CPJ releases Attacks on the Press in 2002
Annual report documents changing press freedom landscape: 20 journalists killed;
136 jailed at year's end; China world's leading jailer of journalists for fourth year

Attacks on the Press in 2002: Full text online

New York, March 31, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today released its annual survey, Attacks on the Press in 2002, during a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Copies of the book are available through The Brookings Institution Press.

"Reporting on the Gulf War has raised public awareness about the risks journalists face to bring us the news," said CPJ acting director Joel Simon. "But as this book makes clear, there are many journalists in places such as Russia, Colombia, and the West Bank who work under similarly perilous conditions every day."

According to CPJ, the number of journalists behind bars rose sharply in 2002, while heightened awareness of journalist safety and a decline in the number of global conflicts last year contributed to a decrease in the number of journalists killed for their work.

Attacks on the Press in 2002 documents some 500 cases of media repression in 120 countries, including assassination, assault, imprisonment, censorship, and legal harassment. In documenting these attacks, CPJ's report notes several trends:
  • For the second year in a row, the number of journalists in prison rose sharply. There were 136 journalists in jail at the end of 2002, a 15 percent increase from 2001 and a shocking 68 percent increase since the end of 2000, when only 81 journalists were imprisoned. China, already the world's leading jailer of journalists for the fourth year in a row, arrested five more, ending the year with a total of 39 journalists behind bars. In Eritrea, 18 journalists languish behind bars, and 16 journalists were incarcerated in Nepal.

  • A total of 20 journalists were killed worldwide as a direct result of their work in 2002, a sharp decrease from 2001 when 37 were killed. (When Attacks went to press, CPJ had confirmed that 19 journalists had been killed. We recently learned that a journalist who we had reported missing in 2002 was found dead.) It is the lowest number of journalists killed in the line of duty since CPJ began tracking the deaths in 1985. Most of the journalists killed in 2002 were not covering conflicts but were instead murdered in direct reprisal for their reporting on sensitive topics, including official crime and corruption in countries such as Colombia, the Philippines, Russia, and Pakistan.

  • Government officials invoked "national security" concerns to impose new restrictions on the press and limit access to certain conflicts. In the West Bank, journalists covering the Israeli military incursion there were harassed, denied access to "closed military areas," and three journalists were killed by Israeli gunfire. Russian authorities also cracked down on the media during and after the October hostage crisis, when Chechens rebels seized a Moscow theater. Authorities threatened journalists for interviewing hostage-takers and for questioning the government's actions.
Justice for Journalists
Although the number of journalists behind bars rose in 2002, there were some positive trends in press freedom worldwide. In Mozambique, six men were convicted in January 2003 of murdering investigative reporter Carlos Cardoso following a fact-finding mission and special report by CPJ. Three Palestinian journalists detained without charge during the Israeli military's April 2002 offensive in the West Bank were released after intensive lobbying by CPJ staff and board members. After CPJ traveled to Vladivostok, Russia, to pressure authorities to free imprisoned journalist Grigory Pasko, he was released early this year before completing his full term.

By publicizing individual attacks, CPJ uses journalism to defend the media, and to help ensure that they can report the news without fear of reprisal. According to CPJ research, local journalists are most often threatened for doing their work. As The New York Times' Serge Schmemann writes in his preface to Attacks on the Press in 2002, "Many of them are people who did not choose risky assignments but whose countries or beats were caught up in conflict, tyranny, or lawlessness. Telling the real story became dangerous, but they told it anyway because they believed they had to do so."

© 2003 Committee to Protect Journalists. http://www.cpj.org  E-mail: [email protected]