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For Immediate Release
March 14, 1997

CPJ Report Shows 185 Journalists Imprisoned Worldwide

Turkey, with 78, Is Worst Offender for Third Straight Year

27 Journalists Killed in Line of Duty in 1996 Annual Attacks on Press Book Records Abuses in More than 100 Countries

Washington, D.C.--A record 185 journalists were in prison in 24 countries at the end of 1996, and 27 journalists were killed during the year because of their profession, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported today in Attacks on the Press in 1996, its annual worldwide survey of press freedom violations.

Drawn from the first-hand research of CPJ’s professional staff, Attacks on Pressis the single most authoritative and comprehensive source of information on the status of press freedom around the world today. The book documents in compelling detail nearly a thousand different attempts to silence journalists and news organizations last year by imprisonment, censorship, legal harassment and physical assault. It also shows how CPJ took action on behalf of hundreds of journalists through personal appeals by CPJ board members and staffers, fact-finding missions, grassroots efforts, diplomatic channels and media campaigns.

The 376-page book was released today at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington as part of annual Freedom of Information activities.

Turkey was the worst offender for the third consecutive year, holding a record 78 journalists in prison, 27 more than in 1995. It had more journalists in jail than the next five worst offenders combined: Ethiopia (18), China (17), Kuwait (15), Nigeria (8) and Myanmar (Burma) (8). Imprisoned journalists worldwide numbered three more than 1995’s total of 182.

“Turkey is once again the single most egregious example of a government that criminalizes independent reporting,” CPJ Executive Director William A. Orme, Jr. said today. “CPJ aims to direct a harsh public spotlight at this gross abuse of press freedom,” he said.

In its report, CPJ documents 27 work-related killings of journalists worldwide, 26 murdered because of their profession and one an accidental death. Although still intolerably high, the total is dramatically lower than 1995, when 57 journalists -- six not confirmed until 1996 -- were killed because of their work. Algeria remains the most dangerous country for journalists with seven assassinations, bringing the toll to 59 since rebel terror factions began targeting journalists in 1993. Six journalists were killed in Russia, four while covering the Chechnya war. CPJ continues to investigate eight other journalists’ deaths in which a causal link to the victims’ work in journalism is suspected. CPJ’s report tallies the total number of journalists killed in the past ten years -- 474 -- by region and country. It provides informed overviews of the status of press freedom in five world regions and assessments of more than 100 countries.

CPJ chair Kati Marton recounts how her childhood experience of seeing her journalist parents led away by secret police in Hungary during the Cold War informs her work on behalf of press freedom. CPJ executive director Orme describes the priorities that shape the committee’s exacting work and explains why the new information technology that makes censorship more difficult is also turning journalists into targets for reprisal.

“The news today almost always gets out, whether by fax, satellite, e-mail or the Internet” notes Orme. “Electronic information is hard to control, while the individual newsgatherer is visible and vulnerable.

Marton, who made two trips to the Balkans on behalf of CPJ in 1996, cited the ability of “tiny, vulnerable independent media in Serbia to outfox” President Slobodan Milosevic as proof that “the time when autocrats could absolutely control the flow of information to their people is past

Eight exclusive special reports illuminate subjects as vital as the CIA's’ new legal right to subvert U.S.journalists, Ethiopia's’ systematic judicial harassment of the press, and the role of Irelands’ arcane libel laws in reporter Veronica Guerin’s death. Other special reports on press freedom issues consider:

CPJ’s five regional programs report on trends:...


Elections in Gambia, Zambia and elsewhere increasingly foster use of strong-arm methods by candidates to silence the press or prevent its coverage of the electoral process...Nigeria's military dictator Gen. Sani Abacha has implemented a “transition process” that includes destruction of the independent press...Nigeria, Rwanda, Burundiand Angola continue to be the most dangerous countries for journalists...Throughout Africa charges of seditious libel and “contempt of parliament” are gaining wide use as suppressants of press freedom...In many countries self-censorship is the only protection for journalists from attacks by government, police and often fellow citizens...Ethiopia’s institutionalized system of judicial harassment of the press contributes to its role as a world leader in the number of imprisoned journalists...Broadcast media remain under state control throughout most of Africa....

With the exception of Cuba, the press in Latin America today has a remarkable breadth of freedom and on the whole a diminished threat of imprisonment or physical attack...Brutal campaigns against journalists have given way to more subtle tactics, creating a complex environment of punitive civil and criminal libel suits for the press to navigate...Yet a residual undercurrent of intolerance toward the news media by government persists...In Peru four journalists are serving time for alleged collaboration with terrorists...Brazilian journalists face the prospect of restrictive legislation...Argentina saw a victory for press freedom with the overturning of a libel suit brought by its litigious President Carlos Menem against a major paper...Guatemala’s brokered peace accord unfortunately leaves the murders and disappearances of many journalists unpunished...The growth of independent associations of journalists in Peru, Colombia and Argentinasignals a new era of self-respect for the profession....

The autocratic regimes of East Asiaimpede access to information by Internet censorship and suppression of dissident journalists...Indonesia's President Suharto stepped up persecution of the independent journalists union with further punitive steps for its imprisoned leaders, one of whom is CPJ International Press Freedom Award Winner Ahmad Taufik...Hong Kong journalists warily await the forthcoming takeover by China, with its expected restrictions on independent reporting of issues involving Taiwan and government officials...Bangladeshi journalists faced physical attacks in a politically volatile election climate...In Pakistan, Karachi journalists were again caught in the crossfire of ethnic struggle...India and Sri Lanka sought to contain separatist movements within their borders by gagging the local press....

An increasingly independent and professional press attracts enemies, some of them violent...Long-term shut-downs of independent news outlets to maintain authoritarian control remain common practice in the Russian Federation, the Caucasus and Central Asia, but less so in Central and Eastern Europe... Unsolved killings of journalists in Russia, Ukraine and Tajikistan, like those in the previous two years, follow patterns set by organized crime and paramilitary figures...In Chechnya, ten journalists have been killed since the fighting began in 1994 and 11 are still missing, despite the fragile ceasefire...Many reporters covering public rallies were deliberately targeted and suffered serious injuries in police assaults in Albania, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Russiaand Serbia...Even democratically elected presidents continue to wield enormous control over the media by appropriating the airwaves for self-promotion, creating formidable obstacles for independent broadcasters...Seditious libel charges caused some of the region’s worse legal threats to journalists, as when Croatia’s President Franjo Tudjman threatened Feral Tribune staff with prison for satirizing him...Gains for independent media in Serbia and Belarus came with growing use of the Internet.

Journalists face censorship, legal prosecution and imprisonment from unrelenting state control of the press...Nine journalists were murdered in 1996 because of their profession, seven in Algeria where Islamic dissidents have targeted journalists in a campaign that has claimed 59 lives...In Turkey the formation of a new Islamist-led government failed to alter the state’s ongoing persecution of journalists --sanctioned under Turkey’s infamous anti-terror law and penal code -- for reporting critically on the Kurdish issue...In Jordan and Iran laws were invoked to arrest, fine and prosecute dissenting journalists...Abysmal press conditions remain the norm in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Tunisia, where intimidation and threat of reprisal are common tactics of control...Lebanon, once a model in the Arab world of broadcast freedom, authorized official licensing of selected government-controlled stations, forcing scores of independents to close...An optimistic note sounded in Egypt,where a year-long campaign by journalists resulted in amendments to a series of restrictive legal provisions governing the press.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to documenting, protesting and publicizing violations of press freedom worldwide. To obtain copies of Attacks on the Press in 1996: A Worldwide Survey, call (212) 465-9344, x350

UPDATE: The New York-based press freedom group voiced its concerns to the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, Timothy E. Wirth, in a meeting at the State Department March 13. “We urged U.S. diplomats to be more outspoken in their condemnation of imprisonments of journalists in Turkey, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Vietnam, all countries where CPJ believes that a clear show of U.S. support for these jailed reporters could help lead to their release,” said William A. Orme, Jr., the organiza tion’s executive director. “Under Secretary Wirth said that they would look very closely at the cases we had raised, particularly in Nigeria and Turkey,” Orme reported.

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