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Press freedom under threat worldwide, says WAN report

(WAN/IFEX) - The following is a 31 May 2008 WAN press release:

Press Freedom Under Threat World-Wide: WAN

Göteborg, Sweden, 31 May 2008 - Press freedom is under serious threat from many sources - gangs and corrupt officials in Latin America, autocratic regimes in the Middle East, conflicts in Africa, hostile governments in Asia, and from death threats and prosecutions in central Asia and Europe, the World Association of Newspapers said in its half-year review of press freedom.

The report, presented Saturday to the Board of the Paris-based WAN on the eve of the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum in Göteborg, Sweden, painted a grim picture of attacks, imprisonment and murder facing journalists in many countries.

The report said:

- Attacks on the media remain commonplace in Latin America, where local gangs and corrupt government officials use deadly violence to silence critical voices. Four journalists were killed in the past six months and a number of media professionals were attacked, threatened and harassed. The region is distinguished by a general lack of respect for journalists.

- In the Middle East and North Africa, the past six months have been marked by a number of setbacks in the area of press freedom, mainly due to autocratic regimes that prevent independent voices from making themselves heard. Bloggers throughout the region continue to be a source of news and information ignored or censored by the government-controlled media.

- In sub-Saharan Africa, reporting on rebellions and conflict zones has proven to be increasingly dangerous, as governments resort to charges of sedition and "endangering national security" to intimidate independent and opposition media. Challenging or criticizing the president, government members and the army also lands many African journalists in prison. Elections have exacerbated tensions and made accurate and timely reporting even more difficult and risky.

- Freedom of the press continues to be challenged in various parts of Europe and Central Asia, both in subtle and blatant manner. Death threats or prosecution actions remain disturbingly common as forms of retaliation for reporting on a variety of issues: conflicts, war crimes, organised crime or even for mocking state officials, national or religious symbols.

- Throughout Asia, independent media continue to face an array of obstacles, mainly from hostile governments and internal conflicts. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, journalists continue their struggle for the right to freedom of expression. Dictatorships in Burma, North Korea and Laos allow no independent media to operate within their borders.

Twenty-eight journalists have been killed since November 2007. Iraq remains the most deadly country, with 9 killed.

The report, with region-by-region details, is available on the WAN web site at:
http://www.wan-press.org/article17265.html

The Paris-based WAN, the global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom and the professional and business interests of newspapers world-wide. Representing 18,000 newspapers, its membership includes 77 national newspaper associations, newspaper companies and individual newspaper executives in 102 countries, 12 news agencies and 11 regional and world-wide press groups.

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