8 January 2002
Volume 11 - 2002 Issue 01 (08 Jan. 2002)
The Thai government should "stop interfering in the press to ensure its freedom," urges the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) in its year-end report on the situation of the press. Calling 2001 "the year of media interference," the organisation says the government of Prime Minister Thaksin attempted to interfere with news reporting five times during the course of the year. This resulted in the cancellation of a number of programmes on state-owned radio and television, according to TJA.
The situation of the press in Indonesia in 2001 was dismal, marked by the continuous threat of violence against journalists and the prevalence of low wages which lead to bribery, concludes a year-end report recently released by the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI). The organisation counted 95 cases of violence against journalists last year, of which 38 were committed by police, government and military forces. Of the 95 cases, less than 5 per cent of their suspects were brought to trial. The threat of violence has led to self-censorship in the media, says AJI.
"There is a dramatic, expanding gap in the levels of freedom and democracy between Islamic countries and rest of the world," concludes Freedom House in its annual survey of freedom in the world. The survey of the world's 192 countries finds that only 11 of the 47 nations - 23 per cent - with an Islamic majority have democratically elected governments.
The deaths of the eight journalists in Afghanistan, which occurred within a span of 16 days, marked the most violent period for the press in the history of the Afghanistan conflict, according to CPJ. In the last 13 years, 10 journalists were killed while reporting from the war-torn country.
Ibiba DonPedro, a reporter for "The Guardian" of Nigeria, has won the 2001 Lorenzo Natali Prize for West African Journalism. The prize is an initiative of the European Union, and is administered by the International Federation of Journalists.
Press freedom in the world deteriorated sharply in 2001, marked by an increase in the number of journalists arrested, attacked, threatened or censored, declares Reporters sans frontierès (RSF) in its annual report.
On 23 December 2001, Alvaro Alonso Escobar, proprietor of the Colombian newspaper "Region", was shot and killed by an unknown assailant in his home in Fundacion, Colombia, report the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) and the Inter American Press Association (IAPA). According to FLIP, an unidentified man arrived at Escobar's house in the evening and an argument ensued. Escobar was shot three times, after which the assailant fled on motorcycle. The chief of the Magdalena Police Department, Luis Mesa, told an IAPA source that Escobar's murder "was for personal reasons" and said he was not aware of any threats that had been made against the journalist.
Freelance reporter Vanessa Leggett has been released from prison in Texas after more than five months of detention, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA). The reporter was released on 4 January after the federal grand jury overseeing her court case ended its term on 3 January. According to CPJ, Leggett had been in jail since 20 July 2001 after a district court judge found her guilty of contempt of court for refusing to hand over information she had compiled while researching a local high-profile murder case. Leggett had cited the need to protect the confidentiality of her sources in refusing to hand over her information. On 17 August 2001, a United States Court of Appeals upheld the lower court ruling.
Cambodia's many journalist associations are set to gather together next week for a workshop on free expression and press freedom issues in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, thanks to organisational help from the Southeast Asia Press Alliance (SEAPA) and funding support from the World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC) and IFEX's Development Outreach programme.