IN THE WAKE of September 11, 2001, journalists around the world faced a press freedom crisis that was truly global in scope.
In the first days and weeks after the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., governments across the globe--in China, Benin, the Palestinian Authority Territories, and the United States--took actions to curb reporting on the assault and its aftermath. While the world focused on Manhattan and Kabul, leaders in Eritrea and Zimbabwe seized the moment, launching crackdowns to silence all independent media.
The exhilarating prospect of broad press freedoms that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union a decade ago has faded dramatically in much of the post-communist world. A considerable decline in press freedom conditions in Russia during the last year, along with the stranglehold authoritarian leaders have imposed on media in Central Asia, the Caucasus, Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova, has put journalists on the defensive across the region.
Miro Petek, a journalist for the Maribor daily Vecer, Slovenia's second-largest newspaper, was attacked outside his home in the small town of Mezica on the evening of February 28 by two unknown men. Petek sustained severe skull fractures and spent five months recovering from the nearly fatal attack.
The revolutionary political changes of late 2000 and early 2001 that ousted former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic ended a decade of repression for Yugoslavia's independent journalists. But after a year in power, the Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS), which replaced Milosevic, failed to enact needed reforms in media-related laws. And while the DOS proved far less heavy-handed than Milosevic, its leaders have not hesitated to apply more subtle pressures on independent media that do not embrace DOS policies.
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