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RSF criticises lack of public commitment to press freedom, fears upcoming anti-media violence

(RSF/IFEX) - The following is a 13 February 2008 RSF press release:

Annual Press Freedom Report 2008

REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS CRITICISES LACK OF PUBLIC COMMITMENT TO PRESS FREEDOM AND FEARS ANTI-MEDIA VIOLENCE IN COMING MONTHS

The plight of journalists in 98 countries reviewed

Reporters Without Borders today accused public officials around the world of "impotence, cowardice and duplicity" in defending freedom of expression.

"The spinelessness of some Western countries and major international bodies is harming press freedom," secretary-general Robert Ménard said in the organisation's annual press freedom report, out today (13 February) and available at http://www.rsf.org . "The lack of determination by democratic countries in defending the values they supposedly stand for is alarming."

He charged that the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva had caved in to pressure from countries such as Iran and Uzbekistan and expressed concern at the softness of the European Union towards dictators who did not flinch at the threat of European sanctions.

The report's introduction listed problems expected in the coming year, especially physical attacks on journalists during key elections in Pakistan (18 February), Russia (2 March), Iran (14 March) and Zimbabwe (29 March).

The worldwide press freedom organisation voiced concern about the safety of journalists covering fighting in Sri Lanka, the Palestinian Territories, Somalia, Niger, Chad and especially Iraq, where it said "journalists continue to be buried almost every week."

It also protested against censorship of new media (mobile phones transmitting photos and film and video-sharing and social networking websites) and highlighted media repression in China in the run-up to the Olympic Games there this summer.

"Nobody apart from the International Olympic Committee seems to believe the government will make a significant human rights concession before the Games start," it said. "Every time a journalist or blogger is released, another goes into prison. (. . . ) China's dissidents will probably be having a hard time this summer."

The report includes surveys of press freedom in every region of the world over the past year and chapters on 98 countries, including European Union members and the United States.

A press conference to introduce the report will be held in Washington on 13 February in the presence of journalists from Iraq, China, Eritrea and Pakistan. Another will be held in Berlin with Russian and Zimbabwean journalists.

To read the full report, see: http://www.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/rapport_en-3.pdf

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