Thursday, May 04, 2006

RP next to Iraq as most lethal for press

RP next to Iraq as most lethal for press -- freedom body

First posted 00:32am (Mla time) May 03, 2006
Agence France-Presse

PARIS -- Last year was the deadliest for journalists in a decade, with 63 reporters and five media aides killed, the French press freedom body Reporters sans Frontieres (Reporters without Borders, RSF) said Tuesday. Iraq, which accounted for 24 of the deaths, was the most dangerous place to work, followed by the Philippines where seven journalists were killed.

An estimated 1,300 reporters were attacked or threatened, the organization said in its annual report, issued to mark the 16th International Press Freedom day on Wednesday.

Not since 1995, "when the Islamist Algerian groups were trying to attack everyone who did not back them," has the toll been so high, RSF said.

So far this year, 16 journalists and six media aides have been killed and 120 journalists and 56 cyber-dissidents are behind bars for having tried to do their job, RSF said.

It observed that almost a third of the world's population lives in countries where there is no press freedom.

In Africa, it said, "impunity is not an unfortunate hazard, it is the rule," pointing to the unpunished murders of Norbert Zongo in 1998 in Burkina Faso and of Deyda Hydara in 2004 in Gambia.

"States also systematically repress the press without having to account to anyone at all," in, for example, Eritrea, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

Latin America is also a "high risk zone": seven journalists and a media aide died there last year.

Cuba remains the world's largest jailer of journalists, second only to China. Colombia is in the grip of a 40-year-old civil war but Mexico overtook it last year as the most deadly country for the press on the continent.

In Peru and Haiti attacks and threats are commonplace. In the United States the principle of confidentiality of sources was "ill-treated" with the jailing of Judith Miller, a reporter with the New York Times.

Asia is ill "with authoritarianism," said RSF.

In Nepal, King Gyanendra symbolized "all the autocratic hatred that some heads of state entertain towards the freedom of the press" in North Korea, Myanmar and China.

At the same time the continent is also the land of democracy, with India filling the role of "Asian giant of press freedom."

Conditions also deteriorated in the states of the former Soviet Union, in particular in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Uzbekistan.

The European Union, in particular Belgium, France, Italy and Poland, saw "a high number of searches and summons of journalists, ordered to hand over to the police the names of their sources."

By contrast the new EU member states had made "spectacular" progress: the Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia are "havens of peace", as are the countries of northern Europe, RSF said.

In North Africa and the Middle East "the freedom and safety of journalists are severely tested," RSF said. With 27 deaths, 24 of them in Iraq, the Middle East was the most dangerous region for the press.

Iran remained the biggest prison for reporters in the area, RSF said.

Finally, said RSF, "everyone is interested by the Internet .. especially dictators". With 130 million web surfers, China was "the first repressive state to realize that the Internet represented a formidable tool of freedom."

Another journalist shot dead

First posted 12:17pm (Mla time) May 03, 2006
Agence France-Presse

UNIDENTIFIED gunmen have shot dead a freelance journalist who also worked for the government's tax collection department in the Philippines, police said on World Press Freedom Day Wednesday.

Nicholas Cervantes, 66, was shot dead on Tuesday by five men just after he left his home in a suburb of the Philippine capital, said Senior Superintendent Ericson Velasquez...

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