Attacks on the Press in 2013

Attacks on the Press   |   Nepal

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Nepal

While Nepal dropped off CPJ’s 2013 Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are slain and the killers go free, progress in the country remained tempered. The government led by then-Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai pressured prosecutors to drop their investigation into the 2004 murder of radio journalist Dekendra Thapa. While the police arrested five suspects in connection with the murder and began proceedings against them, relatives of the slain journalist cast doubts on authorities’ commitment to justice as four other suspects remained free. As protests ensued against Bhattarai, journalists were attacked and threatened, prompting several to flee their homes. Critical coverage of the judiciary also led to litigation against journalists. Authorities arrested a suspected mastermind in connection with the 2009 murder of reporter Uma Singh. The climate for journalists remained uncertain as Khil Raj Regmi, chief justice of the country’s Supreme Court, was appointed prime minister of an interim government to oversee parliamentary elections, and the Nepali Congress ousted the Maoists from power in November. UNESCO established a two-year project as part of the U.N. Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity in Nepal, one of the five pilot countries for the plan. The plan aims to increase the safety of journalists and end impunity in crimes against the press.

February 12, 2014 1:34 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Pakistan

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Pakistan

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif won general elections in May, though the vote was marred by violence, including bomb blasts targeting polling stations. The Pakistani media's nonstop election coverage made news organizations full-fledged partners in the democratic process, intrinsic to the first civilian transfer of power after the completion of a five-year term by a democratically elected government. At least five journalists were killed this year--fewer than in 2012. One was a targeted killing. CPJ continues to investigate the killings of three other journalists in unclear circumstances, two of whom were Baluch. Legislative action stemming from a March conference on the U.N. Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity had yet to materialize, though the government repeated its commitment to enacting legislation. Three correspondents--from The New York Times, The Hindu, and Press Trust of India--were expelled from Pakistan in 2013. The Hindu and PTI were eventually allowed to replace their staff members.

February 12, 2014 1:33 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Philippines

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Philippines

Violence and threats against journalists, particularly in provincial areas, remained widespread as President Benigno Aquino's vow to end impunity in media murders went unfulfilled during his third year in office. At least three journalists were killed in 2013, one of whom was radio reporter Fernando "Nanding" Solijon. A police officer was later identified as a suspect and placed under house arrest. At least six other reporters were killed in 2013. CPJ is investigating their killings to determine whether they were related to the journalists' work. Authorities took a small step toward combating impunity by convicting the gunman in the 2011 murder of journalist Gerardo Ortega, but the process was undermined by the release of the case's two suspected masterminds, including the ex-governor of Palawan province. The Maguindanao massacre trial for the 2009 killings of 32 journalists and media workers failed to convict any of 197 suspects after nearly four years of legal proceedings. Reforms to the criminal justice system, including new mechanisms to expedite priority cases, failed to break the trial's procedural deadlock. At least four journalists were killed and six went missing in the huge typhoon that hit the Philippines in November.

February 12, 2014 1:32 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Sri Lanka

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Sri Lanka

Journalists and news outlets working outside government-approved news media remained under constant pressure and faced attacks even as Sri Lanka prepared to host the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Colombo. In the weeks leading up to the meeting, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay slammed Sri Lanka's rights record during a visit to the country, saying the government had become increasingly repressive toward the press and critical voices. Earlier in the year, authorities introduced a draft media code in parliament that would impose harsh restrictions on journalists' ability to report freely. It was withdrawn after criticism. Local journalists said the code would further the self-censorship that was already pervasive. The government showed no political will to address its record of perfect impunity in nine murders of journalists during the past decade. Cartoonist and columnist Prageeth Eknelygoda remained unaccounted for after disappearing in 2010.

February 12, 2014 1:31 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Thailand

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Thailand

Thailand's clampdown on press and Internet freedoms continued in 2013 as large anti-government street demonstrations undermined political stability. Broadcast journalists were threatened with arrest by authorities for live streaming protest speeches. At least two local and one foreign reporter were assaulted by protesters over perceived pro-government bias in their coverage. Authorities continued to crack down on coverage deemed critical of the royal family by sentencing newsmagazine editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk to 11 years in prison and banning a political documentary on the grounds that its title could be construed as critical of the monarchy. Amid an outcry, the Ministry of Culture later lifted the censorship order, saying it had made a "technical mistake." Political cartoonist Somchai Katanyutanan faced defamation charges over comments he posted on Facebook about a speech Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra made in Mongolia. The offices of his newspaper, Thai Rath, were later attacked by unknown assailants. Thai Public Broadcasting Service political editor Sermsuk Kasitpradit was investigated in connection with comments he made on Facebook speculating on a possible military coup. Information and Communication Technology Minister Anudith Nakornthap then warned social media users that clicking "like" or sharing online comments deemed a threat to national security could be construed as criminal acts punishable by imprisonment.

February 12, 2014 1:30 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Vietnam

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Vietnam

The Vietnam government's campaign of repression against online journalists intensified this year. Sixteen of the 18 journalists behind bars had published blogs or contributed to online news publications, according to CPJ's annual prison census conducted December 1. In January, a group of five independent bloggers were sentenced to long prison terms and years of house arrest on anti-state charges related to their journalism. Three other bloggers, Truong Duy Nhat, Pham Viet Dao, and Dinh Nhat Uy, were detained on charges of "abusing democratic freedoms," a criminal offense punishable by seven years' imprisonment under the penal code. In October, Uy was given a 15-month suspended prison sentence and one year of house arrest on the charges, the first time a blogger was convicted specifically for using Facebook. Authorities used at least three vague laws to harass and jail journalists. A new decree further restricted online freedoms, barring bloggers from linking to foreign news sites, among other provisions. The law also aimed to make global Internet companies complicit in the government's online crackdown by requiring them to reveal the identity of any of their services' users perceived to be in violation of Vietnamese law.

February 12, 2014 1:29 AM ET

Attacks on the Press

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Europe & Central Asia

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

February 12, 2014 1:28 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Turkey

A Sliver of Hope Emerges for a More Independent Press in Turkey

The Gezi Park protests force some independent-minded journalists to confront the media's unwillingness to take on the government. By Nicole Pope

Attacks on the Press   |   Azerbaijan

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Azerbaijan

As Azerbaijan prepared to assume the 2014 chairmanship of the Council of Europe—the largest European intergovernmental human rights and democracy organization—the authoritarian regime of President Ilham Aliyev shamelessly trampled on press freedom at home. The authorities continued to stifle critical voices, target free expression on the Web, and sentence reporters to lengthy prison terms. A local journalist was barred from leaving the country to pick up his journalism prize in Norway, while dozens of foreign media personnel were declared persona non grata in Azerbaijan. The harassment, including by the government-affiliated press, of investigative journalist Khadija Ismailova went unpunished. Aliyev extended criminal defamation laws to the Internet and tightened funding restrictions for domestic NGOs, including press freedom organizations, despite a domestic and international outcry. In June, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso offered Aliyev public support instead of holding the leader responsible for human rights and press freedom violations in his country. In October, the authoritarian leader was re-elected to his third term after the Central Elections Commission denied registration to opposition candidate Rustam Ibragimbekov.

February 12, 2014 1:26 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Belarus

Attacks on the Press in 2013: Belarus

The authoritarian regime of Aleksandr Lukashenko made a few concessions this year while trying to improve relations with the U.S. and the European Union. Authorities reversed their repressive stance in several high-profile cases, including dropping criminal defamation charges against one journalist and allowing Irina Khalip, a reporter serving a suspended jail term, to travel outside Belarus. The KGB also announced that it would not file charges against a journalist who was accused of complicity in an illegal border crossing in what became known as the "teddy bear case." Critics of the government warned the EU that Lukashenko was not implementing liberal reforms but merely trading "hostages" in exchange for the EU's easing of political and economic sanctions. Reports by a local press freedom group, the Belarusian Association of Journalists, supported the accusations: Authorities continued to harass Khalip, detained independent journalists, and denied accreditation to critical broadcasters and several local journalists. A court declared that a press photo album contained extremist materials and ordered it destroyed. Lukashenko instructed KGB's digital arm, the Operative Analytical Center, to intensify its control over the Web, saying that the media and social networks had the capacity to destabilize the country.

February 12, 2014 1:25 AM ET


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