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IFJ accuses governments of "hypocrisy and neglect" over press freedom

(IFJ/IFEX) - 29 April 2009 - Governments guilty of "censorship, hypocrisy, and neglect" are putting press freedom to the sword world-wide, says the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in its statement to mark World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd.

"Governments around the world are failing to defend press freedom and the rights of journalists," says Jim Boumelha, IFJ President, "and in the process they endanger civil liberties and democracy."

In the name of security and counter-terrorism journalists have become the targets of police and state authorities. "Even democratic states are putting in place laws that constrain the exercise of journalism," says Boumelha. "Snooping on investigative reporters and forcing journalists to reveal sources of information is increasing. As a result, media work in an intimidating atmosphere in which censorship, direct and indirect, is becoming routine."

The IFJ says that its decision not to attend press freedom celebrations this weekend organised by UNESCO with the Government of Qatar reflects this concern because the event is held in a country which supports an international media freedom centre, but which refuses to allow local journalists to form their own independent union or association.

The IFJ has written to UNESCO expressing concern over the event in Doha, which it says highlights the hypocrisy of governments that preach democracy abroad, but deny fundamental rights at home.

Instead, the IFJ will be attending another event in the region organised in Bahrain where it has opened a regional office to campaign for ethical journalism. The IFJ supports the Bahrain Journalists Association in its campaign to urge the Bahrain parliament to pass a long-overdue press law. "At least here, journalists have a voice," says Boumelha.

The IFJ says that more pressure must be put on all governments to defend principles of free expression and freedom of association.

It highlights how some governments express sympathy over the killings of journalists evident in war-torn countries such as Iraq or where drug barons and other criminals practice "censorship by violence" such as Mexico or Colombia, but they often fail to act against the impunity which allows the majority of killers of media staff to escape justice.

The IFJ will also mark the event by launching its second regional "Breaking the Chains" report on Press Freedom in the Arab world and Iran."It's time for states to honour their international responsibilities and take action to protect media. They must allow journalists to work freely, without intimidation, and they must create the conditions for press freedom," says Boumelha.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries worldwide.

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