From violence in Iraq to repression in China, CPJ recounts a troubling year in Attacks on the Press

New York, February 4, 2008–China’s onerous restrictions on the media in the run up to the 2008 Olympic Games, the erosion of press freedom in many of Africa’s new democracies, the criminalization of journalism in central Asia, and the increasing use of vague “antistate” charges to jail journalists around the world are among the troubling trends revealed in the new edition of Attacks on the Press. Reported and written by the staff of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2007 also details the devastating violence in Iraq, where 32 journalists were killed in the line of duty. Worldwide, 65 journalists were killed in 2007, the highest toll in more than a decade.

CPJ Board Member and CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour

CPJ’s annual survey documents hundreds of cases of media repression in more than 100 countries, including murders, assaults, imprisonments, censorship, and legal harassment. With a preface by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Attacks on the Press features in-depth regional reporting and analysis of global trends. Here are some highlights, as described in the introduction by CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon:

  • In Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has created a national security state ruled by spies, dissent has been redefined as “extremism.” Under sweeping new laws, media criticism of public officials is now a criminal offense. The Kremlin’s tactic of rewriting laws to criminalize journalism has been exported to countries such as Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
  • In parts of Africa, where democracy has supposedly taken root after years of strife, press conditions have actually worsened. While accepting accolades from Western donors, repressive leaders in Ethiopia, the Gambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have cracked down on critical media, shuttering newspapers and putting journalists in jail.
  • A similar strategy is unfolding in the Middle East, where a number of Arab governments are expressing public commitment to democratic reform while using less visible legal strategies to control the press. “Manipulating the media, they have found, is more politically palatable to the international community than outright domination,” writes CPJ Senior Program Coordinator Joel Campagna.
  • In Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez Frías’ government forced a critical television station off the air in May by failing to renew its broadcast concession. Venezuelan authorities said they were acting within the law, but a CPJ investigation found that the process was arbitrary and politically motivated.

Attacks on the Press is being released today and throughout the week at press conferences in Berlin, Cairo, Hong Kong, London, and New York. Copies may be ordered through the Brookings Institution Press with proceeds supporting CPJ’s work.

Read the online version.