Monday, January 10, 2011

Top 10 press freedom stories of 2010

Haiti's earthquake last year tops IPI's list of the 10 press freedom stories of 2010Haiti's earthquake last year tops IPI's list of the 10 press freedom stories of 2010

5 January 2011

IPI's top 10 press freedom stories of 2010

The year 2010 ushered in a number of major setbacks for the media across the globe, says the International Press Institute (IPI), from the numerous journalists murdered in Pakistan and Honduras to the oppressive media laws passed in South Africa. But what did IPI consider to be the number one press freedom event of 2010?

The 12 January earthquake in Haiti claimed nearly 300,000 lives, including those of 30 journalists, and virtually destroyed the country's media industry. A year later, many journalists continue to be out of work and others are striving to produce news about the earthquake's impact as well as the effects of the resulting cholera outbreak. For those reasons the earthquake tops IPI's press freedom events of the year.

Just across the way was IPI's number two story: Cuba's release of more than 50 jailed dissidents, including 29 journalists, many of them jailed in the "Black Spring" of 2003. Among those journalists released was Omar Rodriguez Saludes for whom IPI ran a "Justice Denied" campaign over the past several years. Saludes, like the other released prisoners, now lives in Spain.

Number three on the list was the nine journalists murdered in Honduras, and the fact that in not a single case was anyone convicted of the slayings.

At least 44 journalists killed for their work in 2010, say IFEX members

"When journalists are targeted, the truth dies" - a banner from Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)

At least 44 journalists killed for their work in 2010, say IFEX members


Radio reporter and cable news presenter Henry Suazo was gunned down on 28 December in front of his home in La Masica, Honduras, for reasons not yet known, reports the Comité por la Libre Expresión (C-Libre). His murder - the 10th journalist to be killed in Honduras this year - confirms Honduras as one of 2010's deadliest countries for the press, alongside Pakistan, Mexico and Iraq. According to IFEX members, between 44 and 97 journalists and media workers were killed in 2010 in connection with their work or while on the job.

Before Suazo's death, an investigation by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) found that Honduran authorities had been careless and inattentive in investigating a series of journalists' murders. For instance, in the March murder of television anchor Nahúm Palacios Arteaga, "Honduran authorities conducted virtually no investigation in the aftermath, taking no photographs and collecting no evidence at the crime scene," said CPJ. Only months later, once the case had attracted international attention, did authorities exhume the body to conduct an autopsy.

CPJ records 44 journalists killed in direct connection to their work; in crossfire; or while carrying out a dangerous assignment in 2010. CPJ is investigating another 31 journalist deaths last year, including Suazo's, to determine whether they were work-related.

In its annual report, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) counts at least 57 journalists killed in the line of duty - a 25 percent decrease from 2009, when 32 journalists and media workers in the Philippines were massacred while travelling in an election convoy. Journalists were murdered in 25 countries - the largest number of places since RSF began keeping tallies on journalist murders.

RSF also notes a major increase in the kidnapping of journalists - 51 in 2010 (compared to 29 in 2008 and 33 in 2009).

"Journalists are turning into bargaining chips. Kidnappers take hostages in order to finance their criminal activities, make governments comply with their demands, and send a message to the public. Abduction provides them with a form of publicity," said RSF. According to RSF, journalists were particularly exposed to this kind of risk in Afghanistan and Nigeria in 2010.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which compiles figures in cooperation with the International News Safety Institute (INSI), says that 97 journalists and media workers were killed last year. IFJ includes all journalists and media personnel killed because of their work, as well as those killed in accidents while on assignment or on their way to or from a story.

The International Press Institute (IPI) records 66 journalists and media staff in its Death Watch - those who were deliberately targeted because of their investigative reporting or because they were journalists, or because they were caught in the crossfire while covering dangerous assignments.

According to IPI, the most dangerous place in 2010 for journalists was Mexico, with 12 journalists and media workers killed - many at the hands of drug cartels.

Meanwhile, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), which compiles figures from the reports of all IFEX members, says in its annual review that 87 journalists in 2010 were killed or targeted in the line of duty because of their reporting or affiliation with a news organisation.

Despite the range in numbers, all agree that Pakistan was one of the world's most dangerous countries for the press. At least eight journalists were killed for doing their job, with six of them killed in suicide attacks or crossfire during militant strikes, according to CPJ.

"The deaths of at least eight journalists in Pakistan are a symptom of the pervasive violence that grips the country, much of it spilling over from neighbouring Afghanistan," said CPJ. "For many years, journalists in Pakistan have been murdered by militants and abducted by the government. But with the rise in suicide attacks, the greatest risk is simply covering the news. Journalists must put their lives on the line to cover a political rally, a street demonstration, or virtually any major public event."

Rounding up the top four most murderous countries for the media were Iraq, Honduras and Mexico. According to CJFE, the countries share common traits: their governments have "failed utterly to protect the safety of journalists" and killers of journalists are not being brought to justice.

Against this background, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) is hoping to send a message throughout the Western Hemisphere that 2011 is the "Freedom of Expression Year" - and will be focusing on raising public awareness about violence against the media, such as through its impunity campaign to "Lend your voice for those who have no voice".

Meanwhile, INSI is pledging to "support those who most need it" - providing free safety training to journalists overseas, updating its safety advice for news media, and working with some of the world's leading journalism schools to create a safety course for journalism students. It is also creating a database of all physical attacks against the news media around the world.

Three Depressed terrorists

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