7 May 2002
Volume 11 - 2002 Issue 18 (07 May 2002)
Puerto Rico's Center for the Freedom of the Press (CFP) celebrated 3 May by holding a public forum on the state of press freedom in South Africa before and after apartheid. The Inter American University of Puerto Rico hosted the forum which featured a presentation by guest speaker John Waters, assistant editor in Durban for the Independent Newspapers chain. This was followed by a panel discussion and an exhibition in Old San Juan of photographic works by members of the Photo Journalism Workshop.
The Government of Liberia has come under sharp criticism for banning a World Press Freedom Day parade organised for 3 May by the Press Union of Liberia (PUL). The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) says the parade was banned because it apparently violated the government's recent order forbidding public gatherings. This is not the first time PUL has been banned from staging a World Press Freedom Day parade.
On 3 May, the Latin American regional initiative Journalists Against Corruption (Periodistas Frente a la Corrupción, PFC) declared its concern for the prevalent conditions that continue to infringe upon freedom of expression throughout the region.
In keeping with this year?s World Press Freedom Day theme of ?Terrorism and the Media,? CREDO for Freedom of Expression and Associated Rights voices deep concern for the attacks on the media around the globe in the name of the ?war against terrorism.? CREDO asserts that many of the anti-terrorist laws introduced around the world have had adverse effects on freedom of and access to information and the protection of sources. Anti-terrorist legislation has also been used in numerous countries in conjunction with existing repressive laws such as Official Secret Acts. In many African countries, such laws have been introduced with the supposed aim of ?curtailing ?terrorist? activity,? but CREDO says they are in actuality, ?aimed at silencing democratic opposition.?
The Caribbean has a mixed record of achievement in press freedom, reported the Association of Caribbean Media Workers on 3 May. While Caribbean countries have not witnessed great upheaval to press freedom in recent years, the Association notes that most countries have not demonstrated a commitment to freedom of expression. Only four countries ? Belize, the Bahamas, Grenada and Jamaica ? have signed the 1994 Declaration of Chapultepec, and there is a ?growing incidence of self-censorship and the imposition of extra-journalistic values in our newsrooms.?
The effects of 11 September 2001 on press freedom among the participating countries of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have produced mixed results, according to OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Freimut Duve. On the occasion of 3 May, Duve said some states introduced "draconian measures" against journalists and arrested or harassed those who reported critically. On the other hand, the initial "chilling effect" felt by journalists had now faded and human rights issues had resurfaced as areas of concern, Duve said.
The Burma Media Association (BMA) marked 3 May by launching an Internet campaign in support of imprisoned journalists in the country. The organisation says at least 36 media workers are still detained in Burma while two are being kept under house arrest. Despite the release of a few journalists last year, "press freedom â¦ in Burma is deteriorating," BMA says.
To mark World Press Freedom Day, the National Center for Social Communication (CENCOS) released its annual report on media freedom in Mexico. The report, entitled "Recuento de Daños 2001" ("Record of Attacks 2001?) was compiled by the Red Mexicana de Protección a Periodistas y Medios de Comunicación (Network for the Protection of Journalists and the Media,) of which CENCOS is a founding member.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) used World Press Freedom Day to send a letter to Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa expressing concern over a proposed national security law and the recent handcuffing of two journalists by police.
The Professional Federation of Quebec Journalists (Fédération professionelle des journalistes du Quebec, FPJQ) held a debate on 2 May on the subject of "The Israeli Press and Al-Aqsa," featuring three journalists who have recently returned from working in the Middle East. Hosted by Michel Desautels, host of Radio Canada's "Sans Frontieres," the event examined the state of the media in the context of the conflict in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
In an effort to address the growing issue of media ethics in the country, Nigeriaâs Independent Journalism Centre (IJC) brought journalists and journalism students together on World Press Freedom Day to discuss the topic. The President of the Nigerian Guild of Editors spoke at the event. This was one of a number of seminars that IJC plans to host this year.
The Independent Journalism Center (IJC) of Moldova organised and participated in events for the full week leading up to World Press Freedom Day, naming 29 April through 3 May ?press freedom days.? To kick off the week, prominent members of parliament discussed the state of press freedom in the country at a press conference organised by IJC in conjunction with the Moldovan Journalists' Union, the Associations of Independent Press (API) and of Electronic Media (APEL), and the Moldovan Press Freedom Committee.
The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) marked World Press Freedom Day by calling attention to the impunity surrounding the murders of over 250 journalists recorded by the group since 1988. "The IAPA will not waiver in its commitment to continue calling upon the authorities to fulfill their duty to investigate, punish and provide due reparation for these crimes," said IAPA President Robert Cox in a statement. In the last seven months, eight journalists have been murdered, four of them Colombian, says Cox.
Despite being lauded as the "birthplace of democracy," Greece's record on press freedom is one of the worst among democratic countries, says Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM). According to a recently-released Freedom House report, Greece posted the worst score a free country could get; it ranked last among countries considered "Free."
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, Free Expression Ghana (FEG) reports that journalists and free press advocates met in Ghana to discuss âThe Media, Conflict Management and National Stability.â Speakers included the UNESCO representative in Ghana, the Minister for Information and Presidential Affairs and the director of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Foundation (FES). Organised by FEG, the Ghana Journalist Association and the National Media Commission in conjunction with the French Embassy, the forum was the culmination of a series of workshops in the country promoting press freedom.
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the Press Freedom Committee of the Guatemalan Association of Journalists (Comisión de Libertad de Prensa de la Asociación de Periodistas de Guatemala, APG) called on media to renew its fight against the political, economic and criminal forces that continue to threaten free expression in the country. ?As Guatemalan journalists, we must strengthen our vigilance and denounce all acts that infringe upon the right to free expression. We must direct our efforts towards change in the country.? Journalists experience many different forms of pressure practising their profession today, says APG, and those reporting on corruption are often censored.
Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) celebrated World Press Freedom Day with a range of activities including the launching of its annual report "Freedom of the Press Throughout the World" and a new list of "Press Freedom Predators" - individuals around the world who hold the power to jail, kidnap, torture and kill journalists."
The policies of the government of Thailand continue to prevent the public from fully exercising its free expression and the right to be informed, declared the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) on 3 May. The press freedom group issued a statement after the government cancelled a joint press conference it had planned to hold with TJA. In the statement, TJA applauded local media for "maintaining both the principle of media freedom and journalistic ethics and demonstrating a responsible attitude towards media consumers and society as a whole."
If you are looking for a list of the world's worst places to be a journalist, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has it. Released for the first time on 3 May, the list names 10 places around the world where the press endures violent assaults, harsh crackdowns by authorities, danger from military conflicts and harsh financial reprisals designed to bankrupt independent voices.
On World Press Freedom Day, the International Press Institute (IPI) called on all governments to respect press freedom in light of serious curbs on free expression in many parts of the world. The organisation also said governments should be more transparent and allow the media to carry out their professional duties.
On 3 May, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) launched its annual review of press conditions in Southern Africa "So This is Democracy?" This is the eighth year that MISA has published the report covering press freedom violations in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The stories of many journalists languishing for years in prison for practicing their rights to free expression would be forgotten were it not for the attention paid by the international human rights community. This is why the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN (WiPC) marked World Press Freedom Day by highlighting the cases of Burmese journalist U Win Tin, Cameroonian publisher Georges Baongla and Chinese journalist Wu Shishen. The group called on governments in their respective countries to immediately release the journalists.
If there ever was a day to reaffirm the commitment to free expression and press freedom in the fight against terrorism, 3 May was that day. Speaking in Manila, the Philippines, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, UNESCO Director General Koichiro Matsuura declared that ?care must be taken to ensure that governments do not impose unjustified restrictions on freedom of expression and press freedom. One of the most worrying results of terrorism is that it may cause some countries to impose forms of control and regulation which set limits to democracy, freedom of expression, and free, independent and pluralistic media,? he said.
On 3 May each year, organisations around the world celebrate World Press Freedom Day to remember and celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom, raise awareness of threats and attacks facing the media in many countries, and remind governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom. World Press Freedom Day is also an occasion to remember journalists killed in the course of their duties and encourage debate among media professionals on the issues of press freedom and professional ethics.