Attacks on the Press in 2009

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Attacks on the Press

Attacks on the Press 2009: Preface

In Tehran, journalists faced vague antistate accusations during mass, televised judicial proceedings. (AP) By Fareed Zakaria

Toward the end of his 118-day ordeal inside Tehran’s Evin prison, Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari had a bizarre exchange with his interrogator. Bahari had been held in solitary confinement since his arrest after Iran’s disputed presidential election in June; he had been subjected to near-daily beatings and interrogation sessions that stretched for hours. But his jailers had not been able to prove their accusation that Bahari was a spy for Western intelligence agencies. So they had an ominous-sounding new charge to levy against him: “media espionage.”

February 16, 2010 12:58 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Rwanda, Somalia, Zimbabwe

In African hot spots, journalists forced into exile

Al-Shabaab militants patrol Mogadishu's Bakara Market, home to several media outlets. (Reuters/Feisal Omar)By Tom Rhodes

High numbers of local journalists have fled several African countries in recent years after being assaulted, threatened, or imprisoned, leaving a deep void in professional reporting. The starkest examples are in the Horn of Africa nations of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, where dozens of journalists have been forced into exile. Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and the Gambia have also lost large segments of the local press corps in the face of intimidation and violence.

Attacks on the Press   |   Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, USA, Venezuela

In the Americas, Big Brother is watching reporters

Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez appears at a press conference with military leaders to announce the end of unlawful spying. (AP/Fernando Vergara)By Carlos Lauría

The topic being investigated by two Colombian reporters was explosive enough that it required unusual security. Fearful that the subjects would learn prematurely of the story, the reporters took separate notes, which they did not share and which they later destroyed. They didn’t communicate by telephone or e-mail, and they met only in public locations. They relayed only the barest information to their own sources.
February 16, 2010 12:56 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Afghanistan, Pakistan, USA

As fighting surges, so does danger to press

An Afghan police officer aims his weapon at two photographers covering pre-election violence in Kabul. (AFP/Pedro Ugarte)By Bob Dietz

As the United States redeploys forces to Afghanistan, and the Pakistani military moves into the country’s tribal areas, the media face enormous challenges in covering a multifaceted conflict straddling two volatile countries. Pakistani reporters cannot move freely in areas controlled by militants. International reporters in Afghanistan, at risk from kidnappers and suicide bombers, encounter daunting security challenges. And front-line reporters in both countries face pressure from all sides.

Attacks on the Press   |   Russia

Why a killing in Chechnya is an international issue

Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov confers with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Grozy. (RIA Novosti)By Nina Ognianova

The day before, Natalya Estemirova had seen off two colleagues from Moscow. Yelena Milashina, a reporter with the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and Tanya Lokshina, an advocate with the international group Human Rights Watch, had traveled to Chechnya on separate assignments. Like many visiting journalists and human rights defenders, Milashina and Lokshina had stayed with Estemirova. Her Grozny apartment had become a headquarters for such visitors; Russian and international journalists often made it their first stop. Estemirova was their primary source, consultant, fixer, translator, protector.

Attacks on the Press   |   Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, UAE, Yemen

Human rights coverage spreads, despite government pushback

Reports of Egyptian police torture spark protests in Cairo. (Reuters/Mona Sharaf)By Mohamed Abdel Dayem and Robert Mahoney

The media in the Middle East loved the Intifada. Every detail of Israel’s violations of human rights in the late 1980s in the West Bank and Gaza appeared in the Arabic and Farsi press. The governments that owned or controlled these media outlets loved it, too. When pan-Arab satellite television stations emerged in the 1990s, they looped hours of footage of Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers repressing Palestinians.
February 16, 2010 12:53 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Afghanistan

Attacks on the Press 2009: Afghanistan

Top Developments
• Government tries to curb reporting on Election Day violence.
• Abductions target foreign reporters, endangering local journalists, too.

Key Statistic
20: Years that Parwez Kambakhsh would have spent in jail on an unjust charge. He was freed in August.

Deepening violence, flawed elections, rampant corruption, and faltering development provided plenty of news to cover, but the deteriorating national conditions also raised dangers for local and foreign journalists working in Afghanistan. Roadside bombs claimed the life of a Canadian reporter and injured several other international journalists. A series of kidnappings mainly targeted international reporters, but one captive Afghan journalist was killed during a British military mission that succeeded in rescuing his British-Irish colleague.

February 16, 2010 12:52 AM ET

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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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Attacks on the Press   |   Cuba

Attacks on the Press 2009: Cuba

Top Developments
• Vibrant blogging culture emerges despite severe Internet restrictions.
• Jailed journalists suffer amid inhumane conditions.

Key Statistic
22: Reporters and editors in jail as of December 1.


Cuba was hit hard by the global economic crisis and endured an upheaval in its highest offices, but state-controlled news media delivered superficial and skewed coverage. Human rights conditions, including press freedom, remained at a standstill: Independent journalists faced ongoing harassment, and more than 20 reporters and editors remained in jail. But offering a flicker of hope for freedom of expression on the island, a growing community of independent bloggers maneuvered around legal, economic, and technological limitations to describe everyday experiences and express opinions that challenged the regime’s perspective.

Attacks on the Press   |   Democratic Republic of the Congo

Attacks on the Press 2009: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Top Developments
• RFI removed from FM frequencies; other stations censored.
• Hundreds march in nine provinces to protest ongoing threats, violence.

Key Statistic
3: Female journalists threatened with “a bullet to the head” after focusing their work on women’s issues.


Authorities censored coverage of armed conflict and human rights violations in the mineral-rich eastern Kivu provinces. Insecurity reigned in the volatile region, despite the presence of the world’s largest U.N. peacekeeping force. Tens of thousands of people continued to die every month from conflict, disease, and famine, while human rights groups detailed pervasive rape and sexual violence. The vast Central African nation remained among the region’s riskiest for journalists three years after it transitioned to democracy in historic U.N.-backed elections. Throughout the country, officials harassed and obstructed journalists who criticized local officials.

February 16, 2010 12:40 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Ecuador

Attacks on the Press 2009: Ecuador

Top Developments
• Correa assails news media, and regulators target critical outlets.
• Media legislation could restrict freedom of expression.

Key Statistic
3: Days that regulators ordered Teleamazonas off the air.


Re-elected by a landslide in April, President Rafael Correa intensified his attacks on critical news media, calling them ignorant and deceitful. As Correa used his weekly radio address to assail the press, his administration singled out critical outlets for regulatory action. Legislators were debating media legislation that would restrict freedom of expression, and two journalists were imprisoned during the year on defamation charges.

February 16, 2010 12:39 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Egypt

Attacks on the Press 2009: Egypt

Top Developments
•  Government is among the region’s worst oppressors of online expression.
•  Several editors fined for reporting on the president and other sensitive topics.

Key Statistic
3: Online journalists imprisoned as of December 1, 2009.


Authorities followed familiar tactics to control news media, pursuing politicized court cases, imposing fines, using regulatory tools, and harassing journalists. With Egypt seeing a burgeoning community of journalistic bloggers, authorities moved aggressively to monitor and control online activity. At least three online journalists were jailed when CPJ conducted its annual census of imprisoned journalists on December 1.

February 16, 2010 12:38 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Ethiopia

Attacks on the Press 2009: Ethiopia

Top Developments
• Terrorism law criminalizes coverage of sensitive topics.
• Broadcasting Authority serves as government censor.

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


Ahead of national elections scheduled for May 2010, the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) further curtailed the limited freedom of the country’s small number of independent newspapers. The government enacted harsh legislation that criminalized coverage of vaguely defined “terrorist” activities, and used administrative restrictions, criminal prosecutions, and imprisonments to induce self-censorship. In all, four reporters and editors were being held when CPJ conducted its annual census of imprisoned journalists on December 1.

February 16, 2010 12:37 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Gambia

Attacks on the Press 2009: Gambia

Top Developments
•  Hydara murder unsolved; secrecy surrounds Manneh detention.
•  Domestic, international pressure prompts Jammeh to halt crackdown.

Key Statistic
6: Journalists jailed for sedition after saying president’s remarks on Hydara case were insensitive.


Authorities jailed six journalists after their publications said President Yahya Jammeh had been insensitive in televised remarks about the unsolved 2004 murder of prominent Gambian editor Deyda Hydara. The six, convicted in August on baseless charges of sedition, were sentenced to two years in prison but were freed in September after Jammeh, facing considerable domestic and international pressure, issued pardons.

February 16, 2010 12:36 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Georgia

Attacks on the Press 2009: Georgia

Top Developments
• TV news politicized due to government manipulation.
• Opposition-aligned broadcaster obstructed.

Key Statistic
7: Percent of Internet penetration nationwide.

While no journalists were killed or imprisoned in Georgia in 2009, press freedom in this small South Caucasus nation stagnated due to persistent state manipulation of news media, particularly television broadcasting. In a speech before the U.N. General Assembly in September, President Mikhail Saakashvili boasted of Georgia’s media pluralism, stating that the country has “27 TV stations.” He failed to mention that most stations have little reach and, notably, that his government and its allies have long sought to control television news content, most recently through aggressive efforts to obstruct the cable affiliates of a station aligned with a leading opponent.

February 16, 2010 12:35 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Honduras

Attacks on the Press 2009: Honduras

Top Developments
• Coup damages press freedom, reveals partisan media divide.
• Supporters of both sides in the conflict wage attacks on the press.

Key Statistic
22: Days that Radio Globo and Canal 36 were off the air due to government censorship.


The June coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya, along with the bitter stalemate that ensued, damaged press freedom in Honduras and heightened partisan divisions in the news media. An interim government cracked down on news coverage and withstood intense international pressure until a scheduled November presidential election brought Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo, a conservative businessman, to office. As Lobo pledged reconciliation, Zelaya decried the vote as tainted.

February 16, 2010 12:34 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Iran

Attacks on the Press 2009: Iran

Top Developments
• Dozens of journalists are detained in massive post-election crackdown.
•  Numerous critical newspapers, Web sites censored or shut down.

Key Statistic
23: Journalists imprisoned as of December 1, 2009.


Amid the greatest national political upheaval since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran launched a full-scale assault on the media and the opposition. In mid-June, mass protests erupted in response to official election results showing incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad winning by a large margin against his main opposition challenger, reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi. The government responded with a wide-ranging and cruel campaign to suppress dissent. As protests against perceived electoral fraud spiraled into mass demonstrations, Iranian authorities threw dozens of journalists behind bars (where many were reportedly tortured), shuttered and censored news outlets, and barred foreign journalists from reporting. During the protests and crackdown, blogs and social media sites became front-line news sources. The crackdown increased the level of repression in a regime already hostile toward the press, and followed the months-long imprisonment of an Iranian-American freelance journalist, Roxana Saberi.

Attacks on the Press   |   Iraq

Attacks on the Press 2009: Iraq

Top Developments
•  Fatalities and abductions plummet as security situation improves.
•  Prime minister, others file lawsuits to harass media. Kurdish courts jail six journalists.

Key Statistic
4: Journalists killed in connection to their work, the lowest tally since the war began in 2003.


Four Iraqi journalists were killed because of their work as the press continued to face great challenges and risks. Nevertheless, the death toll dropped to its lowest point since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, and, for the first time in six years, Iraq was not the world’s deadliest nation for journalists. (It was replaced by the Philippines.) No journalists or media workers were reported abducted, reflecting another steep drop from prior years.
February 16, 2010 12:31 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Attacks on the Press 2009: Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Top Developments
• Israel bars international press access to Gaza fighting.
• Fatah, Hamas detain, harass media perceived as biased.

Key Statistic
4: News media buildings in Gaza hit by Israeli airstrikes.


As the year began, the Israeli military waged a ground offensive into the Gaza Strip in response to a series of Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli territory. A massive Israeli air bombardment preceded the ground action. During the monthlong conflict, airstrikes by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) destroyed the headquarters of a Hamas-controlled television station, Al-Aqsa TV, struck at least three other buildings housing news media, and injured several local journalists attempting to cover the assault. At the same time, Israeli authorities largely barred foreign journalists’ access to Gaza with restrictions imposed in early November 2008 and tightened after the start of the Israeli offensive.

February 16, 2010 12:30 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Kazakhstan

Attacks on the Press 2009: Kazakhstan

Top Developments
• Repressive media law takes effect, sets limits online.
• Politicized lawsuits threaten independent newspapers.

Key Statistic
2010: Year that Kazakhstan assumes chairmanship of OSCE.

The authoritarian government of this central Asian nation brazenly defied international standards for freedom of expression even as it prepared to assume chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Vienna-based human rights and security agency. As part of their bid to lead the OSCE in 2010, President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his government pledged to bring the country’s repressive media laws into compliance with global standards. Instead, Nazarbayev signed into law a measure that places expansive new restrictions on Internet expression, requires online service providers to collect client information for authorities, and further extends censorship rules for all media. Authorities jailed critics and filed politicized lawsuits that sought to shut down critical news outlets, but reported no progress in investigating assaults on independent reporters.

February 16, 2010 12:28 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Kyrgyzstan

Attacks on the Press 2009: Kyrgyzstan

Top Developments
• Saipov murder case unsolved and beset by questions.
• Four journalists badly beaten; no arrests made.

Key Statistic
76: Percentage of vote won by Kurmanbek Bakiyev in flawed presidential election.

The press climate deteriorated in this mountainous central Asian nation that once offered promise for democracy and free expression. The government’s erratic investigation into the unsolved 2007 murder of editor Alisher Saipov stained the nation’s law enforcement and press freedom record. At least four critical reporters were brutally attacked, and one fled the country in the face of continuing threats. An independent Russian-language newspaper closed after its staffers received anonymous threats.

February 16, 2010 12:28 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Libya

Attacks on the Press 2009: Libya

Top Developments
•  Regime pursues defamation cases in Morocco and other countries.
•  Qaddafi nationalizes the nation’s sole private television station.

Key Statistic
3: Moroccan newspaper ordered to pay damages for “injuring the dignity” of Col. Muammar Qaddafi.


Col. Muammar Qaddafi marked in September the 40th anniversary of the coup that brought him to power and led to the eradication of human rights and the assassination and enforced disappearance of hundreds of critics, including journalists. The government has used softer tactics of repression in recent years in keeping with its efforts to rehabilitate Qaddafi’s international image, but it has maintained a tight grip on the news media.

February 16, 2010 12:28 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Madagascar

Attacks on the Press 2009: Madagascar

Top Developments
• Rival leaders use media empires to pursue political goals.
• Partisan attacks target journalists, news outlets.

Key Statistic
1: Journalist killed in 2009, the first Malagasy media fatality ever recorded by CPJ.


Malagasy journalists faced censorship, threats, and arrest as former president Marc Ravalomanana and new head of state Andry Rajoelina used their partisan media empires in a struggle for control of this Indian Ocean island nation. One journalist was killed in the midst of violent unrest.

February 16, 2010 12:28 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Mexico

Attacks on the Press 2009: Mexico

Top Developments
• Amid threats and attacks, self-censorship becomes more pervasive.
• Congress stalls on reforms to combat violence against the press.

Key Statistic
9: Journalists missing since 2005. Most had covered crime and corruption.


The deepening influence of organized crime and the government’s inability to curb worsening violence left the news media wide open to attack. In the last 10 years alone, CPJ research shows, 32 editors and reporters have been killed, at least 11 in direct reprisal for their work. Nine more journalists have disappeared since 2005. Most of those targeted had covered organized crime, drug trafficking, or government corruption—topics that journalists say they increasingly avoid in fear of reprisal. Reforms that would impose special penalties for attacks on the press and give the federal government broad authority to prosecute crimes against free expression were stalled in Congress.

Attacks on the Press   |   Morocco

Attacks on the Press 2009: Morocco

Top Developments
• Authorities censor, jail journalists to silence coverage of the royal family.
• Politicized courts issue heavy defamation awards.

Key Statistic
100,000: Copies of two weeklies destroyed by authorities because they carried a poll about the king.


As King Mohammed VI marked his first decade on the Alawite throne, his government moved aggressively to censor coverage of the royal family and silence other critical news reporting, fueling deep concern about the future of independent journalism in this North African nation.

February 16, 2010 12:26 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Nicaragua

Attacks on the Press 2009: Nicaragua

Top Developments
• Ortega administration marginalizes private media.
• Authorities use legal harassment, smears against critics.

Key Statistic
0: Number of press conferences held by Ortega since taking office.


Three decades after a revolution swept the Sandinistas into power, the government of President Daniel Ortega still cast private media as enemies and moved forcefully to curtail their influence. Ortega—who led the 1979 uprising against the Somoza dictatorship and reclaimed the presidency in 2006 elections—employed a range of tactics to marginalize the press, including legal persecution, smear campaigns to discredit adversaries, and manipulation of state advertising to punish critical outlets.

February 16, 2010 12:24 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Nepal

Attacks on the Press 2009: Nepal

Top Developments
• Government fails to investigate press freedom abuses.
• Reporter slain after covering Maoist land seizures.

Key Statistic
8th: Ranking on CPJ Impunity Index, making it one of world’s worst for press.

Nepal’s news media entered 2009 in a state of crisis. Attacks on the press had escalated in late 2008 amid a climate of impunity. The Federation of Nepali Journalists (FNJ), a local press freedom group, led weeklong, nationwide demonstrations to raise awareness about the deteriorating environment. On December 28, 2008, Maoist leaders signed a 10-point agreement to address the lawless situation. Clauses included a promise to create a governmental bureau to investigate press freedom violations, local news reports said.

February 16, 2010 12:24 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Niger

Attacks on the Press 2009: Niger

Top Developments
• Tandja tightens grip on power, media through constitutional changes.
• Journalists reporting on corruption face government reprisals.

Key Statistic
3: Years beyond his elected term that Tandja can serve, according to a constitutional change.


In an audacious bid to maintain power, President Mamadou Tandja pushed through constitutional amendments repealing presidential term limits and tightening his control of the state media regulatory agency. Facing heavy criticism in the run-up to an August referendum on the constitutional changes, the Tandja administration silenced dissent by imprisoning critics, intimidating news media, and issuing an emergency decree dissolving both the National Assembly and the Constitutional Court. Official results showed that the amendments passed with 92 percent approval, but opposition politicians and their supporters had boycotted the vote, which they called a mockery of the constitution.

February 16, 2010 12:23 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Nigeria

Attacks on the Press 2009: Nigeria

Top Developments
• Local operatives of the ruling PDP assault journalists with impunity.
• Editor slain at his home outside Lagos. Wife pledges to continue his work.

Key Statistic
21: National dailies, a number reflecting Nigeria’s robust media climate.


With 21 national dailies, 12 television stations, and several emerging online news sources, Nigeria continued to boast one of the most vibrant news media cultures on the continent. But a series of attacks fanned fears in the press corps and prompted self-censorship.

February 16, 2010 12:22 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   North Korea

Attacks on the Press 2009: North Korea

Top Developments
• Two U.S. journalists held for five months after crossing border.
• Citizen reporters begin to smuggle news out of the country.

Key Statistic
1st: Ranking on CPJ’s list of Most Censored Nations.

During a diplomatic standoff that lasted almost five months, two American journalists from San Francisco-based Current TV were arrested, tried, pardoned, and released. Charged with illegally crossing the border from China on March 17, they had been sentenced to 20 years of “reform through hard labor” after a closed-door trial, according to the official Korea Central News Agency.

February 16, 2010 12:21 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Pakistan

Attacks on the Press 2009: Pakistan

Top Developments
• Press has very limited access during two military offensives.
• Reporters face attacks, threats from all sides. Four are killed.

Key Statistic
6: Homes of journalists destroyed by militants in retaliatory attacks.

As Pakistan’s military launched two major offensives within its borders, officials pressured news media to report favorably on the conflicts while the Taliban and other militants threatened and attacked critical reporters. Reporters for Urdu- and Pashto-language news outlets came under the greatest pressure because of their wider influence among Pakistanis. Journalists who opted to embed with the military said they were forced to comply with heavy-handed restrictions on what they were allowed to see and report.

February 16, 2010 12:20 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Philippines

Attacks on the Press 2009: Philippines

Top Developments
• Maguindanao massacre underscores deep-seated climate of impunity.
• Local and international groups mobilize to offer aid, seek justice.

Key Statistic
29: Journalists slain in a politically motivated ambush, the single deadliest event ever recorded by CPJ.

In the deadliest event for the press ever recorded by CPJ, 29 journalists and two media support workers were ambushed and brutally slain on November 23 as they traveled in Maguindanao province with a convoy of people who intended to file gubernatorial candidacy papers for a local politician. In all, 57 people were killed in a shocking display of barbarism apparently motivated by political clan rivalries. The bodies were dumped in mass graves in a remote clearing in the town of Ampatuan.

Attacks on the Press   |   Russia

Attacks on the Press 2009: Russia

Top Developments
• International community intensifies pressure to halt impunity.
• Authorities restart investigations into Klebnikov, Politkovskaya murders.

Key Statistic
19: Journalists murdered in retaliation for their work since 2000. Murder convictions have been won in one case.

After a deadly decade for the press, the tone set by the Kremlin appeared to have changed. President Dmitry Medvedev said in July that justice in journalist murders is important “to honor the people who died while defending our legal system, defending regular people, and to educate an entire new generation of citizens.” International attention intensified, too, as the European Parliament, top U.S. officials, and the U.N. Human Rights Committee condemned ongoing and unpunished attacks on journalists.

Attacks on the Press   |   Somalia

Attacks on the Press 2009: Somalia

Top Developments
• Al-Shabaab terrorizes media through violence, threats, censorship.
• Many local journalists flee into exile, leaving a void in coverage.

Key Statistic
9: Journalists killed in direct relation to their work in 2009.


Somalia was among the world’s deadliest countries in 2009, surpassing violent hot spots such as Iraq and Pakistan. As conflict continued between the weak Transitional Federal Government and multiple insurgent groups, nine journalists were killed in direct connection to their work, seven of them in the volatile capital, Mogadishu. An exodus of local journalists continued throughout the year, and few international journalists dared travel into the country for firsthand reporting, according to CPJ research. As a result, the amount and quality of news coverage of Somalia’s political and humanitarian crisis suffered greatly, CPJ found.

February 16, 2010 12:16 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Sri Lanka

Attacks on the Press 2009: Sri Lanka

Top Developments
• Editor murdered, broadcaster bombed, reporters assaulted.
• Columnist convicted of terrorism for his writing.

Key Statistic
0: Number of convictions in 10 journalist murders since 1992.

On May 19, the government formally declared a victory in its 26-year civil war with the secessionist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which had claimed territory for an ethnic Tamil homeland. Victory came at a high price for the press. Escalating attacks on independent journalists coincided with the government’s 2006 decision to pursue an all-out military victory, CPJ found in a February special report, “Failure to Investigate.” Ethnic Tamil journalists seen by the government as supporting independence had long been under murderous assault, but physical and verbal attacks on Sinhalese and Muslim journalists critical of the government’s military operations began accelerating in 2006 as well. These attacks—which in 2009 included a murder, a bombing, and several assaults—occurred with complete impunity.

Attacks on the Press   |   Sudan

Attacks on the Press 2009: Sudan

Top Developments
•  Government continues to impose vast censorship.
•  New press law falls short of international standards.

Key Statistic
9: Men executed in editor’s murder. Observers call it a miscarriage of justice.


Sudanese journalists worked amid political uncertainty and severe restrictions. Pervasive official censorship restricted journalists from closely reporting on the tumultuous events of 2009: The International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, sporadic fighting continued in the devastated region of Darfur, and a spike in ethnic violence in South Sudan sparked fears of renewed warfare. Security agents prevented coverage of topics deemed to be sensitive, including Darfur, the ICC, human rights issues, official corruption, the expulsion of aid agencies, and state censorship itself. The legislature passed a stringent new press law, dashing hopes that the repressive 2004 press law would be replaced with legislation up to international standards. Though the government announced an end to prior censorship in September, editors were unconvinced this would lead to significant change. Many local journalists feared that official regulations and widespread self-censorship could stifle hopes for a free and fair campaign in the lead-up to historic national elections scheduled for 2010.

February 16, 2010 12:14 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Thailand

Attacks on the Press 2009: Thailand

Top Developments
• Amid partisan conflict, media owner is target of failed assassination.
• Heavily used lese majeste laws criminalize criticism of royal family.

Key Statistic
2,000: Web sites blocked by government for violating lese majeste laws.

Thai media were caught in the middle of a political conflict that entered its fourth year of destabilizing antigovernment street demonstrations and tough government responses. Both sides in the conflict—supporters and opponents of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra—threatened journalists, some of whom were openly aligned to factions taking part in the protest movements.

February 16, 2010 12:13 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Tunisia

Attacks on the Press 2009: Tunisia

Top Developments
• Government engineers ouster of independent journalist union leaders.
• Two journalists are jailed in retaliation for critical reporting.

Key Statistic
97: Percentage of newspaper campaign coverage that was devoted to President Ben Ali.


President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali was re-elected to a fifth term with 90 percent of the vote amid severe restrictions on independent reporting. Ben Ali’s government went after the country’s journalist union, bringing down its democratically elected board, while his police bullied and harassed critical reporters. Two journalists, one of them a leading critic of the president, were in jail in late year.

Attacks on the Press   |   Uganda

Attacks on the Press 2009: Uganda

Top Developments
• Reporters attacked, harassed during Kampala unrest.
• Criminal cases pile up as high court considers constitutional challenge.

Key Statistic
22: Criminal cases pending against Andrew Mwenda, a top political editor.


Violent protests broke out in Kampala in September when security forces blocked leaders of the traditional kingdom of the Baganda, Uganda’s largest ethnic group, from visiting Kayunga district for a planned rally, according to local news reports. More than 25 people were killed and 846 people arrested in two days of clashes that underscored political tensions between the government and the kingdom, according to official figures reported in the press.

February 16, 2010 12:11 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Ukraine

Attacks on the Press 2009: Ukraine

Top Developments
• Broadcast media face strong political pressure.
• Ex-Interior Ministry official arrested in Gongadze murder.

Key Statistic
5: Years since the Orange Revolution. Optimism has since dimmed.

A deep recession, tensions with neighboring Russia, and a coming presidential election placed greater stress on the country’s already weak and fractured political leadership. While the media remained freer and more pluralistic than in most post-Soviet countries, journalists struggled to report on widespread government corruption and other abuses. A chaotic and sometimes dangerous environment for journalists increased the prevalence of self-censorship.

February 16, 2010 12:10 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   USA

Attacks on the Press 2009: United States

Top Developments
• Authorities hold Iraqi journalist without charge or due process.
• Obama, Congress send encouraging messages on press freedom

Key Statistic
10: Days that U.S. immigration officials detained a VOA reporter during a visa dispute.


The administration made encouraging statements in support of press freedom—including remarks by President Barack Obama on World Press Freedom Day—but the U.S. military continued to jail one overseas journalist without charge or due process. U.S. forces in Iraq were holding Ibrahim Jassam, a freelance photojournalist working for Reuters, despite a local court order that he be released. The military asserted that Jassam posed a threat, but it disclosed no evidence. In September, on the anniversary of Jassam’s 2008 detention, CPJ called on U.S. military forces to either charge or release the journalist.

February 16, 2010 12:09 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Uzbekistan

Attacks on the Press 2009: Uzbekistan

Top Developments
• Nation is a persistent jailer of journalists.
• Security agents enforce rigid censorship.

Key Statistic
4: Years EU human rights sanctions were in place before being lifted in 2009.

President Islam Karimov’s authoritarian government held at least seven journalists in prison, retaining its notorious distinction as the region’s leading jailer of journalists. Authorities harassed independent journalists, blocked critical news Web sites, and retained their tight grip on traditional media. Lawyers who defended journalists found themselves the targets of state retaliation as the country’s judicial system grew more punitive. While authorities kept a stranglehold on free expression at home, Uzbek diplomats insisted that their country’s actions were consistent with democratic principles.

February 16, 2010 12:08 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Venezuela

Attacks on the Press 2009: Venezuela

Top Developments
• Regulators strip licenses from critical broadcasters.
• Government wages politicized investigation into Globovisión.

Key Statistic
34: Private radio and television stations pulled from the air.


After scoring a major victory in a February referendum that granted indefinite presidential re-election, President Hugo Chávez Frías and his government intensified their years-long crackdown on the private media. The government’s regulatory body took unprecedented steps to target critical broadcasters. Arbitrary decisions stripped private radio stations of their licenses, while a series of investigations threatened to shut down Venezuela’s remaining critical television broadcaster, Globovisión. In the country’s interior, an outspoken government critic was jailed, and an investigative reporter was slain in direct reprisal for his work.

February 16, 2010 12:07 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Vietnam

Attacks on the Press 2009: Vietnam

Top Developments
• Bloggers face regular harassment and detention.
• Government conducts extensive online censorship.

Key Statistic
300: Number of cybercafés outfitted with software tracking visits to banned Web sites.

While maintaining its tight grip on traditional news media, the government intensified its already significant controls over the Internet with new restrictions on content and heightened monitoring of the blogs that have emerged as an alternative source of news and commentary. Internet penetration continued to surge, with an estimated 22 million users among the country’s approximately 89 million people, according to Ministry of Information and Telecommunications statistics.

February 16, 2010 12:06 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Yemen

Attacks on the Press 2009: Yemen

Top Developments
• Government censors newspapers, establishes new press court.
• Two journalists jailed without charge; one missing after being abducted.

Key Statistic
8: Newspapers banned for periods beginning in May due to their coverage of unrest in the south.


Continuing a steady years-long decline, Yemen became one of the most repressive countries in the region for the press. Journalists covering clashes in the country’s restive south faced severe restrictions. Government repression reached its peak in May, when at least eight newspapers that had covered violent protests were barred from distribution, several papers faced criminal charges, and one paper came under direct attack from state security agents. Government officials established a special court for perceived news media offenses.

February 16, 2010 12:05 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Zambia

Attacks on the Press 2009: Zambia

Top Developments
• Ruling party supporters behind assaults against journalists.
• Government wages politicized prosecutions against The Post.

Key Statistic
400: Estimated turnout at a demonstration protesting anti-press attacks.


Press freedom deteriorated in the first full year of Rupiah Banda’s presidency. Tensions mounted between Banda’s government and the leading independent daily The Post. Politicized criminal charges were leveled at Post staff members concerning the circulation of photos that Banda labeled “obscene” but others saw as a shocking look at a government health-care problem. Ruling party supporters were tied to a series of attacks against The Post and other journalists.

February 16, 2010 12:04 AM ET

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Attacks on the Press   |   Zimbabwe

Attacks on the Press 2009: Zimbabwe

Top Developments
• Government fails to implement reforms allowing private media to operate.
• Two international broadcasters allowed to resume operation.

Key Statistic
$32,000: Application and accreditation fees imposed on international journalists.


In a measure of the deplorable state of press freedom in Zimbabwe, a year marked by harassment and obstruction was considered a small step forward. “Journalists continue to be followed, detained, and abducted; phones and e-mail messages are intercepted; the output of news from government reminds one of Radio Moscow during the Soviet era,” Geoff Hill, exiled Zimbabwean journalist and author, told CPJ.

February 16, 2010 12:03 AM ET

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