Archive for February 2002

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[eccr] The IPI World Press Freedom Review 2001

Wed Feb 27 18:55:07 GMT 2002

Title: The IPI World Press Freedom Review 2001

Vienna, 21 February 2001

Waging War on the Media: The IPI World Press Freedom Review 2001

Examining 176 countries, the International Press Institute¹s (IPI) World Press Freedom Review 2001 reveals the intense friction between the desire of governments to control information and the media¹s struggle to inform the public.

Over the last 12 months there have been unprecedented attempts by governments to control the free flow of information and suppress the media. During this period, journalists suffered at the hands of numerous regimes, reinforcing the impression that, in many parts of the world, a war has been waged on the media.

In the Americas, there was concern over incidents in the United States. The horrific attack on the World Trade Center Towers on 11 September and subsequent war in Afghanistan made President Bush¹s administration sensitive on media issues and led it to ask Qatar¹s ruler to use his influence over independent broadcaster, Al-Jazeera. State department officials also pressured the Voice of America to shelve an interview and there were dismissals from newspapers as journalists were pilloried for failing to reflect the public mood. Elsewhere in the region, Colombia, with 11 journalists killed, remains the most dangerous country in the world to practice journalism.

Although there was a substantial reduction in the number of journalists murdered in Africa, Robert Mugabe¹s desperate desire to hold on to power in Zimbabwe was one of the most significant press freedom issues of the year. President Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party pursued a systematic policy of intimidating editors and journalists, restricting the work of foreign correspondents and drafting repressive media legislation. Perhaps the most disturbing aspect is the complete failure of the Zimbabwean government to condemn the violence against journalists.

The continuing conflict in Israel and the Palestinian Territories saw the media under fire from both sides. Scores of attacks on Palestinian media workers have been documented over the last year and there appears to be undeniable evidence the media have been targeted by the Israeli army. The Israeli government¹s denial of accreditation along ethnic lines was also a severe infringement. Palestinian security forces also suppressed the media.

Within Europe serious breaches of press freedom continue and there is a need for western European countries to do more to encourage their eastern neighbours to introduce greater democratic change. In Russia, press freedom has been further eroded with the disappearance of the country¹s last independent broadcaster, TV6. In the Russian republic of Chechnya, journalists are prevented from reporting freely and vicious assaults on journalists continue in Russia¹s provinces.

Many countries in Asia subordinate press freedom for the so-called "national good". Events in South Korea provided evidence of the pressure suffered by the media in the region. In 2001, the South Korean president blamed the media for his unpopularity and sought retribution by pursuing media outlets and owners in a politically motivated tax investigation. Regarding war reporting, eight foreign journalists were killed in Afghanistan.

Commenting on the situation, IPI Director Johann P. Fritz said, "The overwhelming problem for the media is that many governments do not understand its role. More work needs to be done to convince governments that a free and open media is crucial to their country¹s success and its perception abroad." Fritz went on to say, "inter-governmental organisations and the neighbours of repressive regimes need to find a stronger voice if those who subdue the media are to appreciate that the antidote to a critical media is not suppression but counter-argument."


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