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Freedom of movement essential for freedom of the press, says IPI

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

Vienna, 3 May 2007

On World Press Freedom Day, IPI says Freedom of Movement Essential for Freedom of the Press

IPI calls on countries to allow their journalists to return and live in safety, and for foreign journalists to be allowed to report without interference.

There are examples from every part of the world of journalists being denied accreditation to visit countries or being expelled for practicing their profession. Elsewhere, in other countries, journalists are so intimidated or frightened by the authorities or other groups and forced into hiding or to flee.

The International Press Institute (IPI) believes that the denial of a journalist's right to freedom of movement hinders the free flow of information and undermines the ability of journalists to report in the public interest.

In 2003, in Zimbabwe, the correspondent for the British Guardian newspaper, Andrew Meldrum, was forcibly taken to the airport by the Zimbabwean authorities and thrown onto an airplane. Meldrum had been living in Zimbabwe since 1980. He has not been allowed to return to Zimbabwe.

After facing severe intimidation, including death threats and two arson attacks on his printing press, the editor-in-chief of the Independent newspaper, Alagi Yorrow Jallow, was forced to flee the Gambia. He now has asylum status in the United States.

In June 2004, two journalists from the Norwegian daily newspaper Stavanger Aftenbladet, Tor Dagfinn Dommersnes and Fredrik Refvem, were expelled from Morocco and made personae non gratae for their reporting. Also in 2004, Vibeke Sperling of the Danish daily newspaper Politiken was denied a visa and accreditation by the Russian authorities.

Ukrainian journalist, Mikhail Podolyak, the deputy editor of the Minsk-based Vremya, was given 15 minutes in June 2004 to pack and then banned from Belarus for five years. The journalist was given no opportunity to appeal the decision. In Indonesia, in April 2006, immigration officials detained U.S. freelance journalist, William Nessen. He was later released, but expelled from the country.

Commenting on the situation, IPI Director Johann P. Fritz said, "These are just a few of the examples and they barely scratch the surface of what is a serious impediment to access to information and press freedom. I would add that barriers also exist in established democracies where journalists sometimes face challenges to obtain entry visas."

"A fundamental right under customary international law and the Human Rights Charter is not only the right to free movement, but also the right to report without interference and regardless of frontiers. The sad truth is that these principles are often ignored in favour of hindering investigative reporting by creating barriers of bureaucracy or applying terror and intimidation to drive journalists from their homes and countries."

"I believe on World Press Freedom Day it is important to understand that there are some journalists who cannot return to their countries to practice their profession just as there are some stories that journalists are being prevented from telling because they are denied visas and accreditation," added Fritz.

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