010 conflict. As a result, fear remained that authorities could legally block the website at any time. In May, Atambayev signed a vaguely worded anti-extremism bill that his critics said could be used to target free expression on the Web. Three years after the 2010 ethnic conflict, injustice continued to impair press freedom and human rights. The Kyrgyz leader publicly declared his commitment to revisit the case of imprisoned reporter Azimjon Askarov, but no action followed: Prosecutors failed to investigate the case even after new evidence emerged in Askarov's defense.

February 12, 2014 1:21 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Russia

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Russia

While preparing to host the Sochi Winter Olympics, Russia continued to pressure journalists and human rights defenders covering sensitive issues. Authorities intensified their squeeze on Internet speech and upping their anti-press rhetoric. Impunity in anti-press violence remained largely unaddressed; one journalist died as a consequence of a previous brutal attack, and another was murdered in the volatile North Caucasus region bordering Sochi. A Dutch photojournalist was denied a Russian visa, and a Norwegian television crew was obstructed in retaliation for their Sochi coverage. One editor was attacked, one parliament member threatened two journalists, and at least two journalists were imprisoned when CPJ conducted its annual prison census on December 1. Despite initial hopes, the retrial of several suspects in the 2006 murder of Novaya Gazeta journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, was at a stalemate at year's end. But Russian authorities took an important step toward defeating impunity in the country: One suspect in the 2000 murder of another Novaya Gazeta journalist, Igor Domnikov, was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison.

February 12, 2014 1:20 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Tajikistan

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Tajikistan

Though a new media bill was signed into law, the legislation failed to decriminalize insulting the president or alleviate other repressive measures, and had no immediate effect on the climate of press freedom ahead of the November presidential vote. To pave the way for a smooth re-election of Emomali Rahmon to a fourth term in office, authorities continued to gag critical voices by using a set of repressive tactics: intimidation of journalists by security services, denial of accreditation, and exhaustive litigation. The state communications agency ordered Internet service providers to block access to news websites and social networking sites, including Facebook and YouTube. Two independent regional broadcasters accused the authorities of jamming their satellite signal at least three times during the year. In November, Rahmon was declared a winner of another seven-year term in office; his rival quit the race, citing obstruction by the elections commission.

February 12, 2014 1:19 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Turkey

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Turkey

For the second year in a row, Turkey was the world's leading jailer of the press, with 40 journalists behind bars, according to CPJ's annual prison census. Authorities continued to harass and censor critical voices, firing and forcing the resignation of almost 60 reporters in connection with their coverage of anti-government protests in Gezi Park in June. The government tried to censor coverage of sensitive events, threatened to restrict social media, and, in one case, used social media to wage a smear campaign against a journalist. Peace negotiations between the government and the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, did not result in the expected release of Kurdish journalists. Legal amendments undertaken by the government did not result in meaningful reform of anti-press laws. In March, the Turkish Parliament began examining a bill known as the "fourth reform package," aimed at aligning the country's laws with international standards. The bill, adopted in September, introduced modest advancements, such as limiting the scope of a provision of the anti-terror law—"making terrorist propaganda"—that has been used against journalists, especially those who had reported on opposition parties. But the amendments did not address one of the most problematic articles of the penal code—"membership of an armed organization"—under which more than 60 percent of the imprisoned journalists in Turkey as of December 1, 2013, were charged. The jailing of journalists, the conflation of criticism with terrorism, and the government's heated anti-press rhetoric, which emboldened prosecutors to go after critics, marred Turkey's press freedom record and thwarted its aspirations to be regarded as a regional leader and democratic model.

February 12, 2014 1:18 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Ukraine

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Ukraine

Despite its status as the 2013 chairman of the human rights and security agency the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Ukraine did little to promote press freedom in the region. Local reporters expressed doubt about the editorial independence of news outlets, as the owners of a critical broadcaster and a large media holding were replaced amid controversy. Several journalists also reported being threatened or harassed in connection with their coverage. At least 101 journalists were assaulted during the year, with police accused of participating in several of the attacks, local press freedom groups reported. In May, two journalists were attacked in front of police officers who failed to intervene. The official inaction spurred local demonstrations and an international outcry, leading to the assailants being given suspended prison terms four months later. While the conviction and life term handed in January to the killer of online journalist Georgy Gongadze in 2000 was hailed as a milestone on the road to justice, CPJ and others continued to push for the mastermind to be brought to justice. At year's end, as the nation plunged into a weeks-long political crisis over the government's failure to sign an association agreement with the European Union, two other brutal assaults against the press triggered nationwide protests and an international outcry: On December 1, riot police brutally attacked and beat at least 51 local and international journalists while dispersing protests in the capital. Later that month, investigative reporter Tetyana Chornovol was hospitalized and diagnosed with a concussion and multiple head injuries after being violently assaulted by at least three men.

February 12, 2014 1:17 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   UK

Attacks on the Press in 2013: United Kingdom

The United Kingdom's tradition of an unfettered news media was marred by several developments in 2013. Parliamentary debate over recommendations from the 2012 Leveson Inquiry to address unethical behavior by media concluded with the creation of a royal charter that critics feared would enable political interference in press regulation and set a bad example for oppressive governments worldwide. A counterproposal by several newspaper leaders giving more power to the industry was rejected by the government, but publishers stalled execution of the official plan by creating a "tough" independent regulator. Though a bill to give police and security services greater ability to monitor Internet use—labeled the "snooper's charter" by its critics—was shelved, there were repeated revelations of mass surveillance by the U.S. and U.K. governments. The destruction of Guardian hard drives, the detention of David Miranda (who assisted the newspaper's coverage of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden) and a parliamentary grilling of Editor-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger raised concerns internationally over intimidation of the press. Several journalists received threats from sectarian groups in Northern Ireland, and the 12-year-old unsolved murder of crime reporter Martin O'Hagan was set back when the prosecution announced that testimony of a key witness could not serve as evidence. In a positive development, the long-awaited Defamation Act reforming the U.K.'s plaintiff-friendly libel laws came into being.

February 12, 2014 1:16 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Uzbekistan

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Uzbekistan

Following an established trend, authoritarian Uzbek leader Islam Karimov promised to address journalists' concerns but did not follow through by ending the repressive climate for the press in the country. The decades-long harassment against government critics has virtually wiped out the media landscape, forcing the domestic and international community to rely on rumors or leaked diplomatic cables to get information on topics including the aging leader's health or his reaction to international events. At least four journalists remained in jail in late 2013, where they were allegedly tortured and denied appropriate medical care. Human rights activists, including those in exile, also faced official harassment and prosecution after reporting on corruption and abuses in Uzbekistan. One exiled human rights activist, Nadezhda Atayeva, was sentenced to seven years in absentia on embezzlement charges after reporting on human rights abuses. One journalist, Sergei Naumov, was jailed on fabricated charges of hooliganism just days after an Uzbek official denied jailing critics and assured the U.N. Human Rights Council that authorities were complying with international human rights standards. But this soon became hard to verify: Citing official obstruction to its work, the International Committee of the Red Cross publicly announced in April that it had terminated visits to Uzbek prisons.

February 12, 2014 1:15 AM ET

Attacks on the Press

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Middle East & North Africa

Front-line reports and analytical essays by CPJ experts cover an array of topics of critical importance to journalists. Governments store transactional data and the content of journalists' communications. Media and money engage in a tug of war, with media owners reluctant to draw China's disfavor and advertisers able to wield surprising clout. In Syria, journalists are determined to distribute the news amid the chaos of conflict. In Vietnam, the government makes a heavy-handed bid to bring the Internet under control. And globally, eliminating witnesses has become an all too easy method of stymying justice when journalists are assassinated.

February 12, 2014 1:14 AM ET

2013

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