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WAN report presents growing list of abuses against freedom of expression

(WAN/IFEX) - The following is a 15 December 2008 WAN press release:

Beirut, Lebanon, 15 December 2008
Threats to Press Freedom Multiply Worldwide

Attacks on journalists throughout the world - by organised crime groups in Latin America, autocratic regimes in the Middle East, repressive governments in Africa and by combatants in war zones - pose serious threats to press freedom, the World Association of Newspapers said Monday in its half-year review of press freedom world-wide.

The report, presented Monday to the Board of the Paris-based WAN, presented a growing list of abuses against press freedom and freedom of expression. Thirty-nine journalists and other media workers have been killed since June, bringing the year-long total to 68.

Mexico, where journalists have increasingly become the target of drug traffickers, has emerged as one of the deadliest places for journalists, with 23 killed since 2000. Seven others have disappeared in Mexico since 2005.

The report said:

- Journalists reporting on organised crime groups in Latin America, and on links between public officials and those groups, remain the target of threats of violence, attacks and murders. Impunity prevails as investigations by law enforcement bodies and the judiciary fail. Verbal attacks by political leaders against critical reporters and media have only added to an already hostile environment.

- 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 do not hesitate to take repressive measures against the independent press. Bloggers throughout the region continue their battle to spread news and information ignored or censored by the mainstream media.

- Governments throughout Africa continue resorting to charges of defamation, sedition, and "disrupting public order" to intimidate and sanction independent and opposition media. Reporting on rebellions or criticizing the country's leadership, administration or the army often leads to jail sentences for journalists. Despite efforts led by media and civil society organisations, free expression is severely limited in many countries.

- Freedom of the press continues to be challenged in various parts of Europe and Central Asia. Death threats against or prosecution of journalists reporting on conflict zones, war crimes, and organised crime remain common.

- Journalists have taken a high toll in an increasingly volatile political situation in the Caucasus, where four journalists were killed in August alone.

- Asia has been the scene of increasing violence targeting journalists, whether they reported on corruption, conflicts or simply expressed dissenting views. Severe restrictions continue to impede the work of independent media and the free flow of information.

The report, with region-by-region details, is available on the WAN web site at: http://www.wan-press.org/article17943.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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