Press group says 2005 was ‘desperately bad year’ for journalists
VIENNA, Austria – The slayings of 65 journalists and the jailing, harassment and intimidation of scores of others made 2005 a “desperately bad year” for the world’s media, including in the United States, a global press watchdog group said Thursday.The International Press Institute warned that killings, death threats and state censorship were silencing important sources of information in developing countries.”In virtually every region of the world, the media are engaged in a struggle to uphold their fundamental right to report the news,” said the institute’s World Press Freedom Review.IPI keeps tabs on press freedom violations in more than 120 countries. Iraq, where 23 journalists were killed last year, remained the most dangerous country in which to report the news, the group said.”Each journalist imprisoned, each journalist killed is one too many,” IPI director Johann P. Fritz said.The IPI focused heavily on abuses in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe. But it also was critical of the United States for the 85-day imprisonment of The New York Times’ Judith Miller for refusing to identify a confidential source.”We’ve lost America as the shining example” of a free press, Fritz said, contending that Europe – particularly Scandinavia – was doing a better job of empowering journalists to report on sensitive issues without restrictions or recriminations.The Miller case and U.S. restrictions on access to information “send out a message to repressive regimes around the world” that such actions are acceptable, said Michael Kudlak, IPI’s coordinator for the Americas.Fritz had especially harsh words for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, accusing him of manipulating local media and creating “an environment of hostility” through verbal attacks on journalists, among other measures.Self-censorship was a growing problem in the West, IPI said, citing the reluctance of many newspapers, broadcast outlets and Internet sites to publish Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, which sparked widespread Muslim outrage. It also mentioned growing pressure from society to adhere to voluntary codes of conduct.”There is now a worrying political mind-set that views some of the media’s work as damaging to both the war on terror and relations with Islam,” Fritz said.While access to information was most restricted in the Middle East, IPI warned of a “red line of censorship throughout the world.” It singled out China, where authorities have censored Web sites, calling the practice especially troubling because the Internet has become a major source of information that many newspapers will not publish.In Africa, IPI said it was concerned about the Ethiopian government’s crackdown on independent media and Zimbabwe legislation making it difficult for journalists to do their jobs.—On the Net:International Press Institute, http://www.freemedia.atVail, Colorado
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