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MEDIA FREEDOM UNDER THREAT WORLDWIDE, SAYS WAN REPORT

Gangs and corrupt officials in Latin America. Tyrants in the Middle East and Asia. Wars in Africa. Death threats and court cases in Europe and Central Asia. These are the most serious threats to free expression, says the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) in its half-year press freedom review.

The report is a grim picture of the attacks, imprisonment and violence faced by journalists in many countries. Twenty-eight journalists have been killed since November 2007. Iraq tops the list, with nine killed, although this number seems to be declining over recent years, says WAN.

Attacks on the media remain commonplace in Latin America, where four journalists were killed in the past six months and a number of others threatened and harassed. "The region is distinguished by a general lack of respect for journalists," says WAN.

In the Middle East and North Africa, autocratic regimes ignore or censor independent voices, WAN says. Bloggers have become the shining light for those seeking news outside of the mainstream.

In sub-Saharan Africa, independent and opposition journalists are increasingly getting caught in the crossfire as they report on rebellions and in conflict zones. Even if they manage to escape, governments charge them with sedition and "endangering national security". Elections have exacerbated tensions and made accurate and timely reporting even more difficult and dangerous.

Death threats or prosecution actions remain disturbingly common in Europe and Central Asia, 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 hostile governments and internal conflicts, from the dictatorship in Burma to President Musharraf's emergency measures from which Pakistan is still recovering.

The report, with region-by-region details, was presented to WAN's board on the eve of its World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum in Göteborg, Sweden from 1 to 4 June. It is available on the WAN website at: http://www.wan-press.org/article17265.html

(3 June 2008)

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