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Failure to punish the world's "predators of press freedom" one of the greatest threats to the media, says RSF

(RSF/IFEX) - The following is an abridged RSF press release:

The predators of press freedom

For the past six years Reporters Without Borders has exposed the world's "predators of press freedom" - men and women who directly attack journalists or order others to. Most are top-level politicians (including presidents, prime ministers and kings) but they also include militia chiefs, leaders of armed groups and drug-traffickers. They usually answer to no-one for their serious attacks on freedom of expression. Failure to punish them is one of the greatest threats to the media today.

In 2007 the presidents of Laos and Azerbaijan joined the list of these major enemies of press freedom, along with Mexican drug cartels that killed several journalists. The king of Nepal and the country's Maoist leaders were taken off the list after the ceasefire between the two sides and a return to peace.


The Taliban stepped up their attacks in southern and eastern Afghanistan, killing a cameraman in a suicide-attack and holding two Pakistani journalists for several days. An aide of the powerful Mullah Omar warned in September 2006 that journalists who reported what the foreign forces in the country said would be killed.

Islamists in Pakistan's tribal areas regularly threaten reporters who do not publicise their statements. Some extremist imams use clandestine FM radio transmitters to urge action against "infidel" journalists. Police in Bangladesh cracked down on armed extremists who attacked dozens of journalists but the extremists continue to threaten liberal publications that denounce the rise of extremism.

Armed Islamist groups in Iraq target journalists with media linked to political and religious movements and those with government media. In the Palestinian Territories, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam brigades, the armed branch of Hamas, physically attacked journalists covering meetings held by prime minister Ismael Haniyeh and attacked the offices of public media outlets controlled by President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party.


The "street general" and his henchmen frequently terrorise media outlets that do not support President Laurent Gbagbo. They played a key part in a failed attempt in 2004 to regain territory held by rebel forces. Before government troops went into action, the Young Patriots methodically ransacked opposition media offices, forcing journalists who did not praise the regime to go into hiding.

A few days later they seized control of the state TV and radio, which they made into an important propaganda tool. The United Nations quickly but vainly called for "hate media" to be shut down. The Young Patriots seized the station again in early 2006 to try to foment a rebellion against "enemies of the country" - the opposition and its media outlets, and France.


Everything is peaceful in President Obiang Nguema's oil-rich "Kuwait of Africa," where the state radio calls him the country's "god." He is regularly elected by just under 100% of the vote and has absolute control. No privately-owned media is allowed except for a semi-clandestine opposition newsletter regularly harassed by the regime.

The control of the economy by the president and his family goes with a suffocating personality cult. The few local journalists freelancing for the foreign media are closely watched. The regime says the lack of democracy is because of "poverty" and not intolerance of those who criticise Obiang Nguema's power "to kill someone without being punished or going to hell," as the state radio puts it.

To read the full list of press predators, see:

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