Report: Global Repression of Journalists Hits 15-Year High

Journalists reporting on protests and civil unrest face a rising threat of detention. Here, Israeli soldiers arrest a Palestinian journalist. (Reuters)

Report: Global Repression of Journalists Hits 15-Year High

Pakistan remained the deadliest country for journalists for a second year in a row, while across the world coverage of political unrest proved unusually dangerous last year, according to 'Attacks on the Press - 2011,' a report released today by the Committee to Protect Journalists. CPJ's analysis found dangerous assignments such as the coverage of street protests reached their highest level on record. Photographers and camera operators, often the most vulnerable during violent unrest, died at rates more than twice the historical average.

According to the report, at least 46 journalists were killed around the world in direct relation to their work in 2011. Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, and Mexico ranked highest worldwide for journalism-related fatalities. The global tally is consistent with the toll recorded in 2010, when 44 journalists died in connection with their work. CPJ is investigating another 35 deaths in 2011 to determine whether they were work-related.

Inter Press Service reports:

The number of journalists imprisoned worldwide reached a 15-year high in 2011, driven by repressive states seeking to choke the flow of information.

Repressive governments, militants and criminal groups across the globe are leveraging both new and traditional tactics to control information, according to "Attacks on the Press", a yearly survey released today by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Their aim is to obscure wrongdoing, silence dissent and reduce citizens' power, the report also said.

CPJ had identified 179 writers, editors and photojournalists behind bars on December 1, 2012, up 34 from 2010, according to CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

With 42 journalists in jail, Iran had the most imprisoned journalists for the second consecutive year. Next was Eritrea with 28, followed by China (27), Burma (12) and Vietnam (9).

"In Iran the situation has worsened with continuous media repression this month (February) following ten new arrests of journalists in January documented by CPJ," Simon told IPS.

"The government has also restricted adversarial reporting by using sophisticated technology to block websites," he said, by "jamming satellite signals and banning publications". In the Americas, although authorities continue to detain journalists on a short-term basis, not a single journalist was in jail for work-related reasons on December 1, 2012.

Key regional trends identified by CPJ include:

Middle East and North Africa:

Amid upheaval, the success or failure of popular uprisings rests with control of the national narrative. Journalists therefore find themselves the targets of new and evolving threats, with prolonged politicized trials diminishing while assaults and fatalities rise. While citizen-generated footage gives traditional media political cover to address sensitive subjects, authorities and their surrogates are making equally astute use of new technology to disseminate their messages, silence, and intimidate. Iran's revolving-door prison policy drives many journalists into exile.


As China becomes a key trading partner and expands its influence in the region, investigative reporting by African media is being portrayed by some governments as detrimental to economic development. Repression is happening in the form of injunctions, amendments to laws, and seizure of footage. The watchdog role of a free press is being publicly tarnished and critical reporting deemed anti-patriotic. Over the past 10 years, at least 301 African journalists have fled their homelands in fear of violence and imprisonment -- more than double the number of exiles from any other region.


The use of state-owned media to advance political goals has become a notorious trend in politically polarized countries in Latin America. In addition to delivering political propaganda, these outlets are serving as platforms for smear campaigns against critics, including journalists. Elected leaders have invested in large multimedia holdings, building impressive press conglomerates that further political agendas and exclude or vilify critical voices. Meanwhile, in Mexico, anti-press violence continues to spread, unpunished. As the Calderon presidency winds down, a mechanism to protect journalists remains an empty promise and the investigation of journalist murders remains in the hands of often corrupt state authorities.


Censorship in Asia is multifaceted, from official repression to violence that is regularly met with impunity. Since 1992, the region has seen 156 unsolved journalist murders. For the past two years, Pakistan has been the deadliest country in the world for journalists, leading many into hiding or exile. In the Philippines, a trial seeking justice for 32 journalists and media workers murdered in 2010 has stalled, a testament to the government's inability to deliver due judicial process and the impunity plaguing the region. Meanwhile, in China -- despite vibrant debates on microblogs that give mainstream media the pulse of grassroots anger -- authorities keep a tight grip on information with imprisonment, secret detentions, and Internet blocking.

Europe and Central Asia:

The gap between countries that uphold press freedom as a core value and those that curb a critical, inquisitive press is widening. Within the EU, Hungary has set a dangerous precedent by adopting a new media law and constitution that challenge fundamental European values. Regionally, the protection of sources has become a major battleground, as some governments are eager to defang investigative journalism. Street protests have proven risky, while populist and nationalistic movements along with criminal organizations intimidate the press. In its external relations, the EU neglects press freedom in dialogue with powerful countries such as China and Russia, where imprisonment and impunity in journalist killings, respectively, remain the norm.


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