Attacks on the Press in 2009

Attacks on the Press   |   Argentina

Attacks on the Press 2009: Argentina

Top Developments
• New broadcast law sparks contentious debate, raises concerns.
• In major victory, criminal defamation laws are repealed.

Key Statistic
200: Tax agents who raided Clarín in apparent reprisal for the newspaper’s coverage.


Press freedom advocates won two important victories as congress decriminalized defamation, and a federal court issued a ruling that, while still under appeal, could lead to the dismantling of the government’s manipulative distribution of official advertising. But those advances were obscured by a contentious debate over broadcast regulatory legislation backed by the government of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. The measure, signed into law in October and immediately challenged in court, apportioned broadcast frequencies among private, government, and nonprofit outlets, while creating a new regulatory body.

February 16, 2010 12:51 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Armenia

Attacks on the Press 2009: Armenia

Top Developments
• Broadcast media controlled by government or its allies.
• Numerous assaults reported, but police do little.

Key Statistic
12: Broadcast license applications filed by independent outlet A1+. None approved.

The nation remained polarized by the fraud-marred 2008 presidential election won by Serzh Sargsyan, with large public protests and violent government reprisals continuing well into 2009. The global economic crisis caused layoffs in the mining industry and a decline in remittances from Russia, heightening public frustrations. The government sought to suppress critical debate over these issues, and journalists faced intolerance, hostility, and violence.

February 16, 2010 12:50 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Azerbaijan

Attacks on the Press 2009: Azerbaijan

Top Developments
• Critical reporters jailed for defamation, “hooliganism.”
• CPJ honors imprisoned editor Eynulla Fatullayev.

Key Statistic
68: Novruzali Mamedov’s age when he died in prison after being denied medical care.

Using imprisonment as a crude form of censorship, the authoritarian government of President Ilham Aliyev remained one of the region’s worst jailers of journalists. Authorities allowed one editor to die in state custody after failing to provide adequate medical care and ignoring domestic and international pleas for treatment.

Attacks on the Press   |   Bahrain

Attacks on the Press 2009: Bahrain

Top Developments
• Authorities block Web sites critical of the government, the king, and Islam.
• Officials pursue politicized court complaints against critical reporters.

Key Statistic
1,040: Web sites that the Ministry of Information ordered censored in September.


Bahrain has made significant strides in improving its human rights record since political reforms enacted in 2001, particularly concerning universal suffrage and the dismantlement of an abusive state security court system. But some reforms have yet to be fully realized, among them improving political representation for the marginalized Shiite majority and ensuring more equitable standing for women in family courts. The press freedom climate, which had improved with the establishment of seven independent newspapers in the wake of the 2001 reforms, has undergone a gradual deterioration over the past several years. That decline accelerated in 2009 as the government blocked domestic access to more than 1,000 Web sites and pursued politicized court complaints against critical journalists.

February 16, 2010 12:48 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Belarus

Attacks on the Press 2009: Belarus

Top Developments
• Restrictive law requires media obtain government registration.
• Administration eases some repressive tactics to gain EU favor.

Key Statistic
13: Independent papers blacklisted by state-controlled distributors.

Authorities eased their heavy-handed tactics of repression for much of the year even as a restrictive new media law took effect. The change in tone coincided with the European Union’s suspension of a three-year-old travel ban against President Aleksandr Lukashenko and 35 top officials that was first imposed in response to the regime’s treatment of opposition activists and journalists.

February 16, 2010 12:47 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Brazil

Attacks on the Press 2009: Brazil

Top Developments
• Judges in defamation cases issue sweeping censorship orders.
• Ex-police officers convicted in abduction, torture of O Dia journalists.

Key Statistic
44: Defamation lawsuits filed by a single congressman. Complaints target dozens of journalists for critical coverage.


In a major advance for press freedom, Brazil’s highest court struck down a repressive 1967 law that criminalized broad swaths of sensitive reporting and set harsh potential penalties. But defamation laws remained a concern as penal code provisions allowed prison penalties for libel and slander. And a flood of civil defamation cases continued unabated, in some cases leading lower courts to issue censorship orders that barred news media from covering public issues, including alleged corruption involving government officials and business people.

February 16, 2010 12:46 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Burma

Attacks on the Press 2009: Burma

Top Developments
• Some political prisoners freed, but eight journalists still held.
• Government censors all print publications, controls broadcasters.

Key Statistic
1st: Ranking on CPJ's Worst Countries to Be a Blogger.

Throughout the year, Burma's ruling junta emphasized its plans to move toward multiparty democracy after decades of military rule, a long-promised transition that dissidents and others viewed as a sham to further consolidate the military's power. As the country geared up for general elections in 2010--the first since the military annulled the 1990 elections, which were won overwhelmingly by the political opposition--authorities maintained strict censorship over the local news media and held at least nine journalists behind bars.

February 16, 2010 12:45 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   China

Attacks on the Press 2009: China

Top Developments
• More access for foreign reporters, tighter rules for local assistants.
• As online use grows, government censors sites, jails critics.

Key Statistic
24: Journalists jailed as of December 1, 2009.

While China’s ruling communist party celebrated 60 years in power in 2009, its critics commemorated antigovernment movements in Tibet in 1949 and Tiananmen Square in 1989. Government agencies used a security apparatus strengthened for the 2008 Olympics to restrict dissenting voices during all three landmark anniversaries.

February 16, 2010 12:44 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Colombia

Attacks on the Press 2009: Colombia

Top Developments
• Provincial journalists face threats from all sides in civil conflict.
• Convictions gained in one journalist murder; progress reported in other cases.

Key Statistic
2003: Year that national intelligence agents began spying on journalists and other critics.


The strained relationship between the government and the Bogotá-based independent press worsened after news media revealed that the national intelligence agency had been spying on leading critics, including journalists. The press continued to be caught in the middle of the ongoing civil conflict as officials made loaded accusations and far-right paramilitary and leftist guerrilla groups terrorized provincial reporters. In an important step in the fight against impunity, a court convicted the masterminds in a 2003 journalist killing. While CPJ research has shown a gradual decline in journalist murders over the last five years, one reporter was slain in reprisal for his work in 2009.

February 16, 2010 12:43 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Croatia

Attacks on the Press 2009: Croatia

Top Developments
• Government makes progress on reforms, but press freedom lags.
• Ruling HDZ gains influence with some media outlets.

Key Statistic
8: People indicted in a car bombing that killed two media executives.

Croatia’s efforts to join the European Union by 2011 did not yield major improvements in press freedom. While the EU said the government had made “substantial progress” on several issues—including the resolution of border disputes, the institution of refugee property rights, and improved cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia—some journalists feared the country was sliding back toward the lawless 1990s, when the ruling nationalist HDZ party suppressed independent news reporting. Police remained inconsistent in investigating attacks against journalists, several of whom faced threats after reporting on government corruption.

February 16, 2010 12:42 AM ET

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2009

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