New York, February 29, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today's early-morning raid by Israeli soldiers on two private Palestinian television stations in Ramallah.
New York, February 29, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns today's early-morning raid by Israeli soldiers on two private Palestinian television stations in Ramallah.
New York, February 29, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Senegalese authorities today to thoroughly investigate recent attacks on the media and ensure that the press is able to report freely on the country's presidential election results and potential run-off. CPJ has documented at least 12 incidents of threats and physical harm against journalists reporting on the campaign, Sunday's vote, and its aftermath. Most of the incidents involved security officials or ruling party members.
New York, February 29, 2012--Colombian freelance journalist and activist Bladimir Sánchez Espitia fled his home state today for the capital city after receiving death threats related to a video he posted on YouTube, according to the Bogotá-based Foundation for Freedom of the Press (FLIP). News reports said the video showed anti-riot police forcibly removing protesters from the construction site of a controversial hydroelectric dam in central Huila department.
New York, February 29, 2012--Jordan authorities must undertake a serious investigation into the stabbing of a blogger who wrote critically about the Jordanian royal family, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
'Attacks on the Press' launched
Repressive governments, militants, and criminal groups
across the globe are leveraging new and traditional tactics to control
information and obscure misdeeds, silence dissent, and disempower citizens,
according to Attacks on the Press, CPJ's yearly survey released on February 21,
available here. The 2012 release marks the first year that the report's
findings are presented with enhanced interactive features in the online version.
This year's report assessed press freedom in more than 100 countries and found
that in the Arab world, journalists face unpredictable new threats,
and in Asia, intimidation has a chilling effect. In Africa, investigative reporting is considered a threat to
development, and in Latin America, state media serves as a politicized
weapon against the independent press. Worldwide, Internet crime laws continue to put journalists
Two months into 2012, all-too-familiar stories are emerging from China's troubled minority regions, Tibet and Xinjiang. Following riots against Chinese rule in 2008 and 2009, violence and its corollaries--increased security and censorship--have become commonplace. Independent bloggers and journalists who cover the unrest pay a high price: Over half the 27 journalists documented by CPJ in Chinese prisons on December 1, 2011, came from ethnic minorities. Now we're bracing ourselves for the next wave of arrests.
New York, February 28, 2012--Unidentified gunmen today assassinated a veteran journalist who had been trying to relaunch a radio station that extremist group Al-Shabaab had shut down and looted in 2010, local journalists said.
New York, February 28, 2012--The Iranian regime continued its persistent campaign against press freedom days ahead of its parliamentary elections on March 2 by sentencing two journalists to prison and periodically blocking millions of users from accessing the Internet, according to news reports. In addition, two journalists are suffering from deteriorating health conditions in prison, news reports said.
New York, February 27, 2012--Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa announced today that he would pardon several news managers and journalists he had sued for libel, but his actions in the cases have done grave damage to free expression in his country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Correa had won separate libel complaints against executives of the daily El Universo and authors of the book The Big Brother concerning reporting critical of his administration.
On February 11, two Bangladeshi television journalists, Meherun Runi and her husband Golam Mustofa Sarowar, were murdered in their Dhaka home. Their 5-year-old son found their bodies. No arrests have yet been made and no motive has been publicly disclosed, although police claim they know why the couple was killed. Journalists have plenty of reason to be skeptical, and they staged a nationwide strike today to call attention to the case.
New York, February 27, 2012--A Syrian videographer who documented unrest in the besieged city of Homs was killed in a mortar attack on Friday, according to news reports. Anas al-Tarsha is the fourth media fatality in Syria in the past week.
Tuesday marks the next step in a legal faceoff between Malaysian authorities and the well-known political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, also known as Zunar. Hearings will resume in civil lawsuit filed by Zunar that challenges the legality of his arrest and detention in September 2010. Malaysian police arrested him hours ahead of the scheduled launch of a new book of political cartoons, Cartoon-o-phobia. He was held until the next day on the accusation that his book violated the country's repressive Sedition Act. Although he was released without being formally charged, police served a search warrant at his office and seized dozens of copies of his book.
I liked Rémi a lot.
Rémi was fragile, yet he didn't really try to conceal the fact. His fragility was his strength, a formidable one at that. Unlike so many journalists of today, Rémi was a true idealist, a rare mix of innocence and panache, compassion and bravery.
The Telegraph in London was the first to report that Syrian government forces could have "locked on" to satellite phone signals to launch the rocket attacks that killed journalists Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik, as well as many Syrian civilians, besides wounding dozens more including two more international journalists. Working out of a makeshift press center in Homs, foreign correspondents and local citizen journalists alike have been using satellite phones to send images of attacks on civilians around the world.
New York, February 24, 2012--Syrian authorities must heed the call issued by more than 60 countries today to stop the ongoing shelling in Syria, and allow medical access and safe passage to the wounded and dead journalists trapped in Homs, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
After the London launch of CPJ's Attacks on the Press at the Frontline Club this week, I had an opportunity to talk to a number of young journalists setting out to regions where reporters are frequently at risk. As CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon noted, these discussions took on an extra poignancy the next day, with the news of the death of Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik.
As a former entertainer better known as "Sweet Micky," it is perhaps unsurprising that Haitian President Michel Martelly has been theatrical at times in his dealings with the press. At one media event in October, the President answered a critical question posed by a journalist by telling him, "I curse your mother," according to press reports. On another occasion in late December, Martelly was so elated by a supporter's sign that instructed the press to "give the president a chance," that he told the citizen, "You deserve US$100,000." The man received a free motorcycle instead, Radio Kiskeya reported.
New York, February, 24, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists supports efforts by the international community to impose an immediate cease-fire in Syria to allow for the safe delivery of humanitarian aid and a cessation of hostilities. Two journalists injured in Wednesday's Homs attack require urgent medical attention and evacuation. The bodies of two more journalists have also been trapped in Homs since they were killed on Wednesday.
In her final hours, Marie Colvin gave this damning report to CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Bravery, generosity, and commitment: These are the three characteristics of Marie Colvin that have surfaced, again and again, in the many tributes spoken and published since the veteran Sunday Times reporter was killed Wednesday in the besieged city of Homs by Syrian forces.
In a video posted to YouTube by a Syrian activist, injured Sunday Times photographer Paul Conroy speaks from Homs with his local doctor, describing his injuries and asking for humanitarian assistance, cessation of the shelling, and safe passage out. In English with some Arabic.
Click here for Edith Bouvier and William Daniels' appeal video.
Not since the worst period of the Iraq war, or in the Balkans the decade before, have so many storied journalists been killed or seriously injured in such a short period of time. Inevitably, the spate of deaths leaves many journalists asking questions about whether and how much they are willing to risk their own lives, and possibly the lives of others. Many experienced journalists might agree on one thing: the decisions one makes about risk are among the most intimate decisions they will ever make.
New York, February 23, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists demands that Syrian authorities allow safe passage for the evacuation of four foreign journalists trapped in the besieged city of Homs, along with the bodies of Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik, two journalists killed in intense government shelling on Wednesday.
In this video posted to YouTube by a Syrian activist, injured Le Figaro reporter Edith Bouvier and Sunday Times photographer William Daniels speak from Homs along with the local doctor who has been treating them. They are pleading with the world to make the barrage of rockets stop and to allow Bouvier to get urgent medical care. They speak in Arabic, English, and French.
Click here for Paul Conroy's appeal video.
New York, February 23, 2012--The Kyrgyz government's decision to block access to the independent news website Ferghana News contradicts the country's declared commitment to press freedom and should be overturned immediately, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
New York, February 23, 2012--Syrian authorities must allow urgent medical aid to reach journalists wounded in the government shelling of Homs on Wednesday, and they must allow immediate evacuation of the dead and injured, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
International journalists Marie Colvin, 55, and Rémi Ochlik, 28, were killed Wednesday during shelling of the besieged city of Homs in Syria.
Pictured are Colvin, an American reporting for the Sunday Times, in Cairo's Tahrir Square (AP/Ivor Prickett); Ochlik, a French photojournalist (AP/Julien de Rosa); Colvin with Libyan rebels in Misurata on June 4, 2011 (Reuters//Zohra Bensemr); Ochlik covering demonstrations in Cairo (AP/Julien de Rosa); Ochlik, who quit his studies at age 20 to report on Haiti and then covered many of the recent upheavals in the Arab world (AP/Lucas Dolega); both journalists (Sunday Times and AFP); and Colvin being treated by Sri Lankan army medical staff on Tuesday, April 17, 2001, at a field hospital in Vavuniya, northeast of Colombo (AP).
The world lost one of the only direct windows into the carnage in Homs, Syria, when Rami al-Sayed's video live stream went dark Tuesday. A citizen journalist, al-Sayed was live streaming the Assad regime's bombardment of Baba Amr and the brutal after-effects when he was struck by shrapnel and bled to death soon after, according to news reports. When outlets including the BBC World, SkyNews, and Al Jazeera aired his live footage, they highlighted how important this medium has become to journalism. And when the Syrian army took his life they proved how vulnerable it is.
Last night at London's Frontline Club, CPJ launched its global survey of press freedom conditions, Attacks on the Press. The topic of discussion was the safety of journalists covering conflict and the panel consisted of journalist and documentarian Jenny Kleeman, ITN safety guru Colin Pereira, and journalist and filmmaker Maziar Bahari, who was imprisoned in Iran following the disputed 2009 presidential elections.
New York, February 22, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the killings of three journalists who died today and Tuesday as Syrian forces continued intense shelling of the besieged city of Homs. The acclaimed international reporter Marie Colvin and the French photojournalist Rémi Ochlik were killed this morning when their makeshift press center came under fire, while local videographer Rami al-Sayed died while covering a bombardment on Tuesday. At least three other journalists were reported injured.
Last week, suspected supporters of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an armed group listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States, took their confrontation with the Turkish state to Western Europe, attacking the French and German offices of one of Turkey's most influential newspapers, Zaman.
New York, February 22, 2012--Anar Bayramli, Baku-based correspondent for Iranian broadcaster Sahar TV and news agency Fars, has been imprisoned for two months pending trial over drug charges. The Committee to Protect Journalists has determined the charges are fabricated and calls on authorities in Azerbaijan to release him immediately.
In Pakistan, the term "a war of words" can take on a menacing dimension beyond the metaphorical. Words--written, spoken, or reported--regularly land journalists in trouble, a very literal, physical sort of trouble. Reporters have become accustomed to being threatened, and over the years they've seen threats sometimes build to abductions, beatings, and even death. Such violence seldom comes without a string of prior warnings.
What a difference a year makes. In January 2011, we had to scrap plans for our regular Middle East launch of Attacks on the Press at the headquarters of the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate in downtown Cairo. Just a few blocks away, in Tahrir Square, journalists were busy fending off their own attackers as pro-regime thugs tried to thwart young Egyptians' ultimately successful attempt to topple Hosni Mubarak.
Trade and the Internet are turning us into global citizens, but the news we need to ensure accountability is often stopped at national borders. China is ramping up censorship, Iran is jailing dozens of journalists, and Turkey is using nationalist laws to stifle critical reporting. In Mexico criminals are dictating the news, while in Pakistan shadowy agents are attacking investigative reporters. Attacks on the Press analyzes press conditions and documents new dangers in dozens of countries worldwide.
Technology has democratized news publishing, rattling regimes that see their survival dependent on control of information. Video footage of repression from Burma to Syria to Egypt dramatically illustrates the benefits of Internet platforms and social media. Yet the Arab uprisings of 2011 also demonstrate the urgent need for providers and users of digital tools to understand the dangers of deploying them in repressive nations. As threats to online journalists grow in scope and frequency, they also underscore CPJ's mandate to be a truly global organization. More journalists need CPJ's help than ever before. By Sandra Mims Rowe
Even as trade and new systems of communication turn us into global citizens, the information we need to ensure accountability often stops at national borders. New platforms like social media are valuable tools, but the battle against censorship is hardly over. By Joel Simon
Legislation for Internet security can quickly turn into a weapon against the free press. Cybercrime laws are intended to extend existing penal codes to the online world, but they can easily be broadened to criminalize standard journalistic practices. By Danny O'Brien
The global rate of unpunished murders remains stubbornly high at just below 90 percent. Senior officials in the most dangerous countries are finally acknowledging the problem -- the first step in what will be a long, hard battle. By Elisabeth Witchel
How does one negotiate the choice to stay and report potentially dangerous news, rather than take a less risky assignment, leave the profession, or flee the country? The recipients of the 2011 International Press Freedom Awards explain. By Kristin Jones
The danger of covering violent street protests has become a significant risk for journalists, alongside combat and targeted killings. Sexual assault, organized crime, and digital vulnerability are also hazards. The security industry is struggling to keep up. By Frank Smyth
The much-publicized assault on Lara Logan put the danger of sexual violence for journalists into the spotlight for the first time. As a result, there is more open discussion between reporters and news managers, but still too few preventative steps. By Lauren Wolfe
Many African leaders continue to offer a false choice between stability and press freedom. Taking a cue from China, a key investor and model, they stress social stability and development over openness and reform. By Mohamed Keita
It is not too late for justice for Francis Nyaruri, who was killed in 2009 after he wrote a story on police corruption. The murder comes against a backdrop of widespread extrajudicial killing. By Tom Rhodes with reporting from Clifford Derrick
Analyses and data chart press freedom conditions throughout the region. Carlos Lauría describes the rise of state media as a powerful propaganda tool. Mike O'Connor exposes Mexico's failed efforts to combat deadly violence against the press.
In some Latin American countries, state-owned media are used not only for propaganda but as platforms to smear critics, including journalists. Some elected leaders have even invested in large multimedia holdings to further their agendas. By Carlos Lauría
The Mexican president promised to protect a besieged press corps with a federal protection program, a special prosecutor and new legislation making anti-press violence a federal crime. But Felipe Calderón Hinojosa has failed at nearly every turn. By Mike O'Connor
This video companion to Attacks on the Press recounts the story of Mexican journalist Javier Valdez Cárdenas, who works in one of the world's most dangerous places. (3:26)
Read the Attacks on the Press 2011 country profile on Mexico.
Analyses and data track press conditions throughout the region. Bob Dietz describes efforts by Pakastani journalists to address widespread violence. Shawn Crispin details the faltering prosecution in the Maguindanao massacre. Madeline Earp examines the future of information control in China, and Monica Campbell recounts the plight of Afghan reporters for international media.
As journalists continue to be targeted, the government of Asif Ali Zardari has shown itself unable and unwilling to stand up for a free press. Whatever solutions exist will have to be found by people in the profession. By Bob Dietz
Nearly two years since 32 journalists were murdered, the fight for justice has both intensified in rhetoric and bogged down in technicalities. Without a greater commitment of resources, the litmus test is one the Philippines could fail. By Shawn W. Crispin
Internet users posed ever-bigger challenges to Beijing's media controls, boosting debate on public safety and censorship. But ahead of a 2012 leadership transition, the Chinese Communist Party looks likely to fiercely suppress dissent. By Madeline Earp
Local "fixers" have been essential to foreign reporters covering the Afghan war. While they often do the same work as their international counterparts, they run greater risk and face a far more uncertain future. By Monica Campbell
Pakistani reporter Umar Cheema speaks out on the climate of impunity that led to his being abducted and brutally assaulted for his work. (4:15)
Read the Attacks on the Press 2011 country profile on Pakistan.
Analyses and data track press freedom conditions, Jean-Paul Marthoz details the European Union's inconsistent approach to press freedom. Nina Ognianova describs Russia's struggles to combat impunity in journalist murders.
In the EU, some countries appear more immune than others to scrutiny and reproach. Anti-terror laws, political and economic concerns, and a lack of common standards all challenge the credibility of the EU's diplomacy. By Jean-Paul Marthoz
Russian investigators have adopted a more serious tone when discussing unsolved journalist murders, but officials still lack the will to apprehend masterminds of the killings. The lack of convictions takes a serious toll on investigative journalism. By Nina Ognianova
Analyses and data track press freedom conditions throughout the region. Mohamed Abdel Dayem examines five trends to watch from the Arab uprisings. María Salazar and Sheryl Mendez describe the fear and uncertainty facing doens of Iranian exiled journalists. And Robert Mahoney details Turkey's assault on free expression.
The Middle East's political shifts changed conditions for journalists dramatically. The emerging trends favor free expression, but are filled with ambiguity and depend on the political configurations to emerge after the revolutionary dust has settled. By Mohamed Abdel Dayem
With the aid of anachronistic legislation and a rigid judiciary, Turkish officials and politicians have curbed free expression by subjecting journalists to endless court proceedings and legal costs. The EU and the U.S. are no help. By Robert Mahoney
Journalists who have fled Iran to avoid prison face a tense and lengthy process toward resettlement, an uncertain financial and professional future, and most of all, fear that the Iranian government will catch up with them. By María Salazar-Ferro and Sheryl A. Mendez
This video companion to Attacks on the Press recounts the story of Iranian journalist Javad Moghimi Parsa. Time magazine published one of the photos he took during his off-duty coverage of the unrest that came after the 2009 elections. Called a spy, he fled into exile. (2:47)
Read the Attacks on the Press 2011 country profile on Iran.
Photographers from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse, and other news outlets documented historic events in 2011, often at great peril. The Year in Photographs: Press Freedom in 2011 features images from the Arab uprisings, South Asia's armed conflicts, and political repression in the Americas, Africa, and Europe.
Murders decline, but fatalities rise during coverage of protests. Photographers and freelancers pay an especially high price. Pakistan is the world's most dangerous nation.
The government waged a brutal multifaceted crackdown against independent news media covering the country’s months-long protest movement. Security forces subjected journalists to assaults, expulsions, detentions, politicized trials, prison terms, and lethal mistreatment in custody. Both international and local reporters were targeted: A journalist for the U.S. broadcaster ABC was beaten and his camera was confiscated in February; a photographer for the independent domestic daily Al-Wasat was beaten while covering a March protest. Authorities used live ammunition against protesters and reporters: The New York Times reported that two of its journalists came under helicopter fire in February. The Ministry of Information expelled CNN correspondent Mohammed Jamjoom over coverage of the unrest, and detained members of a CNN crew trying to interview human rights activist Nabeel Rajab. In June, a court convicted two critical journalistic bloggers on a series of antistate charges and sentenced them to lengthy terms. Reports of torture and mistreatment of detainees were common: Two journalists, one a founder of Al-Wasat, died in government custody under circumstances authorities would not fully explain. Al-Wasat, the country’s premier independent paper, was in the crosshairs throughout the year: Armed assailants stormed its printing facility in March; the Information Ministry briefly shut the paper in April; and the government filed criminal charges against three senior editors for “false news” the same month. CPJ honored Al-Wasat founder and editor Mansoor al-Jamri with its 2011 International Press Freedom Award.
No independent press has operated in this Red Sea nation since a September 2001 government crackdown on dissent that led to the imprisonment of 11 leading journalists without charge or trial and the enforced closure of their publications. President Isaias Afewerki's administration consistently refused to account for the whereabouts, legal status, or health of the jailed journalists, or even confirm reports that some had died in custody. All of the journalists were held without access to their families or lawyers. The only media allowed to operate in the country were under the control of Information Minister Ali Abdu, who enforced rigid control of information and ideas through intimidation and imprisonment. Even state media journalists braved border guards' shoot-to-kill orders to escape the country. Government agents abroad harassed and intimidated media outlets established by exiled journalists. The government's egregious actions drew condemnation from the European Parliament in September 2011, the latest in a series of international censures.
Authoritarian leader Islam Karimov marked Media Workers Day by calling for an independent domestic press, the state news agency UzA reported, but his long-standing policies of repression belied such statements. The regime is a persistent jailer of journalists, often ranking among the worst in the region. Embattled reporter Abdumalik Boboyev faced official obstruction when he tried to travel to Germany; officials cited his prosecution in 2010 on charges of “insulting the Uzbek nation” as reason. Two other reporters faced retaliation after they participated in media seminars outside Uzbekistan. In the face of official intimidation, domestic media complied with censorship regulations and refrained from covering the popular uprisings that swept the Middle East and North Africa. Mindful of the role the Internet played in the Arab revolutions, Uzbek authorities expanded their list of internally blocked news websites and created a state commission to censor content in the Uzbekistan domain.
The government failed to deliver on President Viktor Yanukovych's promises to investigate official harassment of news media and ensure justice in the 2000 murder of online journalist Georgy Gongadze. Prosecutors indicted former President Leonid Kuchma on abuse-of-office charges in connection with the Gongadze slaying, alleging that he had ordered subordinates to silence the journalist. But after the Constitutional Court found that a key audiotape was inadmissible, a trial court in Kyiv dismissed the case in December. The ongoing trial of Aleksei Pukach, the former Interior Ministry general charged with strangling Gongadze, was marked by irregularities, delays, and secrecy. The developments were seen as significant setbacks in the fight against impunity. As in past years, the domestic press faced persistent danger as reporters endured threats, physical attacks, and censorship. Investigators reported no progress in the case of Vasyl Klymentyev, an editor who went missing in 2010 after reporting on alleged local corruption. Kharkiv-based cable television carriers stopped carrying programming from the independent news outlet ATN in August, according to press reports. ATN said regional authorities pressured the carriers to drop its critical news coverage.
Investigative journalists were targeted with retaliatory arrests and debilitating lawsuits, marking a decline in press freedom conditions. Makhmadyusuf Ismoilov, a reporter for the independent weekly Nuri Zindagi, was imprisoned for nearly a year on defamation charges related to stories on government corruption in the northern Sogd region. BBC correspondent Urinboy Usmonov spent a month in jail after security agents arrested him on extremism charges stemming from his reports on the banned Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The independent newspaper Asia Plus and reporter Ramziya Mirzobekova faced a civil lawsuit from a senior Interior Ministry official who accused them of spreading false information in a story about a man who died in government custody, press reports said. And a Dushanbe-based independent newspaper, Paykon, was forced to close after a state agency won a sizable judgment in a defamation case related to a letter alleging corruption. In September, President Emomali Rahmon ended the requirement that senior officials convene quarterly press conferences, diminishing already-limited access to leaders.
Authorities detained at least six journalists covering December protests over flawed parliamentary elections, but in a rare phenomenon Kremlin-controlled television reported on demonstrations that brought tens of thousands of Muscovites onto the streets. In December, a gunman killed the founder of the weekly Chernovik, the 20th work-related murder in Russia since 2000. CPJ advocated extensively against impunity in anti-press attacks, calling on the European Commission to press the issue in meetings with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Authorities made progress in two murder cases. In April, two suspects were found guilty in the 2009 murders of journalist Anastasiya Baburova and human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov; in May, the defendants were sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The suspected gunman and several suspected organizers in the 2006 killing of Anna Politkovskaya were indicted. But impunity prevailed in the savage beatings of journalists Mikhail Beketov and Oleg Kashin. Authorities retaliated against one international reporter. Luke Harding, Moscow correspondent for The Guardian of London, was barred from re-entering the country in February after writing about U.S. diplomatic cables disclosed by WikiLeaks that described Kremlin officials in unflattering terms.
As President Roza Otunbayeva declared her commitment to press freedom, parliament decriminalized libel, eliminating a tool used by authorities in the past to suppress critical journalism. But rising violence, censorship, and politically motivated prosecutions marred the year in Kyrgyzstan. Parliament ordered state agencies to block domestic access to the critical website Fergana News, although the order was not immediately implemented. Ahead of the October 30 presidential vote won by Almazbek Atambayev, legislators ordered domestic broadcasters to screen foreign-produced programming and remove content that could insult the candidates. An investigative commission under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe found Kyrgyz authorities complicit in the ethnic conflict that gripped the south in June 2010. The conflict continued to cast a dark shadow over press freedom. Authorities brought trumped-up extremism charges against two ethnic Uzbek media owners, who went into exile after being compelled to give up their news assets. Another ethnic Uzbek journalist, Azimjon Askarov, was serving a life prison term on fabricated charges despite international calls for his release. Legislators banned local media from publishing images of the conflict on its anniversary.
The convictions of three men in the 2009 murder in Almaty of prominent Kyrgyz journalist Gennady Pavlyuk was a bright spot in Kazakhstan's otherwise grim press freedom record. The government had yet to reform its media laws in line with international standards, despite its promises to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE. To the contrary, the upper chamber of parliament approved a bill in December requiring international broadcasters to register with the government and imposing limits on foreign content aired by local cable carriers. Editor Ramazan Yesergepov continued to serve a three-year prison term on fabricated charges of collecting state secrets after a local court denied him early release. In November, an Almaty court convicted reporter Valery Surganov on defamation charges stemming from an article alleging police improprieties; the court imposed severe restrictions on his movements as penalty. The cases were a sobering reminder of the cost of critical journalism. In April, President Nursultan Nazarbayev won a fourth term in an election so uncompetitive that he took 95 percent of the vote, according to official results. OSCE monitors criticized the restrictive media climate in the run-up to the vote.
On January 1, 2011, the day Hungary assumed the rotating presidency of the European Union, a restrictive new media law came into force. The law created a National Media and Infocommunications Authority--staffed with appointees of the ruling Fidesz party--that was given vast powers to regulate news media. The law established heavy fines for violations such as carrying "imbalanced news coverage" or running content that violates "public morality." The law applied to all news media, reaching beyond national borders to foreign outlets "aimed at the territory of Hungary." The measure triggered protests in Hungary and throughout Europe, where it was seen as violating the Charter of Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty. Hungarian lawmakers agreed to minor changes in response to pressure from the European Commission. In December, the country's Constitutional Court struck down a provision that would have obliged journalists to reveal confidential sources. The court also exempted print media from the law as of May 2012, although it left intact most other anti-press provisions. The domestic media scene reflected deep polarization between supporters and adversaries of the center-right Fidesz. Political pressures were rife in public broadcasting: In July, 570 employees of the four state-run media companies were dismissed, representing about 16 percent of the workforce. Authorities reassigned the broadcast frequency of the largest opposition radio station, Klubradio, to an entertainment broadcaster in December, citing a higher bid.
After a rigged December 2010 presidential vote, authoritarian leader Aleksandr Lukashenko unleashed two waves of repression against critics and political opponents, one in early year and one in summer. The KGB and police raided independent newsrooms and journalists' homes, confiscated reporting equipment, and jailed independent reporters. Politicized courts handed suspended prison terms to prominent journalists Irina Khalip and Andrzej Poczobut. Police used brutal force against reporters who covered nationwide anti-government protests. Critical news websites experienced multiple denial-of-service attacks and official blocking. The suspicious 2010 death of Aleh Byabenin, founder of the pro-opposition news website Charter 97, remained unexamined. With a domestic economy suffering, Lukashenko promised to free jailed critics if the European Union lifted travel and trade sanctions. During a year of relentless attacks on journalists, the Lukashenko administration reinforced its reputation as Europe's most repressive regime for the press.
Four years after Eynulla Fatullayev was imprisoned on a series of fabricated charges, and more than a year after the European Court of Human Rights ordered his immediate release, the editor finally walked free. In an interview with CPJ, Fatullayev praised the international community for its sustained support. Attacks against domestic journalists covering sensitive subjects continued with impunity. Freelance reporter Rafiq Tagi, who wrote critically about Islamist politics and government policies, died after being stabbed on a Baku street. Two reporters for the pro-opposition newspaper Azadlyg were beaten in reprisal for their work, while the editor of the independent newspaper Khural was jailed in late year on retaliatory charges. Hostility toward international reporters was on the rise: Members of a Swedish television crew working on a human rights documentary were deported; a U.S. freelancer and a British researcher were assaulted; and a photojournalist was denied entry based on her Armenian ethnicity.
President Hugo Chávez Frías’ administration continued its systematic campaign to stifle critical reporting through regulatory, judicial, and legislative avenues. The telecommunications regulator fined Globovisión, the country's sole critical television station, more than US$2 million for its coverage of deadly prison riots in June and July. The regulator invoked the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, one of the region’s most restrictive measures. Prosecutors brought criminal charges against two executives of a critical weekly concerning a satirical article and photo montage that depicted high-ranking female officials as playing roles in a “cabaret” directed by Chávez. The weekly was briefly shut, and one executive was imprisoned for nearly three months. The Chávez administration used its extensive state media operation to spread political propaganda and wage smear campaigns against its critics. Chávez’s announcement that Cuban doctors had found and removed a cancerous tumor fueled speculation about the country’s political future as the October 2012 presidential election approached. Official information about the president’s health was scarce and treated as if it were a state secret.
A federal judge ruled in favor of reporter James Risen, who invoked his First Amendment rights to protect a confidential source. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and other groups called the ruling an important victory for the press. The Department of Justice, which appealed the decision, continued to take an aggressive approach in filing criminal charges against people who leak classified information. U.S. journalist groups were also troubled that increasing numbers of case documents were being sealed by the Supreme Court. CPJ reported that the State Department fell short in its first year of implementing the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, which requires that press freedom issues be incorporated into the agency's annual country reports on human rights. WikiLeaks was in the headlines again when it disclosed thousands of classified, unredacted U.S. diplomatic cables. An Ethiopian journalist was forced to flee his country after he was cited in a cable. Police in five cities arrested reporters and photographers covering Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, often claiming the journalists did not have sufficient accreditation. At least three other journalists covering Occupy events were attacked by protesters or police officers.
Press freedom suffered notable setbacks in 2011. In the run-up to the presidential election in June, journalists reported an alarming rise in attacks and threats in response to campaign coverage. In northern Peru, one journalist was murdered in reprisal for his work, while two others were killed under unclear circumstances. Trial courts convicted four journalists under archaic criminal defamation laws, with one reporter imprisoned for more than six months until his conviction was overturned on appeal. President Ollanta Humala pledged upon assuming office in July to be a “defender of human rights, freedom of the press, and freedom of expression.” In July, Congress passed a bill that would eliminate jail terms for defamation, but by late year the president had not signed the measure into law.
Criminal groups exerted extraordinary pressure on the press as they extended their control over virtually every sector of society. Journalists were killed or disappeared, media outlets were bombed and threatened. Pervasive self-censorship was a devastating consequence of this environment. In an information vacuum, journalists and citizens increasingly used social media to inform their communities. The murder of a Nuevo Laredo reporter was the first case documented by CPJ worldwide in which a person was killed in direct relation to reporting done on social media. At least three journalists were granted political asylum in the United States and Canada, and several others sought refuge in other countries. Several major news organizations agreed on a professional code in which they set protocols for journalists at risk and pledged not to be propaganda tools for criminals. But President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa's administration failed to implement effective reforms. Despite efforts to rejuvenate the office of the special prosecutor for crimes against free expression, anti-press violence went virtually unpunished. The government's new journalist-protection program was widely seen as ineffective. And while the Chamber of Deputies passed a bill to federalize anti-press crimes, the legislation remained pending in late year.
The Honduran press continued to suffer the violent fallout of the 2009 coup that ousted Manuel Zelaya. Four broadcast journalists were murdered in 2011 under unclear circumstances. CPJ is investigating to determine whether the killings were work-related. A climate of violence and widespread impunity has made the country one of the most dangerous in the region. The government's stance on media killings has worsened the situation. Authorities have minimized crimes against journalists and been slow and negligent in pursuing the culprits. No progress was reported in solving the murders of three journalists killed in direct relation to their work in 2010, CPJ research shows. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission composed of Honduran and international representatives delivered its much-anticipated report on the military-led overthrow of Zelaya. The commission labeled the takeover a coup--a decision met with controversy in Honduras--but it also accused Zelaya of improperly ignoring a Supreme Court decision concerning presidential term limits. The report found major press freedom violations during the coup, including the torture of journalists and the takeover of media premises.
Journalists increasingly practiced self-censorship as Mexican drug cartels expanded their presence in Guatemala. In May, criminals in four provinces hung banners in public places, threatening journalists with harm if gang activities were covered. A television journalist in southern Escuintla province was killed under unclear circumstances after receiving several threats. While the rise of criminal groups posed a growing risk, journalists also faced danger for coverage of official corruption and domestic security issues. In the southwestern city of Quetzaltenango, a television journalist and his family escaped injury when their van came under gunfire. The reporter had received death threats related to his coverage of police corruption. A columnist in the western city of Panajachel was forced to relocate after receiving a series of intimidating text messages concerning her coverage of a citizen security committee. The local press group CERIGUA documented an increase in press freedom violations in the months leading up to the November presidential elections, as well as a number of assaults and threats against journalists on Election Day. Otto Pérez Molina, a retired general running on the conservative Patriotic Party ticket, defeated businessman Manuel Baldizón in a runoff. Facing a murder rate among the highest in the world, Pérez pledged a tough approach on crime.
The press freedom climate continued its sharp decline under President Rafael Correa. In September, a CPJ special report concluded that Correa’s policies had transformed the country into one of the hemisphere’s most restrictive nations for the press. In March, Correa brought a criminal libel complaint against senior managers of El Universo, the country’s leading critical daily. The case, which centered on a biting opinion column that condemned Correa’s actions in a 2010 standoff with police, resulted in convictions, prison sentences, and multimillion-dollar fines against the managers. The managers were free on appeal in late year. Other government officials also used the nation’s archaic criminal defamation laws to try to silence journalists. The president made frequent use of cadenas, presidential addresses that pre-empt all private broadcast programming nationwide, to smear individual journalists and news outlets. Although cadenas have traditionally been used to deliver information in times of crisis, they have become a forum for political confrontation under Correa. The administration used other tactics to supplant independent voices with its own perspective, repeatedly ordering individual broadcasters to give over portions of their news programming to government “rebuttals.” In a May referendum, voters approved ballot measures that would allow the administration to regulate news content in vaguely defined areas and force media owners to divest other holdings.
Official repression in Cuba remained the most intense in the hemisphere. Although the last of the 29 independent journalists imprisoned in the 2003 Black Spring crackdown was released in April, the government's restrictive practices persisted. Official censorship was codified in law and closely enforced. The government persecuted critical journalists with arbitrary arrests, short-term detentions, beatings, smear campaigns, surveillance, and social sanctions. Despite the island nation's low Internet penetration, the battle for free expression was being waged almost entirely online. The government enlisted a legion of official bloggers to counteract a vibrant independent blogosphere. A fiber-optic cable project would enable the introduction of high-speed Internet. The launch of broadband service, which faced delays in 2011, would improve the island's government-approved Internet connections, but would not extend connectivity to the general public.
While lethal anti-press violence has slowed considerably in recent years, the press freedom landscape remains troubled. Journalists continue to be attacked and threatened with such frequency that some are compelled to flee to safer locations within Colombia or into exile. A journalist in Arboletes was murdered in June, although the motive was unclear. In this violent context, press groups feared the potential consequences of statements made by former President Álvaro Uribe, who described veteran reporters Juan Forero and Claudia Julieta Duque as “terrorist sympathizers” after they wrote critical stories about the Uribe administration in The Washington Post. The national intelligence agency’s illegal espionage against journalists and other critics, a legacy of the Uribe administration, continued to be the subject of investigation. But progress was slow, with cases pending against more than 20 defendants in late year. In a blow to press freedom, the Supreme Court in May upheld defamation provisions in the penal code.
In provincial areas where law enforcement is weak, reporters were vulnerable to attack for their coverage of corruption. In urban centers, journalists faced risks while covering organized crime and drug trafficking. Two journalists were killed in direct relation to their work in 2011, and CPJ was investigating the circumstances in four other killings. The uptick in deadly violence pushed Brazil back onto CPJ's 2011 Impunity Index, which highlights countries with unsolved journalist murders. Politicized judicial rulings continued to hinder coverage of sensitive issues. A censorship order against the daily O Estado de S. Paulo remained in place more than two years after it was first imposed, barring the paper from reporting on a corruption inquiry involving the family of Senate President José Sarney. In November, President Dilma Rousseff signed into law an access-to-information measure that regulated the classification of documents and imposed a maximum withholding period of 50 years for top secret files. The bill was lauded as an important step for government transparency and a helpful tool for journalists covering corruption.
The Supreme Court of Justice ruled in March that the government should apply reasonable balance in the distribution of state advertising. Ruling in a case brought in 2006 by Editorial Perfil, the country's largest magazine publisher, the court sought to rein in the government's long-standing practice of rewarding supportive news media with state advertising while punishing critical media by withholdings ads. Nonetheless, Perfil and other critics alleged that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who won re-election in October, continued the system of unequal distribution. Relations between Grupo Clarín, the nation's largest media conglomerate, and the Kirchner government worsened in March after demonstrators, including members of the Teamsters, blocked trucking exits at Clarín's printing facilities, preventing the paper from distributing its Sunday edition. In December, Kirchner signed a measure bringing the country's sole newsprint manufacturer, Papel Prensa, under government regulation. Publishers groups said it was another attack on Clarín and La Nación, which own a majority stake in the company. Circulation of the national daily La Nación was also disrupted for several hours. The local press group Foro de Periodismo Argentino documented a series of abuses in the country's interior, including an attack on a radio journalist, a case of arson, and an episode in which a camera crew was fired upon. A federal court sentenced 16 former military members in October to jail terms ranging from 18 years to life in prison for the murder of journalist Rodolfo Walsh and 85 others during the 1976-83 Argentine dictatorship.
Although official anti-press harassment continued a gradual decline from its peak after the disputed 2008 elections, a highly restrictive legal framework kept domestic, independent news sources to a mere handful. The fractious coalition between Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC failed to implement the media reforms they had pledged to undertake in their 2008 power-sharing deal, leaving in place repressive laws such as the Access to Information and Privacy Protection Act. At least six journalists faced criminal defamation charges, including two staffers from the weekly Standard who were detained after covering a politician's arrest. Assailants broke into the offices of NewsDay and Masvingo Mirror, stealing computer hard drives and storage discs. Both break-ins followed critical coverage; no suspects were arrested in either case. Fearing the influence of revolutions in North Africa, authorities detained dozens of civil society members for watching footage of the Egyptian revolution at a public gathering. The European Union named six state media journalists among 200 Zimbabweans subject to sanctions for allegedly promoting violence during the 2008 polling.
Police and security agents engaged in widespread physical attacks on local and foreign journalists during the general election campaign and its aftermath. Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni was elected to a fourth term in the February vote, which was marred by reports of intimidation and vote-buying. Reporters covering opposition candidates were at particular risk: Security agents shot two journalists covering opposition or protest rallies, leaving one reporter hospitalized. In April and May, authorities assaulted at least 25 journalists covering nationwide, opposition-organized protests over rising prices. Museveni publicly criticized foreign and local media for their coverage of the protests, saying the reports damaged the country's economic interests. Police raided the independent weekly Gwanga in May and briefly detained four journalists on the tenuous claim that its possession of a civil society newsletter could somehow incite public violence. Gwanga did not resume regular publication.
The ruling African National Congress bridled at news media scrutiny of its record on poverty, crime, and corruption, which raised concerns about the durability of post-apartheid democratic reforms. In June, the government announced a new policy to use state advertising expenditures to reward supportive media outlets. Members of the ANC's youth wing tried to intimidate media outlets that examined the affluent lifestyle and private business dealings of its fiery former leader, Julius Malema. Youth members assaulted journalists covering Malema's appearance at a party hearing convened to discuss his hard-line statements. President Jacob Zuma, who traveled to Libya twice in support of Muammar Qaddafi, was criticized for failing to hold Libyan officials accountable in the case of Anton Hammerl. Loyalist forces killed the South African photojournalist in April, but Libyan officials withheld information about Hammerl's death for many weeks. In October, South African officials acknowledged that police had tapped the phone conversations of journalists Mwazili Wa Afrika and Stephan Hofstatter. The two faced persistent threats and intimidation related to a 2010 story on police corruption. The ANC pushed several restrictive legislative measures, including a bill that would allow officials to classify virtually any piece of government information in the name of "national interest." The National Assembly approved the bill in November, sending it to the National Council of Provinces for consideration in late year.
Local and international journalists faced persistent, deadly violence, with both targeted murders and crossfire killings reported. Four soldiers with the African Union peacekeeping mission fired on a Malaysian humanitarian aid convoy in September, killing one journalist and injuring another. The AU mission in Somalia suspended the soldiers and returned them to their home country of Burundi for potential trial. Despite improved security in the capital, Mogadishu, journalists across the country continued to flee into exile to avoid threats and violence. Al-Shabaab militants and other insurgents continued to shutter independent radio stations in southern and central Somalia. Growing insecurity in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland led to increased attacks and arrests of journalists. In Somaliland, President Ahmed Mahmoud Silyano reneged on his 2010 campaign pledge to uphold press freedom and initiated a series of state-sponsored criminal defamation cases against the region's private press.
Authorities pursued an aggressive legal assault against critical journalists, using laws that ban insults against public officials and abusing anti-genocide laws to silence independent voices. President Paul Kagame’s close relations with Western governments continued to shield him from criticism over his administration’s poor press freedom record. In February, a panel of High Court judges sentenced two editors of the now-closed independent weekly Umurabyo to lengthy prison terms on charges of “genocidal ideology” related to articles detailing ethnic divisions in the security forces. In June, the Supreme Court sentenced in absentia Jean-Bosco Gasasira, editor of the independent Umuvugizi, to a prison term of two and a half years on insult charges stemming from an opinion piece that unfavorably compared Kagame to Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe. Gasasira had fled the country in 2010, joining one of the region’s largest press diasporas. Another independent weekly editor, Nelson Gatsimbazi, fled the country in September, also fearing imprisonment. The government’s aggressive actions left a subdued and largely state-dominated press landscape. A small number of critical websites remained, but they were subjected to regular government blocking.
President Bingu wa Mutharika signed a penal code amendment that allowed the government to ban any publication it deemed “not in the public interest.” Authorities did not immediately use the new tactic, but local journalists said the law’s existence had created a chilling effect. Government officials also made use of court injunctions to silence critical coverage of public officials’ financial dealings. Authorities and ruling party supporters pushed back aggressively against coverage of nationwide protests over rising fuel costs and diminishing bank reserves: Police and security officers beat and detained journalists; the government blocked the transmissions of four private radio stations; and suspected ruling party supporters damaged two vehicles belonging to the private Zodiac Broadcasting Corp. The managers of a critical online news outlet, Nyasa Times, said they experienced a denial-of-service attack that took down their website during the protests.
After the disputed November 2010 presidential elections, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara, whom the United Nations recognized as the winner, waged a months-long struggle for power led by partisan media outlets. The fight was centered in the economic capital, Abidjan, where Gbagbo controlled the national media and security forces. Ouattara enjoyed the support of a handful of newspapers and set up an improvised television station in the hotel where he was protected by U.N. peacekeepers. Both sides targeted rival outlets with reprisals, forcing numerous journalists into hiding. A journalist and a media worker were murdered in the violence. Fighters loyal to Ouattara clashed with Gbagbo troops for control of the national public broadcaster Radiodiffusion Télévision Ivoirienne in March and April, damaging studios and transmitters and knocking the station off the air, according to news reports and local journalists. While media movements were limited during the final battle for Abidjan, some citizen journalists provided exclusive footage of explosions and military operations by posting unedited videos on social media. With Gbagbo's April 11 capture, Ouattara assumed power and promised reconciliation, but his administration jailed a pro-Gbagbo TV host on antistate charges and his forces ransacked and occupied media outlets loyal to the former president. Journalists seen as sympathetic to Gbagbo faced continued harassment.
Years of brutal repression by President Yahya Jammeh’s administration have gutted Gambia’s once-vibrant independent press and driven numerous journalists into exile. In August, the government forced Taranga FM, the last independent radio station airing news in local languages, to halt its coverage. The move came ahead of an October presidential election in which Jammeh faced no viable opponent and brooked no dissent. Official repression has taken many forms over the years, including arbitrary arrests, censorship, forced closures of media outlets, verbal and physical intimidation, arson attacks, and prosecutions under restrictive legislation. These actions, coupled with impunity in attacks on media houses and journalists, have reduced the domestic news media to a handful of newspapers that operate under intense fear and self-censorship. While marketing the country internationally as an idyllic tourism destination, the government ignored two rulings by a West African human rights court: one ordering the release of reporter “Chief” Ebrima Manneh, who disappeared in state custody after his 2006 arrest, and another compelling the government to pay compensation to a journalist for illegal detention and torture.
News and information was tightly controlled in Equatorial Guinea, which CPJ identified as one of the world’s most censored nations. Nearly all news media were owned and run by the government or its allies. One independently owned newspaper circulated in the country, but had to practice self-censorship; no independent broadcasters operated domestically. Even in this rigid environment, authorities fearful of the implications of Arab unrest censored news coverage of the protests. President Teodoro Obiang continued efforts to alter his international image, assuming presidency of the African Union and reviving his effort to establish an “Obiang Prize” in life sciences under the auspices of UNESCO. For the second time, UNESCO suspended consideration of the prize after a global campaign by human rights and freedom of expression groups. As he marked his 32 years in power, Obiang declared there were “no” human rights violations in his country. But his administration suspended a state radio presenter for a mere reference to a “leader of the Libyan revolution.” Authorities also urged the owners of television sets in public places not to show international satellite channels covering the Arab unrest, according to local journalists. Security agents detained a German TV crew and deleted footage of an interview with an opposition leader and pictures of children playing in slums.
Incumbent Joseph Kabila claimed victory in a November presidential election marred by widespread voting irregularities and a spike in attacks on news outlets. While international observers questioned the results, Kabila forces launched a crackdown on dissent. Attacks on the press were concentrated in the capital, Kinshasa, and surrounding Bas Congo province. Supporters of incumbent President Joseph Kabila's PPRD party and his administration intimidated journalists favorable to chief rival Etienne Tshisekedi; pro-opposition media were targeted in a series of arson attacks. In August, Kabila consolidated his grip on the media by appointing members of a new regulatory board charged with enforcing press laws and meting out penalties. Journalists criticized Kabila for stacking the 15-member agency with government allies, according to news reports. Across the vast nation, powerful local officials and their security forces carried out attacks on the press with impunity in reprisal for critical coverage. And in the country's strife-torn, mineral-rich east, a journalist was murdered amid murky circumstances.
The government sought to curtail popular protests and related news coverage as President Paul Biya extended 29 years of rule in an October election. Having consolidated power through constitutional amendments that removed term limits and stacked the membership of the election oversight agency with loyalists, Biya swept 78 percent of the vote in a poll marked by low turnout and allegations by the United States and France that irregularities occurred. Twenty-two opponents, none competitive, split the rest of the balloting. With Biya’s overwhelming dominance of the political and journalistic space, social media became the primary means to criticize his record on political repression, poverty, and corruption. In February, government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary summoned journalists to his office and accused Cameroonian social media users, many of whom were based abroad, of “manipulating” young people to destabilize the country. A month later, the government temporarily shut down a Twitter-via-SMS service to foil possible protests. Security forces obstructed journalists covering the violent dispersal of small-scale protests, although citizen journalists posted several videos to YouTube that showed heavy-handed police tactics. Throughout the year, public figures used their influence to prosecute journalists investigating corruption. At least three critical journalists were detained for varying periods.
Youth-led and social media-fueled protests demanding reform challenged President José Eduardo Dos Santos, who marked 32 years in power. Parliament, controlled by Dos Santos’ MPLA party, considered legislation to “combat crime” in information and communication technology. The bill, pending in late year, would stiffen penalties for defamation and would criminalize electronic dissemination of “recordings, pictures, and video” of any individual without the subject’s consent. In nationally televised remarks targeting citizen journalists, Dos Santos lashed out at the use of the Internet to organize “unauthorized demonstrations to insult, denigrate, provoke uproar and confusion.” (One YouTube user called Kimangakialo posted more than 150 clips of protests.) In the same April address, Dos Santos claimed journalists enjoyed unfettered freedom to criticize his leadership. But CPJ research shows that security forces assaulted, detained, and obstructed independent journalists covering protests and official functions. Powerful public figures and officials used security forces and the courts to settle scores with reporters investigating allegations of abuse of power, corruption, or misconduct. Two journalists, Armando José Chicoca and William Tonet, were sentenced to prison over their critical coverage; they were free on appeal in late year. José Manuel Gimbi faced intimidation from security forces while reporting from the militarized, oil-rich enclave of Cabinda. Denial-of-service attacks targeted the exile-run websites Club-K and Angola24horas, taking them off-line in October.
Vietnam intensified a media crackdown targeting online journalists and bloggers, reasserting the government’s near-total control of domestic news media. Authorities arrested and detained five bloggers and contributors to online news publications, bringing to nine the number of journalists behind bars. Political bloggers Pham Minh Hoang and Vi Duc Hoi were both given harsh prison sentences on antistate charges related to their writings. Authorities continued to hold and deny visitation privileges for blogger Nguyen Van Hai even though his prison sentence expired in October 2010. A new executive decree that came into force in February gave the government greater powers to penalize journalists, editors, and bloggers who reported on issues deemed sensitive to national security. An "accusation" bill passed in November was designed to force journalists to reveal the identities of confidential sources critical of government agencies.
Journalists faced significant restrictions, particularly online, despite democratic elections and a change in government. Outgoing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva cracked down on partisan media, shutting radio stations and detaining Somyot Preuksakasemsuk, editor of a newsmagazine aligned with the anti-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship. New premier Yingluck Shinawatra wielded the country's strict lèse majesté laws by censoring websites and Facebook pages, and harassing Internet users who posted online material critical of the monarchy. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, editor of the news website Prachatai, faced a possible 50 years in prison under the draconian 2007 Computer Crimes Act for anonymous anti-royal remarks that were posted to one of her site's comment sections. The case was pending in late year. A reporter was killed in September while covering bombings in the country's insurgency-plagued southern region, a fatality that continued the country's recent spate of media deaths. The government opened a new inquiry into the fatal shooting of Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto during 2010 protests in Bangkok, but authorities left unresolved the case of a second international journalist killed in the 2010 unrest, Italian photographer Fabio Polenghi.
The government's effort to silence critical media has been brutally effective as politically motivated deaths, attacks, and disappearances go uninvestigated and unprosecuted. The sister websites Groundviews and Vikalpa became the last independent news sites based in Sri Lanka, after a series of attacks on Lanka eNews. Arsonists attacked the offices of Lanka eNews in January, and authorities arrested the site's Colombo-based editor Bennet Rupasinghe in March. The site continued to publish from London but was blocked domestically. Authorities have turned the notion of law enforcement on its head, obstructing justice in numerous anti-press attacks. Prime examples are the unsolved 2010 disappearance of cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda and the unsolved 2009 murder of prominent editor Lasantha Wickramatunga. Anti-press violence continued in 2011. In July, Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan, news editor of the Tamil-language daily Uthayan, was assaulted in northern Sri Lanka by assailants wielding iron bars. News media access to northern, predominantly Tamil areas remained severely restricted. The government and Tamil secessionists rejected allegations that they committed human rights violations during the long civil war, but independent coverage of the abuses was limited.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Five journalists and a media worker were killed as Iraq maintained its position as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. In August, the government adopted a law meant to offer journalists more protection, although its vague provisions did little initially to improve conditions. As demonstrations for economic and political reform spread with the Arab uprisings, journalists were consistently targeted for their coverage. Anti-riot police attacked, detained, and assaulted journalists covering protests. In their attempt to restrict coverage of the unrest, police raided news stations and press freedom groups, destroyed equipment, and arrested journalists. In Iraqi Kurdistan, authorities used aggression and intimidation to restrict journalists' coverage of violent clashes between security forces and protesters. Gunmen raided and destroyed equipment of an independent TV station and a radio station in Sulaymaniyah. Three journalists were fired upon in separate episodes in March, while two journalists were injured covering clashes in Sulaymaniyah in April. Prominent Iraqi Kurdish journalist Asos Hardi was badly beaten by an unidentified assailant.
Two years after a contested presidential election, Tehran continued to use the mass imprisonment of journalists to silence dissent and quash critical news coverage. Imprisoned journalists suffered greatly amid the crowded and unsanitary conditions of notorious prisons such as Rajaee Shah and Evin. The health of many detainees severely deteriorated, while numerous others suffered abuse at the hands of prison guards. The detainees also faced a battery of punitive measures, from the denial of family visits to placement in solitary confinement. Authorities continued a practice of freeing some prisoners on furloughs while making new arrests. Six-figure bonds were often posted by the furloughed journalists who faced immense political pressure to falsely implicate their colleagues in crimes. While some large international news organizations maintained a presence in Tehran, their journalists could not move or report freely, particularly outside the capital. Politically sensitive topics such as the country's nuclear program or its plan to eliminate subsidies were largely off-limits to local and international reporters. The government also restricted adversarial reporting by using sophisticated technology to block websites, jamming satellite signals, and banning publications.
France’s press freedom record continued a downward slide, in large part because authorities attempted to violate the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and interfere with editorial decisions. Most of the recent cases stemmed from the “Bettencourt affair,” the alleged illegal financing of the presidential party by the billionaire Liliane Bettencourt. In 2010, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office ordered the secret services to identify sources leaking information about the matter to the press. Journalists from major media outlets were targeted, and the secret services obtained phone records of a Le Monde journalist. In October, the director of domestic intelligence was charged with violating the secrecy of correspondence and confidentiality of sources. Press-government relations were further strained during the 18-month abduction of two France 3 journalists in Afghanistan, which ended in June. Élysée Palace and the army had criticized the “recklessness” of the reporters. In November, the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo were firebombed and its website was hacked after the satirical weekly published a spoof edition “guest-edited” by Prophet Muhammad.
During the 18-day uprising that led to Hosni Mubarak's ouster, the government unleashed a systematic campaign to intimidate journalists and obstruct news coverage. Dozens of serious press freedom violations were recorded between January 25 and February 11, as police and government supporters assaulted journalists in the streets. One journalist was killed by sniper fire while covering the demonstrations. Authorities also detained scores of journalists, instituted a six-day Internet blackout, suspended mobile phone service, blocked satellite transmissions, revoked accreditations, erected bureaucratic obstacles for foreign reporters, confiscated equipment, and stormed newsrooms. After Mubarak's fall, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces showed its own hostility to critical news coverage. The council established a new censorship regime in March, telling editors they must obtain approval for coverage involving the armed forces. In July, the council reinstated the historically repressive Information Ministry; in September, it announced it would enforce the Mubarak-era Emergency Law that allows indefinite detention of civilians. Authorities raided broadcasters in September, October, and December, censored newspapers, and arrested critical bloggers. In October, a fatal confrontation between the military and civilians in front of the Television and Radio Union left dozens dead, including a journalist. The next month, at least 35 journalists were detained or assaulted while covering a week of demonstrations demanding the military hand over power to civilians. As the year ended, the first two rounds of parliamentary voting gave Islamist parties a significant lead over secular competitors.
The sentence against Ecuadoran newspaper El Universo, its opinion editor, Emilio Palacio Urrutia, and its three top executives, Carlos Eduardo Pérez Barriga, César Enrique Pérez Barriga, and Carlos Nicolás Pérez Lapentti, for supposed offenses against Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa in Palacio's article "NO to lies," is a worn-out manifestation of the perverse concept of public freedoms that certain elected governments manipulate. They pervert their legitimacy with an authoritarian self-assuredness that permeates their exercise of power.
New York, February 17, 2012--Yemeni authorities must ensure the safety and protection of journalists covering protests in the country and allow them to carry out their work freely, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today after a BBC Arabic correspondent was attacked for the third time in a year.
New York, February 16, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply saddened by the death of New York Times foreign correspondent Anthony Shadid, a towering figure in international crisis reporting. Shadid perished following an apparent asthma attack while on assignment in Syria.
New York, February 16, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists is disturbed by a series of violent attacks on international journalists that appear aimed at suppressing coverage of land-related protests in Panhe, in eastern China's Zhejiang province.
New York, February 16, 2012--Today's decision by Ecuador's highest court to uphold the criminal libel conviction brought by President Rafael Correa against El Universo represents a serious blow to freedom of expression and a setback for democracy, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
New York, February 16, 2012--Three Tunisian journalists were arrested Wednesday for publishing a nude photo in a Tunisian daily, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities to release them immediately.
I must have received at least a dozen communications from worried friends and colleagues, asking the whereabouts of the chief editor of the highly critical Rwandan website, Umuvugizi. By mid-January, no one had heard from John Bosco Gasasira, nothing new had been published on Umuvugizi since January 11, and his cell phones were switched off. Last week, concerned colleagues wrote a public letter expressing concern over their missing colleague.
Dear President Nazarbayev: The Committee to Protect Journalists is deeply disturbed by the ongoing crackdown by Kazakhstan's security service, the KNB, against independent journalists. The imprisonment of Vzglyad editor Igor Vinyavsky and interrogations of independent reporters by KNB agents appear to be reprisals for critical reporting on government policies, including a December 2011 confrontation in which authorities killed civilians.
New York, February 16, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by the arrests of 14 journalists, bloggers, and press freedom activists with the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM). The group has played a key role in getting out information about daily developments in Syria as foreign journalists are virtually banned from the country.
New York, February 16, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists is outraged that Ecuador's highest court upheld today a libel conviction brought by President Rafael Correa against the Guayaquil-based daily El Universo.
The Russian blogosphere erupted with comments today following an announcement that the board of directors of the iconic radio station, Ekho Moskvy, will be changed. The timing of the development--weeks before presidential elections--and the potential consequences for Ekho's editorial policy threw listeners into a frenzy of worry and speculation.
New York, February 14, 2012--The Iranian regime continued its sustained crackdown on the press, arresting a blogger, handing a journalist a harsh prison term, and banning a reformist news publication, according to news reports. The regime has also announced the mass arrest of several individuals with alleged links to the BBC Persian-language service, news reports said.
February is the hottest month in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, and Mading Ngor, a reporter and presenter for the Catholic-owned Bakhita FM, trudged his way through the heat to cover parliament proceedings last week--only to be thrown unceremoniously out of the assembly. "Before I had time to argue, four security guards pinned me to the ground and dragged me across the floor, tearing up my trousers," Ngor, a hard-hitting, critical journalist, told me.
President Obama has promised to raise issues of human rights when he and his administration meet with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in the next day. After that, Xi, billed as China's next leader, is expected to make some speeches, visit a few factories, stop at the Pentagon, sign some contracts that will strengthen economic ties between the two countries, and then head home.
Bangkok, February 14, 2012--Indonesian authorities detained a Czech journalist on Wednesday, then deported him for reporting without official permission from a restricted area of the country, according to news reports.
Good news for Gambia's beleaguered independent press has been rare during President Yahya Jammeh's 17-year rule, but last week brought three potentially positive developments. It's unclear whether they mark a real change in the status quo, but they may at least increase the resolve of advocacy groups to seek improvements.
New York, February 13, 2012--Saudi columnist Hamza Kashgari, whose Twitter postings about the Prophet Mohammed have drawn death threats and government reprisals, was deported from Malaysia back to his home country on Sunday, according to news reports.
New York, February 13, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists mourns the death of two TV journalists in Dhaka and calls on Bangladeshi authorities to act speedily to bring the perpetrators to justice.
In the year since peaceful protests began in Bahrain on February 14, 2011, the government has targeted the press corps with assault, detention, harassment, and torture to obstruct their coverage. My organization, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, has documented a systematic campaign by authorities to silence coverage of our country's unrest. Here are just some of the many attacks on the press:
New York, February 13, 2012--Brazilian authorities must conduct a thorough and swift investigation into the murder of journalist Paulo Roberto Cardoso Rodrigues, who was gunned down on Sunday night, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. It was the second slaying of a Brazilian journalist in less than week.
New York, February 13, 2012--Egyptian authorities should immediately release detained Australian journalist Austin Mackell, his translator, and an American student traveling with them, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
New York, February 13, 2012--The expulsion of prominent French journalist and author Anne Nivat from Russia today, on alleged violation of her visa status, indicates an increasingly restrictive environment for journalists in the lead-up to Russia's presidential election, said the Committee to Protect Journalists.
New York, February 10, 2012--The body of Brazilian journalist Mario Randolfo Marques Lopes was found on Thursday in the city of Barra do Piraí in Rio de Janeiro state, according to news reports. Randolfo reported on local corruption and had survived at least one attempt on his life in recent years, news reports said.
Just how free should the Internet be in India? And whose job is it to police the Web?
Two recent court cases turn on these questions and, more specifically, whether Internet companies have a responsibility to filter content. In a country where Internet usage is growing exponentially, but where the scars of communal violence, terrorism, and identity politics are fresh, the answers are likely to have deep ramifications for years to come.
New York, February 10, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on all parties involved in the ongoing political dispute in Maldives to respect the role of the media in covering the protests and stop the attacks on journalists and news outlets. After political violence escalated in the wake of former President Mohamed Nasheed's resignation on Tuesday, at least two TV stations were attacked, according to news reports.
In 2005, we deliberately violated the immigration laws of India. We broke the law by producing a documentary film even though we had entered the country on a tourist visa. We broke the law because we wanted to show that Scandinavian companies were in violation of many other laws in India.
New York, February 9, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns death threats and a publishing ban against columnist Hamza Kashgari for comments he posted on Twitter addressing the prophet Mohammed.
New York, February 9, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Yemeni authorities to end an ongoing siege at the offices of a daily newspaper and ensure the protection of journalists and their equipment. Armed men last week surrounded the offices of two Yemeni newspapers, one of which remains under attack, according to news reports.
New York, February 9, 2012--Bahrain has rejected at least six journalists' applications for entry visas ahead of the anniversary of antigovernment protests that swept the country in February 2011, according to news reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on authorities to allow journalists into the country to carry out their work freely.
China's investment in high-tech Internet surveillance technology is well known, and the byzantine rules of its Central Propaganda Department have inspired books and academic treatises.
But among the many tools in the box for media control, there's one that's very simple and low-tech: Keep journalists away.
The response from Cuban officials did not take anyone by surprise. Prominent Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez had been, once again, denied permission to leave her country after she was granted a visa by the Brazilian Embassy in January to attend a film festival. "I feel like a hostage kidnapped by someone who doesn't listen nor provide explanations. A government with a ski mask and a gun in a holster," tweeted Sánchez on Friday after the Cuban government denied her request to travel to Brazil. It was, according to the blogger, the 19th time Cuban officials have turned down her request to leave the island. As in the past, officials gave no reason for the rejection.
New York, February 8, 2012--Nigeria's military has harassed and obstructed journalists trying to report on unrest in recent days, according to local journalists and news reports.
The website of Xinhua News, China's state media flagship, leads today with EU's threats of sanctions against Syria. Elsewhere on their Chinese-language site, one can read about Wen Jiabao's remarks to the visiting Canadian prime minister, or look at photos of pretty white ladies lounging around, if that's your style.
We have been posting a lot about the challenges facing the Internet in India recently--see Mannika Chopra's "India struggles to cope with growing Internet penetration." On Tuesday, Angela Saini, a guest blogger on The Guardian's Comment Is Free site, posted "Internet censorship could damage India's democracy," with the subhead "Google and Facebook have been asked to remove offensive content, but it's not just out of a fear of stoking religious hatred." Saini makes the point that the official resistance to the increasing penetration of the Internet goes beyond fears of religious or ethnic violence:
New York, February 8, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists mourns the death of Syrian journalist Mazhar Tayyara, a stringer for Agence France-Presse and other international outlets, who was killed by government forces' fire in the city of Homs early Saturday morning.
New York, February 8, 2012--Journalists covering political unrest in the Egyptian port city of Suez have been subjected to at least 10 attacks over a four-day period, according to news reports. One journalist was chased, fired upon, and threatened in four separate incidents, CPJ research shows.
Seated near the fireplace in a historical home in Tournai, a medieval town 70 miles from Brussels and a stone's throw from the French border, while snow fell outside, Solange Lusiku Nsimire was enjoying not only the company of friends, but the chance to live for a few days without fearing suspicious noises in the garden or ominous knocks on the door.
New York, February 7, 2012--Nigerian authorities have locked reporters based at the country's biggest airport out of their press center and withheld their equipment since Saturday, according to local journalists and news reports.
New York, February 7, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the sentence handed to two Ecuadoran journalists yesterday after they were found guilty of defaming President Rafael Correa.
CPJ award winner Mazhar Abbas penned a strong Sunday op-ed piece, "Death is the only news--Challenges of working in conflict zones," for The News. It's about conditions for journalists working in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Baluchistan. As Abbas says, "The killing of one journalist is a message for another." He goes on to describe the situation in FATA:
The issue of press accreditation continues to reverberate. In November, when the Occupy movement came into conflict with law enforcement across the country and at least 20 journalists covering the events were arrested, CPJ reported that disputes over press accreditation were at the center of many of those arrests. Last week, credentials played a role in the arrests of journalists not only at tumultuous Occupy demonstrations in Oakland but also inside the more hushed chambers of Capitol Hill.
New York, February 6, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns official attacks on journalists covering political unrest in Egypt this weekend. At least two journalists were shot by security forces in the past three days, and a third journalist was assaulted in police custody, according to news reports.
New York, February 6, 2012--A Tunisian appeals court should throw out the prison sentence against journalist Abdel Aziz al-Jaridi at a February 10 hearing and authorities should use his case as an opportunity to break from the repressive practices of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's era, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
New York, February 3, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the detention and harassment in Iran of relatives of BBC Persian service staff who work outside the country, which is part of a sustained campaign to intimidate journalists into not reporting critically on Tehran's activities.
Last week, Twitter provoked a fierce debate online when it announced a new capability--and related policy--to hide tweets on a country-specific basis. By building this feature into its website's basic code, Twitter said it hoped to offer a more tailored response to legal demands to remove tweets globally. The company will inform users if any tweet they see has been obscured, and provide a record of all demands to remove content with the U.S.-based site chillingeffects.org.
The Internet doesn't bring freedom. Not automatically, anyway.
That's one of the main messages of Rebecca MacKinnon's new book, Consent of the Networked, which had its New York launch at the offices of the New America Foundation last night. In a conversation with CNN managing editor Mark Whitaker, MacKinnon, a CPJ board member, said it's up to concerned citizens, governments, and corporations to make decisions about how the Internet is used. She contrasted the Twitter-powered revolt in Egypt last year with the "networked authoritarianism" of China, where corporations are collaborators in a system designed to preserve Communist Party rule.
New York, February 2, 2012--The Kazakh security service, or KNB, must immediately cease intimidating Oksana Makushina, deputy editor of Golos Respubliki, and return reporting equipment confiscated today from the independent weekly, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
New York, February 2, 2012--At least 10 Iranian journalists were jailed in the month of January as the government continued its crackdown on dissent ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled in March, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today. Recent news reports identified three previously undisclosed arrests.
New York, February 1, 2012--The Committee to Protect Journalists called today on Paraguayan and Brazilian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into death threats against journalist Cándido Figueredo and to ensure his safety. Police officials confirmed last month that they had intercepted a phone call between two criminal figures who discussed killing the Paraguayan journalist, according to local press reports.
Do you believe the free flow of information must be protected? Sign the #RightToReport petition and demand that President Obama immediately:
1. Issue a presidential policy directive prohibiting the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations.
2. Limit aggressive prosecutions that ensnare journalists and intimidate whistleblowers.
3. Prevent the harassment of journalists at the U.S. border.
Or click here to see the full petition, and join leading journalists like Christiane Amanpour, The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the AP Kathleen Carroll, and Arianna Huffington in signing on.