'2005 a desperately bad year for journalists'
In virtually every region of the world, the media are struggling to uphold their fundamental right, said the IPI report.Updated: Mar 30, 2006 17:09 IST
Vienna-based International Press Institute, a global press watchdog,has said that last year's slayings of 65 journalists and the jailing, harassment and intimidation of scores of others made had 2005 a "desperately bad year".
In its annual World Press Freedom Review, the body warned that the killings, along with death threats and state censorship, were silencing important sources of information in developing countries.
"Each journalist imprisoned andeach journalist killed is one too many," IPI director Johann P Fritz said.
"In virtually every region of the world, the media are engaged in a struggle to uphold their fundamental right to report the news," said the report by IPI, which keeps tabs on press freedom violations in more than 120 countries.
Iraq, where 23 journalists were killed last year, remained the most dangerous country for reporting news, the group said. But killings, threats and restrictions on journalists elsewhere made 2005 "another desperately bad year for the media," said David Dadge, IPI's chief press freedom adviser.
"Journalists are being targeted for the work they're carrying out." Although its report focused heavily on abuses in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe, IPI also was critical of the United States for the 85-day imprisonment of Judith Miller of The New York Times for refusing to identify a confidential source.
"We've lost America as the shining example" of a free press, Fritz said, contending that Europe, particularly Scandinavia, was doing a better job of empowering journalists to report on sensitive issues without restrictions or recriminations.
The Miller case and US restrictions on access to information "send out a message to repressive regimes around the world" that such actions are acceptable, said Michael Kudlak, IPI's coordinator for the Americas.
Self-censorship was a growing problem in the West, IPI said, citing the reluctance of many newspapers, broadcast outlets and Internet sites to publish the Prophet Muhammad cartoons and growing pressure from society to adhere to voluntary codes of conduct.
"There is now a worrying political mind-set that views some of the media's work as damaging to both the war on terror and relations with Islam," Fritz said.
While access to information was most restricted in the Middle East, IPI warned of a "red line of censorship throughout the world." It singled out China, where authorities have censored Web sites, calling the practice especially troubling because the Internet has become a major source of information that many newspapers don't dare publish.
In Africa, IPI said it was concerned over the Ethiopian government's crackdown on independent media and Zimbabwe's repressive legislation making it difficult for journalists to function.
First Published: Mar 30, 2006 17:09 IST