by Roger Rosenblatt

Lewis Thomas, the biologist and essayist, speculated that the reason we Cro-Magnons got rid of the Neanderthals is that we could not bear their silence. His observation says as much about speech as about the absence of speech--that once people began to use words to express themselves, there could be no turning back, no anti-evolutionary tendency that would have us keep quiet again. Words are weapons against oblivion. If the species were ever to revert to silence, that silence would be deafening, because everyone would remember the time that we made a sound.

Journalism, at its best, sides with the Cro-Magnons. A tyrannical, oppressive government or group, having established silence somewhere, seeks to keep the unnatural peace by means of censorship, intimidation and murder; and the journalist seeks to break the silence with the truth. Their respective forces are ill-balanced; one side has guns, the other words. It is amazing to consider that, historically, the words have prevailed.

I do not mean to accord any special nobility to journalists as people. By speaking out, or writing out, they are simply doing their jobs. It is where they do these jobs that sets certain journalists apart. Many American journalists drop in on dangerous places like Bosnia or Rwanda, stay a few weeks and go home. For most of the people in whom the Committee to Protect Journalists is interested, the dangerous places are home.

They do not think of themselves as remarkable, so their colleagues in safer places must do that for them. Yet the work of CPJ is not merely to honor such people with recognition. The International Press Freedom Awards, given every year to a few of the bravest, are both symbols of admiration and signals to the worlds in which they operate that the freer world is watching. This is what CPJ said presenting the 1995 International Press Freedom Awards to Yevgeny Kiselyov, whose independent television network is threatened in Russia; to investigative reporter Veronica Guerin, who has been beaten and shot in Ireland; to José Rubén Zamora Marroquín, who, as editor of an independent newspaper in Guatemala, is continually under fire; to Fred M'membe, editor of Zambia's most important independent paper, who faces criminal charges that could sentence him to prison for 100 years; and to Ahmad Taufik, president of Indonesia's sole independent journalists union, who is already in prison for expressing "feelings of hostility" toward the government.

In 1995, 51 journalists were killed in the line of duty. Forty-five were murdered outright; and six were killed covering a war, or as a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The silence of those killed is doubled by the silence that results from their killing. It is where the truth has been silenced that the silence of death is most painful--the silence of Cambodia, or of Auschwitz, or of Babi Yar; the silence, these days, of Sudan.

In his great book, Language and Silence, the English critic George Steiner wondered if anyone would have cared what Hitler did to the Jews if the Nazis had not ventured outside the borders of the Third Reich. "There would have been numerous pundits and journalists," wrote Steiner, "to assure us that rumors were exaggerated, that Dachau had pleasant walks." He assumed that journalists would be too stupid or corrupt to break the silence with the truth, and, from time to time, that has been the case.

But today's journalists are a pretty honest lot, for the most part. And they have been encouraged by organizations like CPJ, which reassure them that if they make a sound, the world will listen. Steiner also said that there are some horrors too deep for words. That may be true for art, but not for journalism. The unwritten or unspoken report is good news for killers, and eventually it leaves a wasteland.

The Committee to Protect Journalists did not create the journalists it seeks to protect. These people would tell their indispensable stories whether or not CPJ existed. And, in many if not most cases, CPJ cannot fulfill the promise of its own self-appointed mission. If the forces of silence want to do their dirty work, they will find a way, and then express ignorance of the event, or regret.

But if CPJ did not cry out against such acts, who would make the noise? And if no one sounded the alarm, who would try to prevent the fire next time? Everywhere journalists work, someone strives to keep them quiet in the interest of silencing the world. People have come too far for that.

is a prize-winning essayist and author.

Executive Summary

Attacks on the Press in 1995 analyzes the state of press freedom in 101 countries last year and examines more than 700 individual cases of journalists who were physically attacked, imprisoned, threatened or censored in retaliation for their work. Drawn from the research of CPJ's in-house staff of regional media experts, CPJ's annual Attacks on the Press reports are widely recognized as the most comprehensive and authoritative source of information on press freedom violations around the world.

Major Findings

Regional Trends


The Americas


Central Europe and the Republics of the Former Soviet Union

Middle East and North Africa

The 10-Year Death Toll: Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty

Between 1986 and 1995, 456 journalists were killed in 61 countries for reasons related directly to their profession, CPJ has confirmed. More than 300 of those deaths appeared to have been deliberate political assassinations. The countries with the highest death tolls illustrate the different kinds of threats now facing independent journalists around the world:

Silencing the press in the name of religion and politics
Targeting journalists in war zones
Contract murders of reporters covering drug trafficking
Stamping out free expression in societies accustomed to tyranny
Reprisals for investigations of human rights abuses and corruption

Special Reports

Attacks on the Press in 1995 features insightful, in-depth commentaries on the jailing, murder and censorship of journalists in:

CPJ Actions

Attacks on the Press in 1995 shows how CPJ took action on behalf of hundreds of journalists last year. Through diplomatic channels, grassroots efforts and media campaigns, CPJ brought international attention to these cases and helped secure the release of prisoners.


by William A. Orme, Jr.

On March 1, 1995, Vladislav Listyev, one of Russia's best-known news broadcasters, respected universally for his integrity and independence, came home from his new job as head of a national public television network. As he entered his Moscow apartment building, he was shot dead.

Listyev's killing provoked a national outcry. He was the fourth Moscow journalist murdered in nine months, but he was by far the most famous. Thousands marched in his funeral procession, demanding that authorities find and punish his murderers. The Yeltsin government promised to make the Listyev homicide one of its highest priorities.

The deep public anger and spontaneous demonstrations of support for press freedom provoked by Listyev's tragic killing were heartening to journalists in Russia and abroad. But a year later, there is still no sign of a serious government effort to identify and prosecute those responsible for the crime: no suspects held, no charges filed, no evidence of any serious ongoing investigation.

As with all unsolved homicides, the motives for Listyev's murder remain unclear: a common supposition is that entrenched interests objected to his cancellation of lucrative advertising contracts and to his commitment to editorial autonomy. But the killing itself, and the government's failure to find and arrest suspects, sent a message to Russian journalists that any one of them, no matter how prominent, could be murdered with impunity. It was an unsettling reminder of the fragility of press freedom in Russia and many other nations where democratic rights have shallow roots.

New Freedoms Under Siege

For most of the world, press freedom is an achievement of the late 20th century, the result (and often the catalyst) of democratic revolutions that ended both Soviet Communism and military rule by the anti-Communist right.

The gains for journalists and journalism have been extraordinary. The ranks of independent reporters and news organizations working around the world have probably doubled in the past decade, and people from Moscow to Seoul to Soweto are getting uncensored information about national and world affairs for the first time in their lives.

But the risks have increased commensurately as well. Almost everywhere, newly won freedoms are under siege. Journalists face violent reprisals from state security forces, from international drug gangs and from armed dissidents of diverse ideological stripes. Criminal libel suits and huge civil financial claims are filed by officials and their friends in an effort to frustrate coverage of government corruption. As 1995 drew to a close, at least 182 journalists--a record--were held in jails around the world because local authorities disapproved of their reporting. And, in the most chilling statistic of all, at least 51 journalists were killed last year in the line of duty, most of them by political assassins.

This annual report of the Committee to Protect Journalists chronicles these assaults on press freedom. They range in seriousness from incidents of censorship to, at the extreme, in Algeria, a systematic campaign of assassination against all members of the working press.

In most cases, CPJ did more than document these abuses. We worked to get detained journalists out of jail, sent letters of protest to offending governments (and to nongovernmental offenders), alerted the international press to abuses against journalists, helped journalists fleeing persecution to find asylum, provided practical safety information to reporters assigned to dangerous areas and tried to persuade the U.S. and other governments to make the defense of press freedom a diplomatic priority.

This pressure can be effective. In June, Cuban journalist Yndamiro Restano was released from prison following a six-month international protest campaign spearheaded by CPJ's Americas program. The timely and highly public intervention in Turkey of CPJ Honorary Chairman Walter Cronkite was instrumental, we believe, in the successful fight for an acquittal of Istanbul-based Reuter correspondent Aliza Marcus, who faced three years in prison in Turkey (where more journalists are incarcerated than anywhere in the world) just for reporting the undisputed truth about counterinsurgency strikes against Kurdish rebels. Christian Science Monitor reporter David Rohde, taken into custody and held for trial in Serbian-controlled Bosnia, was released following CPJ Chair Kati Marton's direct and insistent appeals to Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic during the peace talks in Dayton, Ohio.

But the bedrock of our work is the basic journalistic research evident throughout this volume: the timely, thoroughly sourced documentation of hundreds of cases of abuse, harassment and intimidation. CPJ staff experts confirm that each incident happened, that the victim was a legitimate working journalist, and that his or her professional activities appeared to be the only plausible reason for the attack. Given the strictness of our criteria and the difficulties of investigating cases in often-remote provinces that are also often in the throes of civil conflict, this catalogue of press freedom violations inevitably understates the dimensions of the problem. It remains, however, the most comprehensive survey of its kind.

Where the Press Is the Opposition

Most of the 720 incidents itemized in this book took place in countries that offer neither the best nor the worst national examples of press freedom. Because of our limited resources, CPJ's press-monitoring work does not cover the industrial democracies. Our work on behalf of the major Western news organizations is largely limited to the problems faced by foreign correspondents in civil conflicts and combat zones. We focus on countries where local journalists are most in need of international support (which also tend to be the countries where foreign correspondents get into trouble). Conspicuously missing from that list are the countries with the most severe press freedom problems of all--nations such as North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan and Myanmar, where there is no independent local press, and where access by foreign reporters is often also restricted. Though these countries are cited in our reports, there are few attacks on journalists in places where there are few or no journalists.

The real battle for press freedom is being waged in societies that have only recently emerged from autocratic repression--places as culturally and politically diverse as Argentina, Russia and Cambodia. Such countries let independent publications circulate freely, but rarely investigate--much less prosecute--violent attacks against reporters, editors and publishers. Compounding the problem, many governments view the independent press as the de facto opposition, a perception with considerable basis in fact. In places where well-organized political parties are either a new phenomenon (as in Central Europe) or are widely dismissed as ineffectual and corrupt (as in much of Latin America), the daily press is often the only institution holding government officials accountable.

Even when journalists are targeted by the government's declared enemies--armed separatists, nationalist zealots, drug traffickers--the chilling effect is sometimes quietly welcomed by those with the power to combat these crimes. A frightened reporter is rarely an aggressive reporter.

The Ultimate Censorship: Assassination

Ideologies of both the left and right remain a threat to independent journalism. During the Cold War, censorship was imposed in the name of Marx. Today it is often rationalized by invoking Confucius or Muhammad. The religious pretext cuts both ways: In countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, rulers cite their Muslim faith to justify tight controls on the news media; in Egypt and Uzbekistan, authorities say such strictures are essential to the containment of Islamic fundamentalism. In the 1970s, Argentine generals murdered nearly 100 reporters and editors in a crusade in defense of what they termed Christian values. In the 1990s, Algerian insurgents have assassinated more than 50 reporters and editors as part of their campaign for theocratic Islamist rule.

Assassination is the ultimate form of censorship. CPJ confirmed 51 cases of journalists who were killed in the line of duty in 1995. Nearly half--24 in all--were Algerian reporters and editors murdered by the Armed Islamic Group and allied rebel factions, making Algeria the most dangerous country in the world for journalists for the second consecutive year. Since CPJ was founded in 1981, we have never witnessed a sustained campaign of terror against journalists on this scale.

Six of the confirmed deaths last year--two in Chechnya and one each in Azerbaijan, Burundi, Croatia and Somalia--were combat-zone casualties. (Another four journalists who are missing in Chechnya are feared dead, but searches continue.) The other 45 cases appear to have been politically motivated homicides. CPJ is investigating another five deaths of journalists in 1995 that also appear to have been deliberate murders.

Murder was the leading cause of job-related deaths for journalists in 1995, as it has been consistently for at least the past decade. Since 1986, CPJ has documented 456 violent deaths of journalists. More than 300 appear to have been deliberate political assassinations; the rest were apparently accidental deaths among foreign correspondents and local reporters covering armed combat and violent civil disturbances. In such countries as Bosnia and Somalia, however, even many such combat-zone casualties may have been deliberate sniper attacks on clearly identifiable journalists.

The homicide rate among journalists is not, it should be stressed, the most accurate inversely correlating index of press freedom. In the most repressive societies, murders of journalists are extremely rare, because journalists are extremely rare. In the past decade CPJ has not had a single confirmed killing of a working reporter in North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Libya, Syria or Myanmar. Conversely, in countries with a large and aggressive press corps, there are abundant motives and opportunities for violent attacks on journalists; India, where 15 reporters were killed in the past 10 years, and Brazil, with 10 murders since 1986, are cases in point. And there are many countries, such as China, Ethiopia, Syria and Kuwait, where journalists are rarely killed, but are routinely imprisoned, often for near-life terms.

A close look at the countries where these killings are most common offers a disturbingly representative portrait of the dangers faced by journalists today. Algeria, the most extreme case, with 53 journalists killed (all murders, and all since May 1993), is unique in scale but not in kind. Reporters and editors of the "secular" press are targeted for harassment and sometimes murder by Islamist radicals in Egypt and Turkey as well.

It is unsurprising that the former Yugoslavia, in aggregate, had the second-largest number of press casualties in the past 10 years: 45 verified deaths. But it is not widely known that there were five more documented deaths in Croatia than in Bosnia, and that most of the victims were local journalists who appear to have been personally targeted because of their work. As in Rwanda, local journalists in the former Yugoslavia were singled out in the early stages of genocidal attacks because of their presumed prominence and influence. And of the 22 foreign reporters who are known to have died covering the war in Bosnia, a significant but ultimately unverifiable number were deliberately killed by armed belligerents who perceived the international press as their enemy. This, again, is increasingly the pattern in civil wars from Algeria to Somalia to Afghanistan.

Colombia claimed the third-largest number of confirmed deaths over the past decade: 43, most (though not all) apparent drug-cartel contract murders. This number is certainly an underestimate: Many reported murders of provincial print and radio reporters in Colombia could not be confirmed, a problem tragically typical of a country with the highest reported homicide rate in the world. Most of these murders remain not only unsolved but uninvestigated. So inured is the Colombian press to these killings--and so intimidated are many local publishers--that these cases rarely make the papers, let alone the front page.

The Colombian problem has spread to its neighbors: Journalists in Central America, Peru, Venezuela and elsewhere in the region now say their biggest fear is violent reprisals for reporting on drug trafficking. And suspected drug traffickers are also targeting journalists in Russia, Central Europe, Central Asia and Indochina. In the coming decade, threats to journalism from organized crime could well become an even more deadly problem than political persecution.

In Asia, where autocrats of both the left and right condemn press freedom as inimical to indigenous Asian "cultural values," the dangers faced by journalists are typically imprisonment or legal harassment. Murders of journalists, in proportion to the size of the working press, are surprisingly rare.

Yet the final two countries on this unhappy list are both Asian. In both the Philippines and Tajikistan, CPJ has confirmed 29 violent job-related deaths of journalists over the past decade, almost all of them apparently deliberate, politically motivated murders.

In many other ways--politically, culturally--these countries are also atypical of Asia. The Philippines, with its legacy of Spanish colonialism and U.S. military rule, has a history and social structure arguably more akin to Latin America's, and the pattern of unprosecuted murders of provincial Filipino journalists who uncovered corruption and human rights abuses among local landowners and security chiefs is disturbingly similar to death-squad killings of reporters in Central and South America. (Another common denominator is a continuing counterinsurgency campaign against Marxist rebels, which has also claimed casualties in the press corps.) Though more common in the Marcos era, these homicides continued under the Aquino and Ramos governments--in part, it seems, because the restoration of democracy emboldened local publications to cover subjects they would have avoided in the past.

The case of Tajikistan is more distinctive still. Though this neighbor of China is geographically Asian, it has never been part of the continent politically. Nominally independent since 1991, Tajikistan remains within Moscow's shrinking sphere of influence. A CPJ investigation demonstrated compelling circumstantial evidence of the government's complicity in most of the 29 verifiable murders of Tajik journalists over the past four years, and it is a government wholly dependent on Russian economic and military support. Yet Moscow is rarely taken to task for sustaining a regime that has ruthlessly eliminated all traces of an independent press. More disturbing, this lack of press freedom is fast becoming the norm throughout Central Asia. None of the five now-independent Central Asian republics permits truly independent local news reporting, and yet all receive support from foreign governments and aid donors who are ostensibly committed to freedom of expression and other democratic values.

When journalists are murdered simply for doing their job, it often seems to all of us on CPJ's board and staff that we have manifestly failed at our central assignment--protecting journalists. But by reporting the stories of these slain journalists to their colleagues around the world, we can at least ensure that they will not be forgotten. And by pressing governments to treat the job-related murders of journalists as political assassinations, we hope to make top officials personally committed to prosecuting these crimes. We also seek to make them aware that failure to do so calls into question their avowed commitment to press freedom. By raising the stakes, of course, we also hope to deter future assailants. Ultimately, journalists cannot be completely protected. Journalism is a dangerous profession, entered voluntarily. In many if not most countries the "without fear or favor" formula remains a distant dream. But the fight of journalists around the world to do their jobs in the most difficult circumstances deserves active and engaged support, and this report attests to their remarkable tenacity, courage and professional dedication.
--February 1996

William A. Orme, Jr. was appointed executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists in August 1993. Previously he covered Latin America as a journalist for 15 years, based in Guatemala, Mexico City and Miami.


456 Journalists Killed* in Past 10 Years

From Jan. 1, 1986, to Dec. 31, 1995, the five most dangerous countries were:
Algeria, the former Yugoslavia, Colombia, Tajikistan and the Philippines.

114 in the Americas

El Salvador10
United States7
Dominican Republic1

114 in Europe
and the republics of the
former Soviet Union.

Bosnia and Herzegovina20
Soviet Union8**
United Kingdom1

**Eight journalists were killed in what used to be the Soviet Union during this period: three in Azerbaijan, three in Russia and two in Latvia.

85 in the Middle East
and North Africa


79 in Asia

Sri Lanka9
Papua New Guinea1

53 in AFRICA

South Africa6

*All figures above reflect the number of journalists killed in the line of duty.

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