Attacks on the Press in 2011

Attacks on the Press   |   Malawi

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Malawi

President Bingu wa Mutharika signed a penal code amendment that allowed the government to ban any publication it deemed “not in the public interest.” Authorities did not immediately use the new tactic, but local journalists said the law’s existence had created a chilling effect. Government officials also made use of court injunctions to silence critical coverage of public officials’ financial dealings. Authorities and ruling party supporters pushed back aggressively against coverage of nationwide protests over rising fuel costs and diminishing bank reserves: Police and security officers beat and detained journalists; the government blocked the transmissions of four private radio stations; and suspected ruling party supporters damaged two vehicles belonging to the private Zodiac Broadcasting Corp. The managers of a critical online news outlet, Nyasa Times, said they experienced a denial-of-service attack that took down their website during the protests.

February 21, 2012 12:31 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Ivory Coast

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Ivory Coast

After the disputed November 2010 presidential elections, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara, whom the United Nations recognized as the winner, waged a months-long struggle for power led by partisan media outlets. The fight was centered in the economic capital, Abidjan, where Gbagbo controlled the national media and security forces. Ouattara enjoyed the support of a handful of newspapers and set up an improvised television station in the hotel where he was protected by U.N. peacekeepers. Both sides targeted rival outlets with reprisals, forcing numerous journalists into hiding. A journalist and a media worker were murdered in the violence. Fighters loyal to Ouattara clashed with Gbagbo troops for control of the national public broadcaster Radiodiffusion Télévision Ivoirienne in March and April, damaging studios and transmitters and knocking the station off the air, according to news reports and local journalists. While media movements were limited during the final battle for Abidjan, some citizen journalists provided exclusive footage of explosions and military operations by posting unedited videos on social media. With Gbagbo's April 11 capture, Ouattara assumed power and promised reconciliation, but his administration jailed a pro-Gbagbo TV host on antistate charges and his forces ransacked and occupied media outlets loyal to the former president. Journalists seen as sympathetic to Gbagbo faced continued harassment.

February 21, 2012 12:30 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Gambia

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Gambia

Years of brutal repression by President Yahya Jammeh’s administration have gutted Gambia’s once-vibrant independent press and driven numerous journalists into exile. In August, the government forced Taranga FM, the last independent radio station airing news in local languages, to halt its coverage. The move came ahead of an October presidential election in which Jammeh faced no viable opponent and brooked no dissent. Official repression has taken many forms over the years, including arbitrary arrests, censorship, forced closures of media outlets, verbal and physical intimidation, arson attacks, and prosecutions under restrictive legislation. These actions, coupled with impunity in attacks on media houses and journalists, have reduced the domestic news media to a handful of newspapers that operate under intense fear and self-censorship. While marketing the country internationally as an idyllic tourism destination, the government ignored two rulings by a West African human rights court: one ordering the release of reporter “Chief” Ebrima Manneh, who disappeared in state custody after his 2006 arrest, and another compelling the government to pay compensation to a journalist for illegal detention and torture.  

February 21, 2012 12:29 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Equatorial Guinea

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Equatorial Guinea

News and information was tightly controlled in Equatorial Guinea, which CPJ identified as one of the world’s most censored nations. Nearly all news media were owned and run by the government or its allies. One independently owned newspaper circulated in the country, but had to practice self-censorship; no independent broadcasters operated domestically. Even in this rigid environment, authorities fearful of the implications of Arab unrest censored news coverage of the protests. President Teodoro Obiang continued efforts to alter his international image, assuming presidency of the African Union and reviving his effort to establish an “Obiang Prize” in life sciences under the auspices of UNESCO. For the second time, UNESCO suspended consideration of the prize after a global campaign by human rights and freedom of expression groups. As he marked his 32 years in power, Obiang declared there were “no” human rights violations in his country. But his administration suspended a state radio presenter for a mere reference to a “leader of the Libyan revolution.” Authorities also urged the owners of television sets in public places not to show international satellite channels covering the Arab unrest, according to local journalists. Security agents detained a German TV crew and deleted footage of an interview with an opposition leader and pictures of children playing in slums.

February 21, 2012 12:28 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Democratic Republic of the Congo

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Incumbent Joseph Kabila claimed victory in a November presidential election marred by widespread voting irregularities and a spike in attacks on news outlets. While international observers questioned the results, Kabila forces launched a crackdown on dissent. Attacks on the press were concentrated in the capital, Kinshasa, and surrounding Bas Congo province. Supporters of incumbent President Joseph Kabila's PPRD party and his administration intimidated journalists favorable to chief rival Etienne Tshisekedi; pro-opposition media were targeted in a series of arson attacks. In August, Kabila consolidated his grip on the media by appointing members of a new regulatory board charged with enforcing press laws and meting out penalties. Journalists criticized Kabila for stacking the 15-member agency with government allies, according to news reports. Across the vast nation, powerful local officials and their security forces carried out attacks on the press with impunity in reprisal for critical coverage. And in the country's strife-torn, mineral-rich east, a journalist was murdered amid murky circumstances.

February 21, 2012 12:27 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Cameroon

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Cameroon

The government sought to curtail popular protests and related news coverage as President Paul Biya extended 29 years of rule in an October election. Having consolidated power through constitutional amendments that removed term limits and stacked the membership of the election oversight agency with loyalists, Biya swept 78 percent of the vote in a poll marked by low turnout and allegations by the United States and France that irregularities occurred. Twenty-two opponents, none competitive, split the rest of the balloting. With Biya’s overwhelming dominance of the political and journalistic space, social media became the primary means to criticize his record on political repression, poverty, and corruption. In February, government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary summoned journalists to his office and accused Cameroonian social media users, many of whom were based abroad, of “manipulating” young people to destabilize the country. A month later, the government temporarily shut down a Twitter-via-SMS service to foil possible protests. Security forces obstructed journalists covering the violent dispersal of small-scale protests, although citizen journalists posted several videos to YouTube that showed heavy-handed police tactics. Throughout the year, public figures used their influence to prosecute journalists investigating corruption. At least three critical journalists were detained for varying periods.

February 21, 2012 12:26 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Angola

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Angola

Youth-led and social media-fueled protests demanding reform challenged President José Eduardo Dos Santos, who marked 32 years in power. Parliament, controlled by Dos Santos’ MPLA party, considered legislation to “combat crime” in information and communication technology. The bill, pending in late year, would stiffen penalties for defamation and would criminalize electronic dissemination of “recordings, pictures, and video” of any individual without the subject’s consent. In nationally televised remarks targeting citizen journalists, Dos Santos lashed out at the use of the Internet to organize “unauthorized demonstrations to insult, denigrate, provoke uproar and confusion.” (One YouTube user called Kimangakialo posted more than 150 clips of protests.) In the same April address, Dos Santos claimed journalists enjoyed unfettered freedom to criticize his leadership. But CPJ research shows that security forces assaulted, detained, and obstructed independent journalists covering protests and official functions. Powerful public figures and officials used security forces and the courts to settle scores with reporters investigating allegations of abuse of power, corruption, or misconduct. Two journalists, Armando José Chicoca and William Tonet, were sentenced to prison over their critical coverage; they were free on appeal in late year. José Manuel Gimbi faced intimidation from security forces while reporting from the militarized, oil-rich enclave of Cabinda. Denial-of-service attacks targeted the exile-run websites Club-K and Angola24horas, taking them off-line in October.

Português

February 21, 2012 12:25 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Vietnam

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Vietnam

Vietnam intensified a media crackdown targeting online journalists and bloggers, reasserting the government’s near-total control of domestic news media. Authorities arrested and detained five bloggers and contributors to online news publications, bringing to nine the number of journalists behind bars. Political bloggers Pham Minh Hoang and Vi Duc Hoi were both given harsh prison sentences on antistate charges related to their writings. Authorities continued to hold and deny visitation privileges for blogger Nguyen Van Hai even though his prison sentence expired in October 2010. A new executive decree that came into force in February gave the government greater powers to penalize journalists, editors, and bloggers who reported on issues deemed sensitive to national security. An "accusation" bill passed in November was designed to force journalists to reveal the identities of confidential sources critical of government agencies.

February 21, 2012 12:24 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Thailand

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Thailand

Journalists faced significant restrictions, particularly online, despite democratic elections and a change in government. Outgoing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva cracked down on partisan media, shutting radio stations and detaining Somyot Preuksakasemsuk, editor of a newsmagazine aligned with the anti-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship. New premier Yingluck Shinawatra wielded the country's strict lèse majesté laws by censoring websites and Facebook pages, and harassing Internet users who posted online material critical of the monarchy. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, editor of the news website Prachatai, faced a possible 50 years in prison under the draconian 2007 Computer Crimes Act for anonymous anti-royal remarks that were posted to one of her site's comment sections. The case was pending in late year. A reporter was killed in September while covering bombings in the country's insurgency-plagued southern region, a fatality that continued the country's recent spate of media deaths. The government opened a new inquiry into the fatal shooting of Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto during 2010 protests in Bangkok, but authorities left unresolved the case of a second international journalist killed in the 2010 unrest, Italian photographer Fabio Polenghi.

February 21, 2012 12:23 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Sri Lanka

Attacks on the Press in 2011: Sri Lanka

The government's effort to silence critical media has been brutally effective as politically motivated deaths, attacks, and disappearances go uninvestigated and unprosecuted. The sister websites Groundviews and Vikalpa became the last independent news sites based in Sri Lanka, after a series of attacks on Lanka eNews. Arsonists attacked the offices of Lanka eNews in January, and authorities arrested the site's Colombo-based editor Bennet Rupasinghe in March. The site continued to publish from London but was blocked domestically. Authorities have turned the notion of law enforcement on its head, obstructing justice in numerous anti-press attacks. Prime examples are the unsolved 2010 disappearance of cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda and the unsolved 2009 murder of prominent editor Lasantha Wickramatunga. Anti-press violence continued in 2011. In July, Gnanasundaram Kuhanathan, news editor of the Tamil-language daily Uthayan, was assaulted in northern Sri Lanka by assailants wielding iron bars. News media access to northern, predominantly Tamil areas remained severely restricted. The government and Tamil secessionists rejected allegations that they committed human rights violations during the long civil war, but independent coverage of the abuses was limited.

February 21, 2012 12:22 AM ET

2011

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