Report says 2007 deadly for journalists; Iraq sees most victims for 5th straight year

By Hannah Allam
McClatchy Newspapers
February 7, 2008

CAIRO, Egypt: The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has released its 2007 annual report, “Attacks on the Press.” At least 65 journalists were killed in the past year, the highest death toll in more than a decade.

Iraq, with 32 victims, was the deadliest place to be a journalist for the fifth straight year. Somalia was the second-deadliest country, with seven journalists killed in 2007. (One of the slain Somali reporters was McClatchy’s freelance correspondent, 30-year-old Mahad Ahmed Elmi.)

The CPJ report rebukes several Middle Eastern governments for detaining and harassing journalists, but plenty of other states came under fire this year as well: Putin’s Russia, Chavez’s Venezuela, pre-Olympics China and a smattering of African and Asian countries.

The report, at , is fascinating and well written. There are regional summaries, along with country summaries and analysis. The CPJ’s Middle East expert Joel Campagna, for example, uncovered how authoritarian regimes in the Arab world are painting themselves as reformers but secretly are working to sidestep Western pressure or scrutiny and maintain the status quo, often through heavy-handed tactics.

Here’s an excerpt from Campagna’s summary of Middle Eastern attacks on the press:

“In today’s interconnected world, where information on rights abuses can travel the globe in minutes, governments can no longer afford to run roughshod over human rights as they did as recently as the 1990s. Aware that blunt repression could cost them international standing, foreign aid, and outside investment, they have fashioned themselves as democratic reformers while resorting to stealthy forms of media control. Manipulating the media, they have found, is more politically palatable to the international community than outright domination.

“‘In recent years, a new model of authoritarian governance has emerged in a number of key Arab states,” American political scientist Steven Heydemann wrote in an October 2007 Brookings Institution report. “A product of trial and error more than intentional design, Arab regimes have adapted to pressures for political change by developing strategies to contain and manage demands to democratize.”

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