Attacks on the Press in 2011

Attacks on the Press   |   Iraq

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Iraq

Five journalists and a media worker were killed as Iraq maintained its position as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. In August, the government adopted a law meant to offer journalists more protection, although its vague provisions did little initially to improve conditions. As demonstrations for economic and political reform spread with the Arab uprisings, journalists were consistently targeted for their coverage. Anti-riot police attacked, detained, and assaulted journalists covering protests. In their attempt to restrict coverage of the unrest, police raided news stations and press freedom groups, destroyed equipment, and arrested journalists. In Iraqi Kurdistan, authorities used aggression and intimidation to restrict journalists' coverage of violent clashes between security forces and protesters. Gunmen raided and destroyed equipment of an independent TV station and a radio station in Sulaymaniyah. Three journalists were fired upon in separate episodes in March, while two journalists were injured covering clashes in Sulaymaniyah in April. Prominent Iraqi Kurdish journalist Asos Hardi was badly beaten by an unidentified assailant.

February 21, 2012 12:03 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Iran

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Iran

Two years after a contested presidential election, Tehran continued to use the mass imprisonment of journalists to silence dissent and quash critical news coverage. Imprisoned journalists suffered greatly amid the crowded and unsanitary conditions of notorious prisons such as Rajaee Shah and Evin. The health of many detainees severely deteriorated, while numerous others suffered abuse at the hands of prison guards. The detainees also faced a battery of punitive measures, from the denial of family visits to placement in solitary confinement. Authorities continued a practice of freeing some prisoners on furloughs while making new arrests. Six-figure bonds were often posted by the furloughed journalists who faced immense political pressure to falsely implicate their colleagues in crimes. While some large international news organizations maintained a presence in Tehran, their journalists could not move or report freely, particularly outside the capital. Politically sensitive topics such as the country's nuclear program or its plan to eliminate subsidies were largely off-limits to local and international reporters. The government also restricted adversarial reporting by using sophisticated technology to block websites, jamming satellite signals, and banning publications.

February 21, 2012 12:02 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   France

Attacks on the Press in 2011: France

France’s press freedom record continued a downward slide, in large part because authorities attempted to violate the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and interfere with editorial decisions. Most of the recent cases stemmed from the “Bettencourt affair,” the alleged illegal financing of the presidential party by the billionaire Liliane Bettencourt. In 2010, President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office ordered the secret services to identify sources leaking information about the matter to the press. Journalists from major media outlets were targeted, and the secret services obtained phone records of a Le Monde journalist. In October, the director of domestic intelligence was charged with violating the secrecy of correspondence and confidentiality of sources. Press-government relations were further strained during the 18-month abduction of two France 3 journalists in Afghanistan, which ended in June. Élysée Palace and the army had criticized the “recklessness” of the reporters. In November, the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo were firebombed and its website was hacked after the satirical weekly published a spoof edition “guest-edited” by Prophet Muhammad.

February 21, 2012 12:02 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Egypt

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Egypt

During the 18-day uprising that led to Hosni Mubarak's ouster, the government unleashed a systematic campaign to intimidate journalists and obstruct news coverage. Dozens of serious press freedom violations were recorded between January 25 and February 11, as police and government supporters assaulted journalists in the streets. One journalist was killed by sniper fire while covering the demonstrations. Authorities also detained scores of journalists, instituted a six-day Internet blackout, suspended mobile phone service, blocked satellite transmissions, revoked accreditations, erected bureaucratic obstacles for foreign reporters, confiscated equipment, and stormed newsrooms. After Mubarak's fall, the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces showed its own hostility to critical news coverage. The council established a new censorship regime in March, telling editors they must obtain approval for coverage involving the armed forces. In July, the council reinstated the historically repressive Information Ministry; in September, it announced it would enforce the Mubarak-era Emergency Law that allows indefinite detention of civilians. Authorities raided broadcasters in September, October, and December, censored newspapers, and arrested critical bloggers. In October, a fatal confrontation between the military and civilians in front of the Television and Radio Union left dozens dead, including a journalist. The next month, at least 35 journalists were detained or assaulted while covering a week of demonstrations demanding the military hand over power to civilians. As the year ended, the first two rounds of parliamentary voting gave Islamist parties a significant lead over secular competitors.

February 21, 2012 12:01 AM ET

2011

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