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From violence in Iraq to jailings in China and Cuba, CPJ recounts a troubling year in annual report

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a CPJ press release:

From violence in Iraq to jailings in China and Cuba, CPJ recounts a troubling year in Attacks on the Press

New York, February 4, 2008 - Conflicts in Iraq and Somalia made 2007 the deadliest year for the press in more than a decade, while more and more journalists are being jailed on vague "antistate" charges, many of them by the Chinese and Cuban governments, according to the new edition of the Committee to Protect Journalists' annual report Attacks on the Press.

Trends detailed in the 2007 report include China's onerous restrictions on the media in the run-up to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, the erosion of press freedom in many of Africa's new democracies, the criminalization of journalism in Russia and Central Asia, the loss of U.S. influence on Latin American press issues, and Arab governments' subtle use of legal pressure to silence dissent.

Reported and written by the staff of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 2007 also details the devastating toll of violence in Iraq, where for the second consecutive year, 32 journalists were killed in the line of duty. Iraq was the deadliest country in the world for the press for the fifth straight year.

Highlighting the global reach of CPJ's work defending press freedom, Attacks on the Press is being released internationally at events in Berlin, Cairo, Hong Kong, London, and New York.

CPJ's annual survey documents hundreds of cases of media repression in dozens of countries, including murders, assaults, imprisonments, censorship, and legal harassment.

A preface by CPJ board member and CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour spotlights the fight against impunity in journalist murders. "Impunity is the single biggest threat facing journalists today. Murder, after all, is the ultimate form of censorship," writes Amanpour. Attacks on the Press features in-depth regional reporting and analysis of press freedom conditions.

Some of the book's findings:

- Journalists were killed in usually high numbers in 2007, with 65 killed in direct connection to their work - up from 56 a year earlier. CPJ is investigating another 23 deaths to determine whether they were work-related. CPJ has recorded only one other year with a higher death toll: 1994, when 66 journalists were killed, many in conflicts in Algeria, Bosnia and Rwanda.

- In Russia, President Vladimir Putin's government has created a national security state where reporting the news can be defined as "extremism." Under sweeping new laws, media criticism of public officials is a criminal offense. The Kremlin's tactic of rewriting the law to criminalize journalism has been exported to countries such as Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

- Despite China's promises to improve press freedom conditions before the 2008 Olympics, it continued to be the world's leading jailer of journalists with 29 journalists and writers behind bars. China has held the dishonor for nine straight years. Reflecting a wider decade-long trend, Internet journalists make up an increasing portion of jailed journalists. In China, 18 of the 29 journalists jailed worked online.

- In Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez Frías' government forced a critical television station off the air in May when it did not renew its broadcast concession. Venezuelan authorities said they were acting within the law, but a CPJ investigation found that the process was arbitrary and politically motivated.

- In parts of Africa, democracy was supposed to have taken root after years of strife, but conditions for journalists have gotten worse in several nations. While accepting praise from Western donors, repressive leaders in Ethiopia, the Gambia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have cracked down on critical media, shuttering newspapers and putting journalists in jail.

- About 17 percent of journalists jailed in 2007 were held without any charge. CPJ found 127 journalists behind bars on December 1, seven less than the 2006 tally of 134. About 57 percent of those jailed were held under antistate allegations such as subversion, divulging state secrets, and acting against national interests.

- In the Middle East, a number of Arab governments publicly make commitments to democratic reform while applying pressure through legal strategies that control the press. "Manipulating the media, they have found, is more politically palatable to the international community than outright domination," writes CPJ Senior Program Coordinator Joel Campagna.

- Attacks on the Press also details progress for journalists in 2007. In the Philippines, long one of the deadliest countries for the media, CPJ did not document any work-related journalist deaths in 2007. In Ethiopia, where CPJ reported and advocated extensively, 15 journalists arrested in a 2005 government crackdown were acquitted or pardoned of antistate charges in 2007. In Russia, for the first time since Vladimir Putin took office in 2000, there was a conviction in a journalist murder; five men were found guilty of the 2003 murder of Novaya Gazeta reporter Igor Dommnikov.

Featuring an introduction by CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon, Attacks on the Press is the authoritative source of information on international press conditions. In his preface, Simon addresses two perilous landscapes facing journalists: too much government in repressive nations such as Russia, and too little government in lawless places such as Iraq, Somalia, and the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Attacks on the Press is available through the Brookings Institution Press ( http://www.brookings.edu/press.aspx ) and online at CPJ's Web site, http://www.cpj.org

CPJ is a New York-based, independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide. For more information, visit http://www.cpj.org

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