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A "climate of fear" endangers press freedom, emphasises CPJ in its annual report "Attacks on the Press"

(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a 10 February 2009 CPJ press release:

In Attacks on the Press, a 'climate of fear' endangers press freedom

New York, February 10, 2009 - Throughout Latin America, violent criminal gangs are forcing journalists to censor their work. Governments in Southeast Asia are emulating China's model of media control and punishment. In the Middle East, a regional pact threatens satellite television.

These are among the alarming developments recounted by the Committee to Protect Journalists in the new edition of Attacks on the Press. "Today, the greatest threats to freedom of the press are more insidious than a generation ago because they are intended to induce a climate of fear and self-censorship through systematic violence and emblematic arrest aimed at those who would practice real, independent journalism," writes Carl Bernstein, the author and reporter, in the preface to this year's edition.

Here are highlights from Attacks on the Press in 2008:

* Powerful drug traffickers in Mexico, gangsters in Brazilian slums, paramilitaries in Colombia, and violent street gangs in El Salvador and Guatemala are terrorizing the press. Murders, kidnappings, and assaults are causing widespread self-censorship in Latin America.
* Countries as diverse as communist-led Vietnam, military-run Burma, and ostensibly democratic Thailand are following China's censorship model. Governments are controlling the Internet and punishing those who circumvent the restrictions.
* In Russia and Georgia, television coverage of the conflict in South Ossetia was one-sided and one-dimensional. That was no mistake: Mikhail Saakashvili and Vladimir Putin used strikingly similar tactics to create uncritical broadcast media.
* Text messaging has become an important tool for African reporters, but the same technology is being used to threaten journalists and undermine the profession.
* Uneasy about satellite television coverage of civil strife and economic hardship, Arab governments are trying to reassert control over the medium. A new regional agreement threatens independent satellite stations.

In his introduction, CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon writes that "the war on terror had a devastating effect" on the press. Journalists were murdered in record numbers over the past seven years, he notes, while deterioration in the international legal environment led to a surge in imprisonments.

Highlighting the global reach of CPJ's work defending press freedom, Attacks on the Press will be released in several international cities, including New York, Cairo, Madrid, and Tijuana. Alejandro González Raga, a journalist jailed for several years in Cuba, will talk to reporters in Madrid, while at the United Nations, Bernstein, Simon, and CPJ Chairman Paul Steiger will speak. Columnist Clarence Page, a CPJ board member, will appear in Tijuana to discuss the risks to journalists covering the drug trade.

Attacks on the Press is available through the Brookings Institution Press. Country summaries and analyses are online at

The Committee to Protect Journalists is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending press freedom worldwide.

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