Friday, December 31, 2010

Journalists in 2010 targets and bargaining chips

Published on 30 December 2010. Reporters Without Borders

Figures in 2010
57 journalists killed (25% fewer than in 2009)
51 journalists kidnapped
535 journalists arrested
1374 physically attacked or threatened
504 media censored
127 journalists fled their country
152 bloggers and netizens arrested
52 physically attacked
62 countries affected by Internet censorship

Fewer killed in war zones

Fifty-seven journalists were killed in connection with their work in 2010,
25% fewer than in 2009, when the total was 76. The number of journalists
killed in war zo- nes has fallen in recent years. Significantly, it is
becoming more and more difficult to identify those responsible in cases in
which journalists were killed by criminal gangs, armed groups, religious
organizations or state agents. “Fewer journalists were killed in war zones
than in preceding years,” Reporters Without Borders secretary- general
Jean-François Julliard said. “Media workers are above all being
murdered by criminals and traffickers of various kinds. Organized crime
groups and militias are their leading killers worldwide. The challenge now
is to rein in this phenomenon. The authorities of the countries concerned
have a direct duty to combat the impunity surrounding these murders. If
governments do not make every effort to punish the murderers of
journalists, they become their accomplices.”

Journalists as bargaining chips

Another distinguishing feature of 2010 was the major increase in
kidnappings of journalists. There were 29 cases in 2008, 33 in 2009 and 51
in 2010. Journalists are seen less and less as outside observers. Their
neutrality and the nature of their work are no longer respected.
“Abductions of journalists are becoming more and more frequent and are
taking place in more countries.” Reporters Without Borders said. “For the
first time, no continent escaped this evil in 2010. Journalists are
turning into bargaining chips. Kidnappers take hostages in order to
finance their criminal activities, make governments comply with their
demands, and send a message to the public. Abduction provides them with a
form of publicity. Here again, governments must do more to identify them
and bring them to justice. Otherwise reporters – national or foreign –
will no longer venture into certain regions and will abandon the local
population to their sad fate.” Journalists were particularly exposed to
this kind of risk in Afghanistan and Nigeria in 2010. The case of French
TV journalists Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier
and their three Afghan assistants, held hostage in Afghanistan since 29
December 2009, is the longest abduction in the history of the French media
since the end of the 1980s.

No region of the world spared

Journalists were killed in 25 countries in 2010. This is the first time
since Reporters Without Borders began keeping these tallies that
journalists have been murdered in so many countries. Almost 30% of the
countries (7 in total) were African countries: Angola, Cameroon,
Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia and Uganda. But the
deadliest continent by far was Asia with 20 cases, and this was due above
all to the heavy toll in Pakistan, where 11 journalists were killed in
2010. Of the 67 countries where there have been murders of journalists in
the past 10 years, there are eight where they keep recurring: Afghanistan,
Colombia, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, and Somalia. These
countries have not evolved; a culture of violence against the press has
become deeply rooted there. Pakistan, Iraq and Mexico have been the three
most violent countries for journalists during the past decade. The passing
years have brought no changes to Pakistan, with journalists continuing to
be targeted by Islamists groups or to be the collateral victims of suicide
bombings. This total of 11 killed was the highest of the year. Iraq saw a
return to earlier levels of violence with a total of seven journalists
killed in 2010 as against four in 2009. Most of them were killed after the
United States announced that all of its combat troops had been withdrawn
in August. Journalists are caught in a trap between the different sectors
– including local authorities, those involved in corruption and religious
groups that refuse to accept media independence. In Mexico, the extreme
violence of the drug traffickers affects the entire population including
journalists, who are particularly exposed. This has a major impact on
reporting, with journalists reducing their coverage of crime stories to
the minimum in order to take as few risks as possible. In Central America,
three were killed in Honduras in 2010 in connection with their work.
Politically-motivated violence since the June 2008 coup d’état has
com pounded the “traditional violence” of organized crime, a major
phenomenon in this part of the world. In Thailand, where newspapers are
able to enjoy relative independence despite recurring press freedom
violations, 2010 was a very tough year. Two foreign journalists, Fabio
Polenghi of Italy and Hiroyuki Muramoto of Japan, were killed in clashes
between government forces and Red Shirts (supporters of former Prime
Minister Thaksin Shinawatra) in Bangkok in April and May. The shots that
killed them were very probably fired by the members of the army.

Two journalists killed in Europe

Two journalists were murdered in European Union countries – Greece and
Latvia. Neither murder has so far been solved. Social and political
instability is having an impact on the work of the media in Greece, where
Socratis Guiolias, the manager of Radio Thema 98.9, was gunned down with
an automatic weapon outside his home in southeast Athens on 19 July. The
police suspect a far- left group calling itself Sehta Epanastaton
(Revolutionary Sect) that emerged in 2009. In Latvia, a country with a
calmer environment for the press, Grigorijs Nemcovs, the publisher and
editor of the regional newspaper Million and owner of a local TV station
of the same name, was shot twice in the head in the southeastern city of
Daugavpils while on his way to a meeting on 16 April.

Even the internet no longer a refuge

Reporters Without Borders is continuing to investigate the June 2010 death
of the young netizen Khaled Mohammed Said, who was arrested by two
plain-clothes police officers in an Internet café, taken outside and
beaten to death in the street. There were reports that his death was
prompted by a video posted online that incriminated the police in a drug
deal. Autopsy reports attributed his death to a drug overdose, but this
was belied by photos of his body. The number of arrests and physical
attacks on netizens in 2010 was similar to previous years. Harassment of
bloggers and censorship of the Internet have become commonplace. There are
no longer any taboos about online filtering. Censorship is taking new
forms: more aggres- sive online propaganda and increasingly frequent use
of cyber-attacks as way to silence bothersome Internet users.
Significantly, online censorship is no longer necessarily the work of
repressive regimes. Democracies are now examining and adopting new laws
that pose a threat to free speech on the Internet.

Journalists killed

Exile – the last resort

Many journalists flee abroad to escape violence and oppression. A total of
127 journalists from 23 countries did this in 2010. The exodus from Iran
continues. For the second year running, it was the biggest source of
fugitive journalists – 30 cases registered by Reporters Without Borders in
2010. The Horn of Africa continues to shed journalists. Around 15 fled
Eritrea and Somalia in 2010. The year also saw the forced exile of 18
Cuban journa- lists, who had been jailed since March 2003 and who were
released on condition that they immediately leave for Spain.

Fewer journalists killed in 2010

By GABRIELE STEINHAUSER and ANGELA DOLAND, Associated Press Dec 30, 2010

BRUSSELS – Fewer reporters were killed worldwide in 2010 than in the
previous year, but media advocacy groups warned Thursday that while the
number slain in war zones has fallen, criminals and traffickers have
become a greater threat to journalists.

Fifty-seven reporters were killed around the world this year, the
Paris-based media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said in its
annual report, down 25 percent from 2009, when 76 journalists were killed
in connection with their jobs.

Last year's record number of deaths was high because of a massacre in the
Philippines that saw more than two dozen journalists and their staff
gunned down.

A separate report Thursday from the Brussels-based International
Federation for Journalists said 94 journalist and other media personnel
were killed in 2010, down from 139 in 2009. The federation count includes
other employees of media organizations such as drivers, cameramen or

The insurgency in Pakistan claimed the most victims in 2010, according to
both groups. Other dangerous beats included the drug war in Mexico and
political unrest in Honduras. Iraq, the Philippines, and Somalia also
ranked high.

Media advocates stressed that while massacres like the one in the
Philippines or the war in Iraq have pushed up the death toll in recent
years, the number of journalists killed in domestic political conflicts
has reached an alarmingly high level.

"This year, most of the journalists were killed in countries that cannot
be called countries at war, I mean not in the traditional sense of a war,"
Jean-Francois Julliard, the secretary general of Reporters Without
Borders, told APTN. "We have the feeling that murderers of journalists are
among organized crime gangs, mafia, militias rather than in conflict

Jim Boumelha, the president of the International Federation for
Journalists, said one of the main reasons for the high numbers of deaths
in places such as Pakistan and Honduras was that "governments aren't doing

Journalists covering war zones were getting better protection, but when
there is impunity for crimes against journalists within a country, it is
difficult to protect them from the outside "no matter what we do, no
matter how we campaign," Boumelha said in a phone interview.

People working in the media also faced other threats this year.

A total of 51 reporters were kidnapped in 2010, up from 33 in 2009,
Reporters Without Borders said. Two French TV journalists, Herve
Ghesquiere and Stephane Taponier, as well as their three Afghan
assistants, have been held hostage in Afghanistan for more than a year.

Many others were beaten, jailed without a trial, threatened, or prevented
from publishing, said Boumelha, pointing to recent disputed elections in
Belarus and Ivory Coast.

The foiled bomb plot earlier this week against Danish newspaper Jyllens
Posten, which in 2005 sparked outrage by publishing cartoons depicting the
Prophet Muhammad, was another example of the risks involved in working in
the news media.

"Journalists are seen less and less as outside observers," Reporters
Without Borders said in its report. "Their neutrality and the nature of
their work are no longer respected."


Doland reported from Paris.

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