Attacks on the Press in 2012

Attacks on the Press   |   Nepal

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Nepal

Nepal's ruling coalition failed to meet the Supreme Court's May deadline to complete a constitution, dissolving the legislature amid political rifts that left the republic's leadership in doubt. Nationwide strikes by political activists and ethnic minority groups advocating federalization resulted in journalists' being harassed and attacked for perceived negative coverage. The majority Maoist party-controlled magazine Lal Rakshak called Kanak Mani Dixit, director of Himal Media publishing group, a "people's enemy" for his criticism of the party's violent tactics. The government moved to classify 140 categories of information relating to politics and the judiciary. The Supreme Court temporarily stayed implementation of the new classifications in February; a decision was pending in late year. Police arrested some journalists' assailants but murder investigations stalled, keeping Nepal on CPJ's Impunity Index of countries where journalists are murdered regularly and killers go free. An international media mission, which included CPJ and other global press freedom groups, met with Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai in February to demand effective prosecution for past slayings and refine press freedom safeguards in the draft constitution.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Maldives

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Maldives

Journalists faced numerous attacks during a tumultuous year marked by the ouster of President Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected leader. Nasheed opponents attacked TV stations and journalists in the capital, Malé, after protests against his government escalated in early year. Nasheed, a former human rights defender and political prisoner who was elected president in 2008, stepped down in February but accused his successor, Mohammed Waheed Hassan, and former dictator Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of having orchestrated a coup. As Nasheed’s supporters took to the streets in protests seeking new presidential elections, numerous attacks on the press were reported. News coverage reflected the country’s political polarization. Raajje TV, a pro-Nasheed station, said that vandals briefly forced it off the air and that police assaulted and harassed its journalists. Police accused Raajje of falsely reporting officer misconduct and said vaguely that they would not “provide support” to the station. New elections were slated for July 2013, but tensions remained high in late year after Nasheed was arrested on abuse-of-office charges. The worst attack of the year came in June when unidentified assailants slashed the throat of Ismail Rasheed, a secularist who blogged about gay rights. His supporters said Hassan had stoked religious extremism and failed to ensure a proper investigation into the attack on Rasheed, who survived.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   India

Attacks on the Press in 2012: India

Violence plagued journalists in northeastern Assam, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh, including four attacks on the Arunachal Times. Tongam Rina, a columnist for the paper, survived a shooting that put her in intensive care for a time. The authorities blocked hundreds of websites they claimed incited ethnic and religious protests in Assam and beyond, but the blocking also affected numerous online news outlets, along with sites that were rebutting calls for violence. The September arrest of anti-graft cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on sedition, insult, and other charges outraged civil society. Trivedi made bail as the sedition charge was dropped, but at least two freelance journalists facing anti-state charges remained in jail without trial for more than a year. A third reporter was imprisoned in late year on retaliatory charges filed after he exposed assaults on young women in Karnataka state. India placed 12th on CPJ’s Impunity Index of countries that fail to solve journalist murders. A botched inquiry into the 2011 killing of Jyotirmoy Dey was seen as emblematic of the failure. In Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra, assailants obstructed coverage of politics, courts, and religion. Nationwide, coverage of corruption was risky: Rajesh Mishra was slain in March for reporting on financial irregularities in Madyha Pradesh schools. In May, Jharkhand authorities threatened videographer Mukesh Rajak for asking questions about local expenditures. Twenty-five percent of journalists killed in India since 1992 covered corruption.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   China

Attacks on the Press in 2012: China

As the leadership handed over power to new Communist Party appointees in a November congress, censors aggressively blocked coverage of dissent, including reports on blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng's escape from house arrest. Coverage of corruption was tightly controlled in foreign and domestic media. The New York Times and Bloomberg News were censored domestically after they revealed the fortunes held by the families of top leaders, including the incoming president, Xi Jinping. The Foreign Ministry declined to renew the credentials of Al-Jazeera correspondent Melissa Chan, forcing her to leave Beijing amid troubling anti-foreign rhetoric. Authorities removed top executives at two outspoken domestic papers, Guangzhou's New Express and Shanghai's Oriental Morning Post. Internet users debated environmental disasters and the high-profile ouster of former leadership candidate Bo Xilai over a corruption and murder scandal, setting off fresh censorship and anti-rumor campaigns. China continued to jail a large number of online journalists, many of whom sought to cover issues affecting ethnic minorities. Two Tibetan writers were jailed in 2012 for documenting a debate on the preservation of Tibetan culture. CPJ honored jailed Tibetan filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen with an International Press Freedom Award in November.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Burma

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Burma

Burma eased media restrictions in line with its historic transition from military to quasi-civilian rule. At least 12 journalists, including those associated with banned exile media groups, were released in a series of pardons. The government abolished pre-publication censorship--a process that had forced private newspapers to publish in weekly formats--and it allowed coverage of many previously banned topics, including stories on opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. But the government did not dismantle its censorship body as promised, and it required newspapers to submit copies for official, post-publication review. Several restrictive laws remained in effect, including the 1962 Printers and Publishers Registration Act and Electronic Act and the 2000 Internet Law. Two news journals, Voice Weekly and Envoy, were temporarily suspended in August for violating censorship guidelines. The government began allowing foreign journalists to enter the country, although some were still refused visas. Passage of a new media law was delayed amid journalists’ protests after a leaked draft of the legislation showed that it would fail to guarantee press freedom. A defamation case filed by the government against The Voice newspaper for reporting on alleged corruption in the Ministry of Mines signaled a possible shift to the use of courts to suppress the press.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Bangladesh

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Bangladesh

Long-standing antagonism between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed's Awami League and the opposition Bangladesh National Party—what critics call “zero-sum politics”—set off street violence that threatened the safety of journalists. A constitutional amendment eliminated the creation of caretaker governments to oversee general elections, a step likely to intensify political passions surrounding the scheduled 2013 vote. The Bangladesh National Party called for political agitation and suggested it may boycott the election. The amendment also criminalized criticism of the constitution itself, labeling such dissent as sedition. A group of machete-wielding assailants killed Jamal Uddin, a reporter who covered the drug trade for a Bengali-language newspaper in Jessore district. The June slaying ended a nearly seven-year period in which no Bangladeshi journalist had been killed in direct relation to journalism. Mystery surrounded the double murder of married journalists Meherun Runi and Golam Mustofa Sarowar. The authorities made arrests in the case but disclosed no motive. CPJ is investigating to determine whether the double slaying was work-related.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Afghanistan

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Afghanistan

For the first time since 2005, CPJ documented no work-related fatalities in Afghanistan. But the country remained a dangerous place, with many international and domestic journalists telling CPJ that they had received threats during the year. News outlets united to slow the advance of a media bill that, with its vague terminology, would allow for increased government restrictions on news coverage. As donor nations prepared to scale down military and economic support and funders backed away in the run-up to the 2014 deadline for troop withdrawal, Afghanistan’s vibrant press, with more than 400 news organizations, began to look increasingly overpopulated. Despite efforts by local journalists and international organizations to bolster the Afghan media, outlet managers and owners said the decline had already begun. Some estimated that more than 700 journalists had already lost their jobs by mid-year. The country suffered from an increasingly partisan national media environment; instead, news organizations set up by political or religious leaders looked most likely to survive. Internet penetration remained very low as officials began to implement a World Bank-funded project aimed at quadrupling the rate by 2016.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Asia

Analyses and data track press conditions throughout the region. Bob Dietz describes the challenges facing Afghan media as international aid declines. Shawn W. Crispin details increasing Internet repression in Southeast Asia. And Madeline Earp highlights China's growing hostility toward the foreign press--even as the nation pursues its own global media expansion.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Venezuela

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Venezuela

Fresh from his re-election in October, President Hugo Chávez Frías sought treatment in Cuba for the recurrence of an unspecified form of cancer, leaving the nation's political landscape in doubt as 2012 came to a close. Chávez said during the campaign that he was free of the cancer that first struck in 2011, although details of his medical condition were shrouded in mystery. In the lead-up to the vote that saw Chávez fend off challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski, the administration continued its systematic campaign against critical news coverage through legislation, threats, and regulatory measures while using unlimited airtime via its state media empire. The election heightened an already polarized environment: Both pro-government and pro-opposition journalists were attacked while covering campaign events. Chávez's campaign against press freedom extended beyond the country's borders in 2012. Venezuela was part of a bloc of countries within the Organization of American States that worked to dismantle the region's system of human rights protection, including the special rapporteur for freedom of expression. The government also announced that it was withdrawing from the American Convention on Human Rights, the first step required in order to pull out from the OAS' two human rights bodies.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   USA

Attacks on the Press in 2012: United States

The Obama administration continued to clamp down on officials who leak sensitive information to the news media. A former CIA officer pleaded guilty to criminal charges of leaking a covert operative's identity, effectively ending a legal battle by three journalists fighting government subpoenas to testify in the case. The director of national intelligence announced new rules to clamp down on leaks, and the Senate debated a bill that would further impede officials from sharing intelligence information with the press. In issues related to access, a military judge rejected a request by several media outlets to broadcast the Guantánamo Bay trial of suspects accused in the 2000 attack on the USS Cole. And a number of news organizations appealed a military judicial decision to seal documents related to the court-martial of Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, who faced charges of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks. Reporter James Risen, author Ed Moloney, and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns continued to fight subpoenas that would force them to turn over their unpublished reporting or testify in criminal investigations. Several journalists were arrested covering demonstrations linked to the Occupy movement.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

2012

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