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1998 Spring/Summer


The Asian economic turmoil of the last eight months struck many international observers as a sudden calamity--trouble that seemed to drop from the sky like an alien invader. But in fact, the signs of structural weakness and the cracks in the veneer of financial robustness were in plain view for those in a position to take a hard look. In Indonesia, the family of President Suharto has had its hands in the economy for decades. Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has long pursued expensive vanity projects. In South Korea and Thailand, many companies and banks have ignored financial reporting requirements with scant legal penalty.
For Christine Anyanwu, former editor of the now-defunct The Sunday Magazine, the fact that Nigeria has vaulted to the ignominious spot as Africa's top jailer of journalists, with 17 in prison at the end of 1997, would come as no surprise. Nor is it merely an abstract statistic to the 46-year-old mother of two: She is serving a 15-year sentence in a dank prison cell, ill and in danger of losing her sight.
Executive Director William A. Orme, Jr., who was interviewed on CNN International, Fox News "In Depth," MSNBC "Online," and numerous radio shows about Attacks on the Press in 1997, traveled to California for the April 6 launch of the book at a program at the Freedom Forum in San Francisco. He also addressed the regional conference of the Society for Professional Journalists in Spokane, Washington.
On the day Pope John Paul II arrived in Cuba, journalist Ricardo González Alfonso found two agents from the Interior Ministry's Special Brigades camped on his doorstep. They proceeded to tail Alfonso, a correspondent for the independent news agency CubaPress, until a CNN camera crew arrived at his house the next day.

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

---Article 19, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In his first day in office last July, Mesut Yilmaz, Turkey's prime minister, met with an international delegation led by CPJ and pledged to end the jailing of journalists in his country. Seven months later, representatives of CPJ and the Press Council of Turkey revisited Yilmaz, urging him to fulfill his promise to reform the Turkish press laws, and to review the cases of 12 imprisoned reporters and editors the two groups say have been convicted on the basis of their work as journalists. CPJ executive director William A. Orme, Jr., and Press Council chairman Oktay Eksi asked the Yilmaz government to give the highest priority to the release of these journalists as a sign of its continued commitment to press freedom.

For some delegates, just getting to the West African Journalists Association (WAJA) regional conference in Dakar, Senegal, was an impressive achievement. While his colleagues used more conventional modes of transportation, Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) president Frank Kposowa navigated his way out of the country by night in a hired motorized dugout canoe. The state of anarchy in Sierra Leone since the May 25, 1997, coup d'?état had rendered travel virtually impossible, and Kposowa's risky passage was just another example of the challenges facing courageous journalists who chose to remain in the country and risked losing their lives by practicing their profession.

Liberian broadcast journalist Alex Redd became the focus of international attention late last year when he was kidnapped and tortured by state security forces for attempting to investigate and report on the murder of political opposition leader Samuel Dokie, his wife, and two family members. Upon release, Redd was arrested and tried for inciting the public against the government. He fled to the United States in January 1998 after being released on bail. He spoke with CPJ's associate editor Jesse T. Stone about his experiences, and the state of the media in Liberia.

Spring 1998
For the second time in less than a year, a group of Palestinian reporters covering clashes in Hebron between Palestinians and Israelis were fired upon with rubber-coated metal bullets by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Eight journalists were wounded in the March 13 attack, which witnesses have characterized as the IDF's intentional targeting of the journalists. The incident has drawn widespread condemnation from local and international human rights organizations.