Washington, D.C., March 26—At least 129 journalists were in prison in 24 countries at the end of 1997 for doing their work, and 26 journalists were murdered during the year because of their profession, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported today in Attacks on the Press in 1997, its annual worldwide survey of press freedom abuses.
The 443-page Attacks on the Press in 1997 was released this morning at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The book provides detailed reports of press freedom conditions and issues in five world regions and 117 countries.
Among the six special reports in the book, spotlighting key areas in CPJ’s advocacy efforts in 1997, are excerpts from its study of how the media in the neighboring but hostile Caucasian countries of Armenia and Azerbaijan cope with a surreal climate of censorship. The section on Central Europe and the Republics of the Former Soviet Union, analyzes trends across the region and chronicles 90 cases of press freedom violations:
Despite greater freedom and the proliferation of private media, across the region news organizations are still manipulated by and subjected to pressure from governments and burgeoning business interests…Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have fostered free media climates, and in some places, like Russia, new private media monoliths battle for control of the airwaves…in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, the media remain concentrated in the hands of authoritarian rulers, yet the autocratic Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has developed a vigorous independent press which functions despite official harassment…The most alarming trend across the region remains the persistence of violence against journalists…While the overall number of killings, most of which occurred in war zones, has declined since the end of the conflicts in Tajikistan, Chechnya, and the former Yugoslavia, murders and beatings of journalists in nonconflict areas have become routine in such places as the Russian Federation and Ukraine…In and around Chechnya, an epidemic of kidnappings of foreigners by armed bands seeking ransom makes it the most dangerous place for journalists assigned to the region…Beatings, death threats, detentions, bombings, arson, and financial pressures have become routine means of intimidating the press across the region…In Belarus, press conditions under President Lukashenko are worse than in the final years of the Soviet Union…Bosnian journalists fear crossing borders between the Serb, Croat, and Muslim-controlled areas because of harassment by local police…Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic shut down 77 independent radio and television stations in July and August after announcing new, convoluted frequency licensing procedures…In Croatia, President Franjo Tudjman continued to exert pressure on independent media with hundreds of libel suits filed against them…"