Attacks on the Press in 2012

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Attacks on the Press

Attacks on the Press in 2012

French photographer Rémi Ochlik, seen here in Cairo, was among those killed covering the war in Syria in 2012. (AP/Julien de Rosa)

A news crew crossing into Syria walks for three nights, legs aching and lungs burning, edging past army checkpoints to cover a war the government wants to obscure. A Liberian reporter dares to expose a dangerous ritual even as menacing strangers deliver death threats to her office. In central Mexico, a drug cartel's vicious takeover of police and government agencies is so complete that it threatens to silence the press. And in China, authorities jail a filmmaker who poses a simple question to ethnic Tibetans: Does the state really represent you? Through data and analysis, CPJ experts detail press conditions and document new dangers in every corner of the world.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Brazil, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Somalia, Syria, Turkey, Vietnam

Attacks on the Press in 2012: CPJ Risk List Video



CPJ's Robert Mahoney identifies the 10 countries where press freedom suffered the most in 2012. They include Syria, the world's deadliest country for the press; Russia, where repressive laws took effect; Brazil, where journalist murders soared; and Ethiopia, where terror laws are used to silence the press. (3:26)

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Yemen

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Yemen

Press freedom languished despite the establishment of a new government under President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Anti-government demonstrations continued as protesters demanded deeper reforms than those offered by Hadi's administration. Critical independent journalists were assaulted, threatened, and harassed from multiple sides. In February, armed men belonging to an influential tribal group attacked a journalist who had reported critically about the clan. The same month, supporters of former President Ali Abdullah al-Saleh seized the offices of two state-run newspapers and forced them to publish Saleh's picture on the front page. In May, the Press and Publications Court summoned two Al-Jazeera journalists for trial on charges that they had reported on the 2011 uprising without accreditation. The trial was pending in late year. The government debated an Audio-Visual and Electronic Media bill that was first proposed by the Saleh administration in 2010. CPJ's review of the legislation found it would impose exorbitant registration and licensing fees, among other restrictions. The bill was pending in late year. No journalists were killed during the year, a drop from 2011 when two fatalities occurred during coverage of anti-government protests.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Tunisia

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Tunisia

Two years after the revolution that overthrew Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, press freedom in Tunisia slid backward. Since the newly elected government assumed office in January, the authorities took several worrying steps that included the appointment of government allies as new heads of state television, radio, and print outlets. In April, three journalists were beaten while covering a protest, and in July, police officers attacked two journalists who were filming a collision involving a police cruiser and a train. In August, the authorities issued an arrest warrant for the head of a private television station, a Ben Ali ally who also hosted a satirical show mocking current government figures. In February, the authorities detained and fined three journalists for publishing a nude photo. Journalists said the government was ignoring two media laws adopted in November 2011 that were modeled on international press freedom standards, instead enforcing the previous, repressive laws. Members of the National Authority to Reform Information and Communication, a special commission set up to bring about media reforms, resigned en masse in July citing the government's lack of commitment to press freedom.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Syria

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Syria

Conditions for the press deteriorated severely since Syria's uprising began in 2011. The Syrian government continued its media blackout by barring entry to most international journalists and controlling local news coverage. Foreign journalists resorted to smuggling themselves into the country, most across the borders with Turkey and Lebanon, to report on the conflict. Citizen journalists took extreme risks to videotape and document the unrest. Dozens of journalists were imprisoned over the course of the year and some were reportedly tortured in government custody. Local and international journalists were abducted by the government, the rebels, and non-Syrian Islamic extremist groups. Some remained missing in late year. With 28 journalists murdered, targeted by sniper fire, or killed in crossfire, CPJ ranked Syria as the most dangerous country in the world for the press in 2012. Although many of the fatalities were at the hands of government forces, numerous attacks against journalists or news outlets seen as pro-government were attributed to rebel forces, including two explosions at a TV station.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Sudan

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Sudan

Journalists struggled to carry out their work freely as the space for independent reporting diminished in Sudan. Khartoum intensified its crackdown against journalists with a record number of detentions, newspaper confiscations, and closures, leading to significant financial losses for many newspapers and layoffs among journalists. In June, protests against austerity measures and rising fuel prices quickly evolved into anti-government demonstrations. As journalists attempted to cover these historic events, the National Intelligence Security Services warned journalists not to cover the protests, detained several foreign and local journalists who did, confiscated newspapers that dared to mention the demonstrations, and blocked three critical websites. By August, the government had quashed the protest movement. The authorities continued to suppress coverage of Sudan's conflict with South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011, and kept a particularly tight lid on information involving the fighting in oil-rich South Kordofan.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Saudi Arabia

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom continued severe censorship of any critical reporting, taking special measures to obstruct coverage of protests in Eastern Province calling for political reform and greater rights for the country's Shia minority. Foreign and local journalists were forbidden to enter the province, where demonstrations had begun in February 2011. Imprisonments ticked up during the year. In February, the authorities arrested three online journalists reporting on Eastern Province protests and blocked their news websites. During the same month, a former columnist faced death threats for Twitter postings detailing an imaginary conversation with the Prophet Muhammad. He was later jailed on blasphemy changes that could bring the death penalty. Restrictive laws suffocate independent coverage in traditional media, a sector in which editors are government-appointed. Beginning in 2011, online journalists became subject to the same harsh controls that apply to traditional news media. Self-censorship is widespread, and international news outlets operating inside its borders limit their reporting in order to maintain accreditation.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Libya

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Libya

The press began to blossom amid the political transition that followed the 2011 uprising that ended Muammar Qaddafi's repressive rule. A burgeoning private media sector emerged with the launch of dozens of independent newspapers and other news outlets. Despite these notable improvements, journalists continued to face attacks, mostly from local militias and other armed groups that often detained people at whim. In February, a local militia in Tripoli seized two British journalists for almost a month. In July, two Libyan television journalists were kidnapped after covering the country's first elections in decades. In May, the then-ruling National Transitional Council passed a law criminalizing the glorification of Qaddafi, but the Supreme Court struck down the measure as unconstitutional the next month, a historic move that reflected an emerging commitment to free speech.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Lebanon

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Lebanon

Lebanon's press climate, while better than its neighbors, suffered in 2012 as the uprising in Syria spiraled into civil war. In April, Syrian security forces shot and killed a Lebanese journalist covering the conflict from the Lebanese side of the border. Within the country, journalists faced significant risk while covering protests for and against the Syrian regime. In May and June, for example, nine journalists were attacked in four violent episodes during demonstrations. In September, the authorities detained for nearly a month a Lebanese-Palestinian journalist who frequently covered arms smuggling into Syria. In October, the rebel Free Syrian Amy abducted a Lebanese journalist working in Syria and held him captive for a week. Lebanese authorities negotiated his release.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Jordan

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Jordan

Although Jordanian news media enjoy greater freedom than the press in many other Arab countries, the kingdom took a significant step backward with the approval of amendments to the Press and Publications Law in September 2012. The law imposed new restrictions on online news content, required sites to obtain official licenses, and gave the authorities powers to block domestic and international websites. Journalists, outraged by the move, protested against the government, and website owners refused to apply for licenses. Criticism of the royal family or the monarchy remained off-limits for all media. One journalist was detained for three weeks for writing an article that alleged misconduct in the Royal Court, and a critical blogger was stabbed by an unidentified assailant after she published an article criticizing Prince Hassan bin Talal.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory

During eight days of fighting with Hamas forces in November, Israel launched airstrikes that targeted two buildings in Gaza housing local and international news outlets, injuring at least nine journalists. Separate missile attacks killed at least two other journalists. Israeli officials broadly asserted that the individuals and news facilities had connections to terrorist activities but disclosed no substantiation for the allegations. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not respond to a written request from CPJ seeking information supporting Israel's claims. Israel's press freedom record suffered in other respects, with lawmakers pushing a bill to dramatically increase fines for alleged libel and impose requirements that news media publish responses from plaintiffs. The bill was pending in late year. Israeli forces continued sporadic attacks on Palestinian journalists covering anti-settlement demonstrations in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In one case, video captured Israeli soldiers beating two Palestinian journalists wearing gear marked "press" at an August demonstration in the town of Kafr Qaddum. In February, Israeli authorities raided two Palestinian television stations and confiscated the outlets' equipment, citing alleged frequency violations. One, Wattan TV, had been funded by U.S. government agencies, prompting the U.S. State Department to join CPJ's calls for the equipment's return. Press freedom deteriorated in the West Bank as well. In April, the Palestinian Authority blocked several websites seen as critical of President Mahmoud Abbas, while detaining two journalists who had covered allegations of official corruption. PA security forces assaulted several journalists covering anti-government protests in July. In the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, assaults and threats against critical journalists continued, and self-censorship prevailed.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Iraq

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Iraq

For the first time since 2003, CPJ did not document any work-related fatalities in Iraq. Still, central government officials and Kurdish regional authorities used threats, harassment, attacks, and imprisonment to suppress critical news coverage throughout the year. The central government's media regulator ordered 44 local and international news outlets shut down in June for supposed license violations, but the authorities did not ultimately enforce the directive. Local journalists said the order was intended to be a warning to news outlets that they should toe the government line. In October, the Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the ambiguous and restrictive Journalist Protection Law. A press freedom group had argued that the 2011 legislation failed to provide any security for journalists while imposing constraints on access to official information. In July, parliament debated a proposed cybercrime bill, which carried a penalty of life imprisonment for violations such as using the Internet to "harm the reputation of the country" and broadcasting "false and misleading facts" intended to "damage the national economy." With no convictions in at least 93 unsolved journalist murders since 2003, Iraq ranked first on CPJ's Impunity Index for the fifth consecutive year.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Iran

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Iran

Since the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009, the regime has continued its campaign against the press by imprisoning many dozens of journalists, harassing and intimidating others, and routinely banning reformist publications. Jailed reporters were subject to abusive conditions that included extended solitary confinement, physical abuse, and denial of family visits and medical treatment. Political blogger Sattar Beheshti died in state custody in November, the third journalist to die in Iranian detention since 2003. Fellow inmates at Evin Prison said Beheshti, 35, had been tortured. The authorities continued to censor the Internet, blocking millions of websites, including news and social networking sites, and announcing the creation of a national Internet that would enforce even stricter controls. In the run-up to the 2013 election, the regime stepped up its assault on the international press. After a Tehran jury voted in late September to convict Reuters on anti-state charges for a faulty video headline, the government suspended the agency’s accreditation and banned its journalists from reporting. BBC journalists were also arrested, questioned, and intimidated throughout the year. In March, the broadcaster reported a “sophisticated cyberattack” on its email and Internet services that coincided with efforts to jam its satellite feeds into Iran. In October, Europe’s largest satellite providers ceased transmission of 19 Iranian state-operated satellite television and radio channels in response to sanctions imposed by the European Union.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Egypt

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Egypt

A new constitution with restrictive press provisions was approved in late year amid heavy opposition criticism and reports of ballot fraud. CPJ and others criticized articles creating a new government press regulator and establishing new state authority to shut media outlets. The new charter also did nothing to halt the criminal prosecution of journalists, a hallmark of the Hosni Mubarak regime. A reporter covering a rally protesting the new constitution was killed in December when he was struck by a rubber bullet that witnesses said was fired by a Muslim Brotherhood supporter. Several other journalists said they were assaulted while covering similar demonstrations. Other serious violations were reported throughout the year, including a sexual assault and a number of other physical attacks against journalists. Before the election of President Mohamed Morsi in June, the interim-ruling Supreme Council for the Armed Forces carried out a series of Mubarak-era tactics intended to stifle media critical of the military. The tactics included the use of politicized trials and interrogations to intimidate reporters, along with the temporary detention of journalists, two of whom were brutalized in custody. The Shura Council, controlled by the Freedom and Justice Party, took a firm grasp of state media in August, appointing political allies as heads of the institutions. Several journalists working for state newspapers reported that critical articles were being pulled. Although Morsi banned pre-trial detention of journalists, the press remained at legal risk. At least six journalists faced charges of "insulting the president" or "insulting Islam." By late 2012, the prosecutor general was pursuing a series of investigations into independent Egyptian newspapers on accusations of insulting the president or reporting false news.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Bahrain

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Bahrain

The authorities continued to restrict critical reporting and independent news coverage a year after protesters began calling for reform in Bahrain. In February and April, the government denied visas to journalists and press freedom groups, including CPJ, and detained and deported several foreign journalists, effectively barring international news coverage of the unrest surrounding the Formula One Grand Prix and the first anniversary of the protests. Despite King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa’s pledge to uphold press freedom and reform, conditions did not improve. A journalist was detained for months after criticizing a proposed union between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and an appeals court upheld the life sentence of critical blogger Abduljalil Alsingace, who has been imprisoned since March 2011. A well-known videographer was killed while filming a pro-reform protest in March.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Middle East & North Africa

Analyses and data track press freedom conditions. Paul Wood of the BBC and Oliver Holmes of Reuters describe the extraordinary challenges of covering the Syrian conflict. D. Parvaz of Al-Jazeera examines the implications of the 2013 Iranian election. And Jean-Paul Marthoz reveals the censorship imposed by religious extremists.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Uzbekistan

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Uzbekistan

Press freedom remained in a deep freeze under authoritarian leader Islam Karimov. The authorities continued to imprison critical journalists on lengthy terms. Muhammad Bekjanov, one of the two longest-imprisoned journalists in the world, was sentenced to an additional prison term just days before his scheduled release. The handful of independent journalists in the country faced politicized prosecution, censorship, and other forms of repression. The authorities permitted minimal Western media presence. A BBC journalist who broke a story on forced sterilization of Uzbek women was barred from entering the country in February. The authorities continued their practice of hiring “experts” to build fabricated criminal cases against journalists on charges ranging from national defamation to extremism. Using that tactic, prosecutors filed criminal cases against two independent reporters in 2012. The government’s vast censorship practices earned it a place on CPJ’s 10 Most Censored Countries list, published in May. The authorities aggressively expanded censorship during the year: The state communications agency was told to block websites deemed “threatening to the nation’s information space”; the education ministry barred college students from visiting Internet cafés; and the government raided and seized control of the local branch of the Russian telecommunications company, MTS, causing up to 10 million Uzbeks to lose mobile Internet and phone access. In a July documentary, a state-owned broadcaster called online activism a weapon worse than bombs.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   UK

Attacks on the Press in 2012: United Kingdom

The Leveson inquiry, begun in 2011 after revelations of phone-hacking and other ethical lapses by the press, drew to a close with the issuance of a lengthy report that proposed the creation of an independent regulatory body backed by statute. Critics, including CPJ, warned that statutory regulation would infringe on press freedom; Prime Minister David Cameron urged instead that the industry strengthen self-regulation. Some progress was made toward the reform of libel laws, which are highly unfavorable to journalists because they allow for “libel tourism,” the practice of filing claims based on minimum circulation within the United Kingdom even when plaintiffs and defendants are not based there. Libel legislation introduced in May would limit long and costly proceedings and make it easier for frivolous cases to be quickly dismissed. Press freedom advocates said such reform would be an important step forward, but urged lawmakers to strengthen public-interest defense and protect Internet service providers. The measure was pending in the House of Lords in late year. In June, the Home Office proposed a measure to increase government surveillance of all online communications. The proposal met with strong criticism--detractors called it the “snooper’s charter”--and a Parliamentary review committee dismissed it as excessive. The government sought to allow Sweden to extradite Julian Assange for questioning in an alleged assault, prompting the WikiLeaks founder to take refuge in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. One journalist in Belfast was threatened in 2012, and the 11-year-old murder of Irish reporter Martin O’Hagen remained unsolved.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Ukraine

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Ukraine

As Ukraine prepared to assume the 2013 chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the nation’s leaders undermined one of the organization’s core values: freedom of the press. Censorship, denial of public information, physical attacks against reporters, and politicized lawsuits against news outlets marred the nation’s press freedom climate, the Kiev-based Institute for Mass Information, or IMI, reported. The boldest attack against the free press was parliament’s vote to criminalize defamation. Legislators were forced to withdraw the bill within weeks in the face of nationwide protests and international outcry. Protests also greeted a government tax investigation into the opposition broadcaster TVi. Starting in July, tax police and prosecutors raided the station’s newsroom and froze its bank accounts. Prosecutors eventually dropped their case against TVi owner Nikolai Knyazhitskiy but imposed a fine against the station. Impunity prevailed in ongoing assaults against reporters, as it did in the 2000 murder of Georgy Gongadze, the first online reporter in the world to be killed for his work. Although the trial of a former Interior Ministry general on charges of carrying out Gongadze’s brutal slaying began in July 2011, the proceedings ground away without resolution in late 2012. The prosecution has been pockmarked by the government’s procedural missteps. In June, an appellate court said prosecutors could not pursue a case against former president Leonid Kuchma, who has long been accused of ordering the murder.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Turkey

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Turkey

With 49 journalists imprisoned for their work as of December 1, Turkey emerged as the world’s worst jailer of the press. Kurdish journalists, charged with supporting terrorism by covering the activities of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, made up the majority of the imprisoned journalists. They are charged under a vague anti-terror law that allows the authorities to equate coverage of banned groups with terrorism itself. A CPJ special report issued in October found highly repressive aspects of the penal code and anti-terror law, a criminal procedure code that favors the state, and a harsh anti-press tone set at the top levels of government. Intense government pressure caused media owners to dismiss critical journalists and generated pervasive self-censorship throughout the profession. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has filed several defamation lawsuits in recent years, publicly denigrated numerous critical journalists. CPJ conducted three fact-finding and advocacy missions to Turkey in 2012, meeting with journalists, lawyers, diplomats, and Turkey’s justice minister, Sadullah Ergin. CPJ urged Ergin to undertake a case-by-case review of all detained journalists.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Tajikistan

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Tajikistan

Authoritarian leader Emomali Rahmon praised journalists' mission at a ceremony said to mark the centennial of the Tajik press, but his speech came with a contradictory message: Rahmon urged news outlets not to publish reports that could damage Tajikistan's international image, cause pessimism, or undermine public order. Such was the gap between rhetoric and reality. Rahmon signed into law a measure decriminalizing libel, even as statutes still impose prison penalties of up to five years for coverage deemed insulting to the president. The authorities blocked access to several independent news websites for up to three months after the outlets questioned the official account of a security general's killing and alleged that Rahmon had stepped up surveillance of local religious groups. Among the blocked outlets were both local and international outlets, including the popular Asia Plus, Ferghana News, Lenta, and the BBC, the Dushanbe-based National Association of Independent Mass Media in Tajikistan reported. The authorities also announced the creation of a volunteer-staffed cyberunit to identify supposedly extremist content and material insulting to the president. Citing the unit's findings, the state communications chief declared Facebook a "hotbed of slander" and ordered it blocked nationwide.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Russia

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Russia

The beginning of Vladimir Putin’s third term as president was marked by a crackdown on civil society and critical opinion. Putin signed laws that suppress dissent by limiting public assembly, criminalizing defamation, and authorizing state censorship of critical websites. A Cold War-era chill settled in as lawmakers passed a measure requiring nongovernmental groups receiving international grants to register as “foreign agents,” and the administration expelled the United States Agency for International Development and the United Nations children’s agency. Illustrating the growing climate of intolerance, a court convicted members of a punk band on “hooliganism” charges and sentenced them to prison in connection with an anti-Putin stunt at a Moscow church. Deadly anti-press violence persisted: Assailants in the North Caucasus city of Nalchik gunned down a news anchor for the state-owned broadcaster VGTRK. Authorities made little substantive progress in addressing impunity in previous journalist murders. A former police colonel was sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges of helping plot the 2006 murder of Anna Politkovskaya. Family and colleagues were dismayed that the suspect made a deal with investigators to be tried behind closed doors. And the country’s top criminal investigator threatened a leading newspaper editor in response to a critical commentary.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Kyrgyzstan

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Kyrgyzstan

President Almazbek Atambayev and his ministers declared their commitment to press freedom and rule of law even as government agencies routinely subjected independent reporters to intimidation. Kyrgyzstan resisted domestic and international calls for the release of Azimjon Askarov, an ethnic Uzbek investigative reporter and human rights defender serving a life term on fabricated charges, including the murder of a police officer during ethnic violence and inciting ethnic hatred. In a June special report, CPJ found that regional authorities targeted, tortured, and imprisoned Askarov in retaliation for his coverage of the June 2010 conflict between ethnic Uzbek and Kyrgyz residents in the south, along with his long record of in-depth reporting on abuses by regional police. The 2010 clashes continued to cast a shadow over Kyrgyzstan's press freedom record. In February, the authorities blocked domestic access to the independent regional news website Ferghana News stemming from its reporting on the conflict. Uzbek-language media outlets, which were forced to close in the aftermath of the conflict, began to make their way back into the market, but in smaller numbers, local press freedom groups reported. As in previous years, independent journalists and news outlets battled politicized prosecutions and retaliatory lawsuits. Impunity continued in the 2007 murder of prominent editor Alisher Saipov and in the 2011 attack on his brother, journalist Shokhrukh Saipov.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Kazakhstan

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Kazakhstan

Nursultan Nazarbayev's authoritarian government cracked down on critical news coverage with a flurry of early-year legislation and newsroom raids that came just weeks after deadly clashes between police and striking oil workers in the western city of Zhanaozen. In January, in the wake of the December 2011 labor unrest, Nazarbayev's government enacted legislation barring distribution of print or electronic news that the authorities deem a threat to national security. The authorities also imposed new regulations that require Internet café managers to block access to blacklisted websites and proxy servers, monitor client activity, and share client information with government security services. A third measure requires international broadcasters airing programming in Kazakhstan to register with the state. The government also deployed KNB security agents to harass news media that covered the violent crackdown against the strikers, which left 16 civilians dead. Agents raided the independent broadcaster Stan TV, demanded its recorded material concerning Zhanaozen, and interrogated its 15 journalists about the clashes. The KNB also detained editor Igor Vinyavsky for several weeks and intimidated his family and colleagues when they denounced the arrest. In November, just weeks after Kazakhstan was elected to the U.N. Human Rights Council, authorities asked the courts to shut dozens of critical news outlets on extremism and mass disorder charges in connection to their reporting on Zhanaozen clashes. Unknown assailants shot and stabbed Lukpan Akhmedyarov, an award-winning journalist who had criticized official actions in Zhanaozen. He was among five critical news reporters who were brutally attacked in separate assaults during the year. All of the attacks remained unsolved in late year.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Hungary

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Hungary

Despite pressure from the European Commission, the Hungarian government implemented a media law that requires "balanced reporting" and imposes fines for transgressions. The government adopted only minor amendments in response to demands from the commission. Prime Minister Viktor Orban's right-wing party, Fidesz, was able to withstand the pressure thanks to the support of the European People's Party and the underlying fears of EU member states about conceding sovereignty to Brussels. The restrictive media law was a barometer of a wider pattern of deteriorating press freedom. Opposition media faced financial pressure as most public and private advertising went to pro-government outlets. The government-controlled Media Council sought to award the FM frequency of Klubrádió, a leading opposition station, to a rival broadcaster in a long-running battle that was pending in late year. While segments of private media remain critical, public broadcasting was under tight government control.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   France

Attacks on the Press in 2012: France

After five years of tension between the media and Élysée Palace under Nicolas Sarkozy, a new Socialist government sought to cool down the atmosphere. President François Hollande promised to review his predecessor’s policies on public broadcasting and to give up the presidential privilege of directly appointing its executives. The judiciary brought good news for the press: A judge dismissed a criminal case against Augustin Scalbert, a Rue89 journalist indicted in June 2010 on charges of “stealing and keeping” a video that showed Sarkozy scolding France 3 journalists. And prosecutor Philippe Courroye was indicted on charges of unlawfully trying to identify the sources used by Le Monde journalists investigating the Bettencourt affair, the questionable funding of Sarkozy’s party by billionaire Liliane Bettencourt. But a number of media outlets faced new lawsuits claiming defamation or insult (Mediapart, Libération), and endangerment of life or incitement to hatred (Charlie Hebdo). Several French journalists were also victims of violence: Gilles Jacquier and Rémi Ochlik were killed and Edith Bouvier was wounded in Syria, while Roméo Langlois was abducted in Colombia.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Belarus

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Belarus

President Aleksandr Lukashenko presided over one of the world's most censored nations, continuing policies that sought to suffocate critical journalism and dissenting opinion. At least four reporters, all of them known for critical coverage, were barred from traveling outside the country in March. Another four reporters were jailed during the year, while numerous others faced threats, harassment, fines, and assaults. The government's repressive practices were illustrated by its harsh reaction to a Swedish ad agency stunt in which hundreds of teddy bears pinned with press freedom slogans were airdropped over the country. The KGB jailed one reporter who covered the stunt, and interrogated and fined two others who published photos and stories about the airdrop. The episode led to the sacking of top army generals and a foreign minister, along with the expulsion of the Swedish ambassador. The country grew increasingly isolated during the year. In February, the government expelled Polish and European Union ambassadors after the EU widened travel bans against Belarusian officials due to the country's human rights failures. Lukashenko himself was subjected to an embarrassing travel restriction: He was barred from the 2012 Olympic Games in London because of an EU travel ban imposed after Minsk harshly cracked down on election protests in December 2010. In September 2012, the country's parliamentary election was marred by reports that election officials obstructed opposition candidates seeking to register, that state-controlled media refused to grant opposition candidates equitable coverage, and that the KGB cracked down on online activists. Throughout the year, critical media--both local and international--faced domestic blocking online, denial of accreditation, and distribution hurdles.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Azerbaijan

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Azerbaijan

Baku viciously cracked down on domestic dissent as it hosted two major international events, the Eurovision 2012 song contest and the Internet Governance Forum. Authorities imprisoned at least nine critical journalists on a variety of retaliatory charges, including hooliganism, drug possession, and extortion. CPJ concluded that the charges were fabricated. International human rights groups, including CPJ, criticized the Eurovision organizer, the European Broadcasting Union, for standing by passively as President Ilham Aliyev’s government jailed and intimidated detractors. The broadcasting union, while expressing concern about the abuses, said the contest was an “apolitical” event. Several independent journalists, including award-winning reporter Idrak Abbasov, were brutally assaulted on assignment, but the assailants, believed to have included police and security officers, enjoyed impunity. Investigative journalist Khadija Ismailova was subjected to a contemptible intimidation campaign after reporting on the ruling family’s extensive business interests. State media smeared her reputation, and anonymous individuals circulated intimate videos and photos. Parliament responded to Ismailova’s coverage by passing legislation giving the president broad immunity from prosecution and barring corporations from disclosing a wide range of financial information. Aliyev signed the bills into law in July.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Europe & Central Asia

Analyses and data track press freedom conditions. Elisabeth Witchel recounts a mother's anguished pursuit of justice in Russia. Nina Ognianova and Kristin Jones examine the implications of repressive nations hosting the Olympics. And Jean-Paul Marthoz reveals the censorship imposed by religious extremists.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Vietnam

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Vietnam

Vietnam intensified its grip on old and new media through a campaign of censorship, surveillance, and imprisonments. Central Propaganda Department officials held weekly meetings with top newspaper editors, outlining news agendas and identifying banned topics. The list of prohibited topics expanded to include criticism of the government's economic management, land conflicts between the state and local communities, and the business dealings of the prime minister's daughter, CPJ sources said. Courts handed down harsh prison sentences to six journalists in 2012. Nguyen Van Khuong, a reporter with the Vietnamese daily Tuoi Tre, was sentenced to four years in prison on trumped-up bribery charges filed after he investigated police corruption. Bloggers Dinh Dang Dinh and Le Thanh Tung were sentenced to six and five years respectively for postings deemed critical of the ruling Communist Party. Three other bloggers--Nguyen Van Hai, Ta Phong Tan, and Phan Thanh Hai--were sentenced to terms ranging from four to 12 years on anti-state charges related to their critical journalism. An executive decree pending in late year threatened a further clampdown on the Internet, including new prohibitions against pseudonymous or anonymous blogs. In a September directive, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called for police to identify and arrest contributors to three critical, politically oriented blogs that had been operated anonymously. The directive also ordered that the sites be blocked domestically.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Sri Lanka

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka remained a highly restrictive and dangerous nation for the press. Critical or opposition journalists continued to face a climate of intense intimidation. More than 20 journalists have gone into exile in the last five years, one of the highest rates in the world. Work-related murders have declined since 2009, but the slayings of nine journalists have gone unsolved over the last decade, one of the worst records of impunity in the world. The government moved aggressively to obstruct the flow of information. In July, the Ministry of Media and Information blocked efforts to introduce freedom of information legislation before parliament, saying national security would be threatened if citizens were given access to public documents. The government had barred previous right-to-information efforts, including one in 2011. In June, police raided the offices of two opposition news websites, arresting staff members and confiscating equipment. At least five other critical websites were blocked. And in March, the authorities told all news organizations they must obtain prior official approval before issuing any text or SMS news alerts that carried information about the military or police.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Philippines

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Philippines

The Philippines remained one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a journalist. At least one journalist, Christopher Guarin, a broadcaster and newspaper publisher, was killed in relation to his work. Four others were killed under unclear circumstances, and at least two more were attacked by unidentified gunmen. Despite President Benigno Aquino III's vow to achieve justice in journalist murders, the Philippines ranked third-worst worldwide on CPJ's Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and killers go free. The landmark prosecution of suspects in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre moved at a sluggish pace and was dealt a severe setback with the killing of a key witness. A new Cybercrime Prevention Act gave officials discretionary power to shut down websites and impose prison terms of up to 12 years for online defamation. Amid an outcry by press freedom and civil society groups, as well as legal challenges by petitioners, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order blocking the law's implementation.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Pakistan

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Pakistan

Pakistan remained one of the deadliest nations in the world for the press, a situation that appeared unlikely to change given the government's unwillingness to confront the problem. In March, Pakistan joined with Brazil and India in raising objections to a comprehensive UNESCO proposal to protect the press and combat impunity in journalist murders. Pakistan has been one of the world's worst nations in combating deadly anti-press violence, CPJ's Impunity Index shows. At least 23 journalist murders have gone unpunished since the killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. A 2012 report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan showed growing ties between political repression and the rising incidence of violence against news media. Threats to journalists in Pakistan were no longer confined to traditionally violent areas such as the border region, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or Baluchistan, CPJ research found. Reporters in Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Karachi, and Lahore faced persistent threats. And in another troubling development, several international journalists told CPJ that militants had begun threatening them more frequently, as the groups started paying more attention to their global reputations.

February 14, 2013 12:05 AM ET

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

Attacks on the Press   |   Peru

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Peru

Anti-press violence dipped slightly, but impunity persisted in past attacks. The prosecutor in charge of investigating the 2011 slaying of TV journalist Pedro Alfonso Flores Silva was murdered himself in April 2012, the same week he was to announce his findings. The following month, national police announced that Flores’ murder had been ordered by a local mayor in reprisal for the journalist’s reporting on government corruption, but the mayor was never formally charged in the case. Separately, the former mayor of the city of Coronel Portillo was acquitted in May in connection with the 2004 murder of radio journalist Alberto Rivera Fernandez. After condemnation by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Peruvian Supreme Court overturned its own decision to free Alberto Pinto, former head of the military’s intelligence service, who had been serving a 15-year sentence for the 1990s-era murders of civilians, including journalist Pedro Yauri. Pinto went into hiding in the face of an arrest warrant. Several assaults were reported. One journalist was beaten unconscious after reporting on local corruption. Journalists who covered violent protests against a mining project were attacked by police and demonstrators. No journalists were imprisoned in 2012, but two were given suspended prison sentences on criminal defamation charges. A bill that eliminated jail terms for defamation has been stalled in Congress since mid-2011.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Mexico

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Mexico

As the military battled drug cartels--and the gangs clashed with one another--the press came under fire from criminals and corrupt officials seeking to control the flow of information. Journalists disappeared or were threatened or forced to flee in reprisal for their work, and several media outlets were attacked. Freelance journalist Adrían Silva Moreno was shot to death in Puebla shortly after the reporter had gathered information on a large-scale gasoline theft and then witnessed a stand-off between soldiers and gunmen. Five other journalists were murdered during the year; CPJ was investigating to determine whether the killings were work-related. After being repeatedly targeted, one daily published an editorial stating it would no longer report on cartel violence. In a sign of the public's dissatisfaction with President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa's bloody offensive against the cartels, the rival Institutional Revolutionary Party won back the presidency in an election that vaulted Enrique Peña Nieto to power. Calderón's administration did have a landmark press freedom achievement in its final year. After years of advocacy by CPJ and other press freedom groups, Congress and the states passed a Calderón-backed constitutional amendment federalizing crimes against freedom of expression, a key step in combating local-level corruption and impunity. Still, the legislation needed to implement the amendment had yet to be passed in late year. At least 14 journalists were killed in retaliation for their work during Calderón's presidency, which ran from December 2006 through December 2012, marking the tenure as one of the deadliest on record for the press anywhere in the world.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Honduras

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Honduras

Journalists who report on sensitive issues such as drug trafficking, government corruption, and land conflicts face frequent threats and attacks in a nation so gripped by violence and lawlessness that it has become one of the most murderous places in the world. The abduction and murder of Ángel Alfredo Villatoro, one of the country’s best-known journalists and a friend of President Porfirio Lobo, made headlines for weeks and prompted nationwide demonstrations against anti-press violence. The authorities did not identify a motive but charged three people in the attack. Reflecting the deep polarization that followed the 2009 military-backed coup, attacks against reporters seen as supportive of the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, attracted far less attention and official action. CPJ research shows that the authorities have been slow and negligent in investigating numerous journalist murders and other anti-press crimes since the 2009 coup, even as they have tried to minimize the extent of the violence. Official negligence in the investigations—CPJ found that the authorities often failed to interview witnesses or collect evidence—has made it difficult to determine the motives in many of the cases. While the U.S. Senate said it would withhold some aid from Honduras due to alleged human rights violations by police, the State Department announced the creation of a Bilateral Human Rights Working Group to assist the Honduran government with investigations into journalist murders.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   El Salvador

Attacks on the Press in 2012: El Salvador

Journalists felt the effect of widespread gang-related violence. The staff of the online news site El Faro faced intimidation after reporting on a criminal network involving businessmen and politicians, and after revealing secret negotiations between the government and gangs. Unidentified individuals followed and photographed El Faro’s journalists, Editor Carlos Dada said. Minister of Security David Munguía Payés acknowledged that the outlet was at risk but initially declined to provide any protection. The case also exposed cracks in solidarity among the Salvadoran press as few journalists initially came to the defense of El Faro. Nationwide, murder rates appeared to drop after the government negotiated a gang truce, although some officials suggested disappearances were simultaneously on the rise. Despite pervasive societal violence, the country has not seen widespread killings of journalists. The authorities, who won a conviction in May in the 2011 murder of a cameraman, have a generally good record in combating deadly anti-press violence, CPJ research shows.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Ecuador

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Ecuador

The press freedom climate continued its sharp decline under President Rafael Correa. Courts upheld defamation convictions against executives of the daily El Universo and authors of the book Big Brother in connection with their critical coverage of the Correa administration. The president, who initiated the complaints, later pardoned the journalists, but the rulings cast a chill on in-depth reporting. Correa granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a move that underlined his antipathy toward the United States and sought to counter his image as an opponent of free expression. U.N. member states made 24 recommendations on freedom of expression at the country’s Universal Periodic Review. The Ecuadoran government rejected three of the recommendations, including one that urged the repeal of laws that criminalize speech. The president also began a sustained attack on the Organization of American States’ special rapporteur for freedom of expression, a move that threatened to gut a vital defender of the regional press. An anti-press attitude was prevalent among all branches of Ecuadoran government. Legislators debated a bill that would allow a media regulatory body to impose arbitrary sanctions on the press and limit free speech. The telecommunications office closed at least 11 broadcasters, more than half of which were critical of the government. And a photographer was killed in direct retaliation for his reporting, the first confirmed journalist murder in Ecuador since 2005.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Cuba

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Cuba

Though Cuba projected an image of a nation opening up economically and politically, it took no substantive steps to promote freedom of expression. The authorities announced plans to eliminate exit visa regulations that had long restricted Cuban travel, but skeptics expressed doubts about the government’s commitment to the reform. The prominent blogger Yoani Sánchez, has been denied exit visas at least 19 times, CPJ research shows. Venezuela, which financed a much-heralded Cuban fiber-optic cable project, said the installation was completed, but Havana gave no indication when the technology would be put into use. Internet penetration remained low, with existing public connections slow and expensive. Cuba placed ninth on CPJ’s global survey of most-censored countries, and the authorities continued to stifle dissent. After a one-year absence, the nation rejoined the ranks of countries imprisoning journalists. One independent journalist was jailed when CPJ conducted its annual worldwide survey. Though long-term detentions were more infrequent than in past years, human rights groups and news reports documented short-term detentions and harassment surrounding widely covered events, such as the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in March. The authorities detained Sánchez and two other bloggers while they were en route to cover a trial stemming from the vehicular death in July of Oswaldo Payá, a prominent dissident. Journalist and lawyer Yaremis Flores was detained for two days after reporting local criticism of the government's response to Hurricane Sandy in articles published on the Miami-based Cubanet. Two years after the Black Spring detainees were freed, many of the journalists faced severe economic challenges in exile. One, Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, killed himself in April.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Colombia

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Colombia

Journalists faced resurgent violence from illegal armed groups in the months before President Juan Manuel Santos’ government announced peace talks with the leftist guerrilla organization Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The group, also known as the FARC, held French reporter Roméo Langlois captive for more than a month, the first abduction of an international journalist in Colombia since 2003, according to CPJ research. Fernando Londoño, a radio talk show host and former high-ranking government official, was injured and his driver and bodyguard were killed in a targeted bombing in Bogotá. Police were also implicated in an instance of anti-press violence. In November, freelance journalist Guillermo Quiroz Delgado died after being arrested while covering a street protest in Sucre department. From his hospital bed, Quiroz said he had been assaulted by police officers. Decisions in several legal cases favored the press. Angered by criticism in an opinion piece, the seven justices of the Supreme Court’s criminal chamber filed an unprecedented criminal defamation complaint against columnist Cecilia Orozco Tascón—but dropped the case after widespread criticism. The chief prosecutor's office classified the 2000 kidnapping and sexual assault of journalist Jineth Bedoya as a crime against humanity and thus not subject to the statute of limitation. And two former officials of the national intelligence agency, or DAS, were sentenced to six years each in prison for an illegal espionage program that targeted critical journalists among others.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Brazil

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Brazil

Brazil’s international profile remained on the rise, but its government consistently failed to show leadership on press freedom issues. Anti-press violence surged with four work-related fatalities; the country’s ranking also worsened on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which highlights countries where journalists are killed regularly and the authorities fail to solve the crimes. Along with India and Pakistan—two other countries that rank poorly on the Impunity Index—Brazil raised objections to a comprehensive UNESCO proposal to help nations combat impunity and protect journalists. In the face of heavy criticism, U.N. Ambassador Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti later expressed broad support for press freedom and elements of the UNESCO plan. But the government's commitment to free expression came into question in another important international matter. Brazil supported an Ecuadoran-led effort to weaken the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the human rights monitoring body of the Organization of American States, and its special rapporteur for freedom of expression. In December, investigative reporter and CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee Mauri König fled Brazil after receiving death threats related to his coverage of police corruption. President Dilma Rousseff’s government did usher in two measures promoting the public’s right to know. Rousseff signed into law an access-to-information measure and created a commission to investigate human rights abuses committed during the country’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Argentina

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Argentina

Disputes between Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s government and top media outlets intensified. Despite a Supreme Court ruling that ordered equitable distribution of state advertising, Kirchner’s government continued to withhold government ads from outlets critical of her administration, while lavishing business on those that provided favorable coverage, a CPJ special report found. Both the justice department and a federal appeals court fined the executive branch for ignoring the ruling, but the government showed no intention of complying. The administration also continued its practice of attacking and insulting journalists and executives associated with the country’s two principal media companies, Clarín and La Nación, sometimes using smear campaigns on public television shows. Those media groups, in turn, relentlessly criticized the government. The result was a highly polarized climate, with outlets devoting considerable coverage to discrediting one another, and citizens being deprived of objective sources of information on vital issues of public interest.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Americas

Analyses and data track press conditions throughout the region. Mike O'Connor describes cartel-imposed censorship in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. Carlos Lauría recounts how members of the Organization of American States failed to stand up for press freedom. And John Otis examines a spike in Brazilian murders targeting critical bloggers.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Uganda

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Uganda

Police assaulted and obstructed numerous journalists covering opposition demonstrations, repeating an abusive pattern set during the previous year’s presidential campaign. Police officials repeatedly professed determination to investigate the attacks but ultimately held no officer publicly accountable. Several journalists began to seek redress in the courts, although no cases had been resolved by late year. President Yoweri Museveni signed the Uganda Communications Act in September. The measure ostensibly merged two regulatory bodies, but it also imposed vague new requirements that broadcasters respect “public morality” and “ethical broadcasting standards.” Press freedom organizations said the law also granted the Information Ministry broad powers to modify broadcast licenses at will.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Togo

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Togo

President Faure Gnassingbé and his allies used the multiple levers of power to dominate the political and media landscapes. Coverage of dissenting political views came under attack from government regulators who censored critical programming, and from security agents who violently obstructed journalists covering protests. Government regulators barred a popular current affairs call-in radio program in July, while continuing their two-year-old ban on another station known for its vernacular political debate program. Street protests against human rights violations and abuses of power flared throughout the year but were violently dispersed by security forces. CPJ documented at least three instances in which security agents or police assaulted journalists covering the demonstrations. Journalists filming or photographing police dispersal tactics were targeted. Ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for 2013, Gnassingbé’s ruling majority in the National Assembly passed legislation giving its loyalists control over local polls and vote counting, setting off another round of public protests by the opposition, according to news reports.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Tanzania

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Tanzania

A journalist was killed in the line of duty in September, the first Tanzanian work-related fatality documented by CPJ in the 20 years it has kept detailed records. Police attacked veteran TV reporter Daudi Mwangosi, who was shot point-blank with a tear-gas canister and died at the scene, witnesses said. Mwangosi, of the private Channel 10 station, had confronted officers over the arrest of another journalist during an opposition rally, news reports said. The authorities arrested a junior officer in connection with the killing, but they didn’t pursue at least six other officers thought to be associated with the death, according to a report released by the independent Media Council of Tanzania. The government can use 17 repressive, media-related statutes to crack down on critical coverage. Under the Newspaper Act of 1976, the information ministry indefinitely banned the Swahili-language weekly MwanaHalisi in July on vague charges of sedition and false reporting in unspecified articles. The paper’s chief editor, Jabir Idrissa, said he suspected the publication was targeted for its coverage of a physicians’ strike in the country and the abduction and torture of Steven Ulimboka, a doctor leading the strikers. Reports from MwanaHalisi had suggested the authorities were involved in the attack on Ulimboka, but the government denied the allegations, news reports said.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Somalia

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Somalia

Despite a relatively peaceful presidential election and the government’s continuing control of the capital, Mogadishu, a record number of Somali journalists were killed in 2012. Amid comparative calm in the capital, targeted killings of journalists and political figures continued, most notably in a deadly September blast at a café frequented by reporters and government officials. Given the ouster of Al-Shabaab insurgents from Mogadishu in 2011, the continuing killings raised concern that journalists and others were being targeted by a widening field of politically motivated antagonists. Though most fatalities occurred in the capital, unknown gunmen killed two journalists in separate attacks in Galkayo, a commercial hub of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland. Three radio stations were forced to close during the year, two on the orders of Al-Shabaab and one at the directive of Puntland officials. Pervasive insecurity has forced dozens of Somali journalists to flee into exile in the last five years, the highest number in the world. Although peaceful in comparison to the rest of the country, the semi-autonomous republic of Somaliland had a high number of journalist detentions.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Rwanda

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Rwanda

President Paul Kagame used his August address before the East African Community Media Summit to cast the domestic press “as an important partner in our country’s development” while accusing Western journalists of misrepresentation that “derails our progress or even fuels conflict.” The dual theme--calling on domestic journalists to advance a government agenda while depicting international news media as adversaries--has become common among regional leaders. But critical journalists are seen as foes, not partners, by Kagame’s government. The authorities have engaged in several years of aggressive harassment of critical journalists, forcing many into exile, landing some in prison, and sowing self-censorship among the rest. CPJ identified three imprisoned journalists when it conducted its annual worldwide survey on December 1, and at least two others who were detained for significant periods during the year. Red lines appeared to be easily crossed and harshly punished: The authorities detained a radio presenter for nearly 100 days after the journalist mistakenly used a phrase deemed offensive to survivors of the 1994 genocide. Although Kagame spoke in support of media reform at the summit, three bills backed by the Rwandan press remained stalled in parliament. The bills would provide access to government information, create a media ombudsman independent of the government, and establish a public broadcaster.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Nigeria

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Nigeria

President Goodluck Jonathan struggled to maintain stability as Boko Haram, an Islamist militant group based in northern Nigeria, carried out a wave of terrorist attacks against churches, government buildings, and, for the first time, news outlets. In April, the group staged coordinated attacks on offices of three newspapers in two cities, and threatened reprisals against 14 news outlets it accused of misrepresenting its activities. The threats forced many journalists to relocate from northern Nigeria. The press corps also faced persistent harassment at the hands of the government: CPJ documented more than 100 assaults, cases of obstruction, and other anti-press actions by security forces and officials. Jonathan also came under fire for his decision to suspend consumer fuel subsidies, which prompted a nationwide strike and street protests in this top oil-producing nation. Protesters surrounded the studios of the national public broadcaster Nigerian Television Authority and the private Africa Independent Television, two prominent outlets seen as pro-government, to demand more coverage of their concerns. The anger spread to social media with the #OccupyNigeria hashtag trending globally on Twitter.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Mali

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Mali

After an extended period of relative calm and freedom, the Malian press faced severe threats amid a military coup and an armed insurrection. In March, a junta ousted President Amadou Toumani Touré just weeks before his second and final term would have expired. Touré had been the target of public discontent over setbacks suffered by the army in its fight against ethnic Tuareg separatists of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad in Mali's Saharan north. The rebels allied with hard-line Islamist militants to take advantage of the political turmoil after the coup, seizing Timbuktu and other northern cities and towns. Islamist groups imposed draconian censorship on dozens of radio stations, and shut down at least one. Their orders included bans on music and demands that programming feature Quranic recitations, local journalists said. Journalists operating in rebel and Islamist-controlled areas were also subjected to intense intimidation; those in government-controlled areas faced kidnappings, detentions, and assaults.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Syria

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Kenya

In the run-up to the March 2013 elections, tensions ran high among local journalists, who feared a repeat of the violent aftermath of the disputed 2007 vote in which the press was targeted and harassed in connection with news coverage. Several journalists were threatened or attacked throughout 2012 in reprisal for their reporting on official corruption. CPJ found that most of the anti-press episodes took place in Western Kenya. The installation of fiber-optic cable networks drove up the number of Internet users. With its Internet penetration having doubled since 2010, Kenya boasted the highest rate in East Africa. The country also leads East Africa in mobile phone use with 29 million clients, according to International Telecommunication Union data. Kenya continued to be the main regional refuge for journalists fleeing their home countries in fear of attack or imprisonment. Since 2007, at least 52 journalists have resettled in Kenya, but often under extreme hardship.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Ethiopia

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Ethiopia

The death of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in August in a Belgian hospital brought an end to a 21-year rule characterized by repression of dissent and iron-fisted control of the independent press. His fatal illness was shrouded in secrecy. After Meles disappeared from public view in June, the government played down rumors of his illness and suppressed in-depth domestic reporting. The government also faced rare demonstrations by members of the Muslim community, who protested what they called government interference in their affairs. Security forces violently dispersed the gatherings, cracking down on journalists who reported on them, and forcing three Muslim-oriented newspapers to close. The government drew widespread international condemnation for the convictions of nine Ethiopian journalists on vague and politicized terrorism charges. The journalists, five of them exiles tried in absentia, were handed sentences ranging from eight years to life imprisonment. The government finally freed two Swedish journalists who were imprisoned for 14 months for reporting on separatist Ogaden rebels. Six journalists remained behind bars in late year, including award-winning writer Eskinder Nega.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Eritrea

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Eritrea

CPJ identified Eritrea as the most censored country in the world in 2012. No independent domestic news outlets have been allowed to operate since a widespread September 2001 government crackdown on dissent. The last accredited foreign news reporter was expelled in 2007. State media operate under the rigid control of Information Minister Ali Abdu, who uses intimidation and imprisonment to enforce a government-approved message. The Red Sea nation is the continent’s leading jailer of journalists; the detainees include independent reporters and editors swept up in the 2001 crackdown, along with numerous state media journalists who have somehow violated the government’s strict controls. The detainees are held without charge and in secret locations. President Isaias Afwerki has consistently refused to account for the whereabouts, legal status, or health of the jailed journalists, or even confirm reports that some have died in custody. Fearful state media journalists have fled the country in large numbers. Eritrea has the fifth highest number of exiled journalists in the world, according to CPJ data. In July, the U.N. Human Rights Council unanimously condemned “widespread and systematic violations” and appointed a representative to further investigate abuses, according to news reports.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET

Attacks on the Press   |   Democratic Republic of the Congo

Attacks on the Press in 2012: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Journalists reporting on renewed conflict in the east were repeatedly censored and intimidated by local officials, the national government, and rebel forces. Fighting resumed in the east after President Joseph Kabila said his government would try to arrest Bosco Ntaganda, a former warlord wanted by the International Criminal Court on war crime charges. In response, Ntaganda joined with army mutineers to form a rebel group that took control of key towns in North Kivu province. The state-run media regulatory agency barred all broadcasters from airing programs discussing the conflict; several radio stations were suspended indefinitely after interviewing the mutineers. At least three journalists fled into hiding after being threatened in reprisal for their reporting on the conflict. Tensions between DRC and neighboring Rwanda also grew after the publication in June of a leaked U.N. report that blamed Kigali for providing military assistance to the rebels. The same month, Communications Minister Lambert Mende accused a Kinshasa newspaper of tribalism and indefinitely suspended the publication in connection with an editorial critical of Congolese of Rwandan ancestry. Although danger was severe in the east, CPJ also documented numerous instances in which officials in Bas Congo detained and intimidated critical journalists.

February 14, 2013 12:04 AM ET
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