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Journalists under attack on World Press Freedom Day

Roxana Saberi
Roxana Saberi

Members of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in Paris and London went hungry this World Press Freedom Day - in support of jailed U.S.-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi, who herself started a hunger strike on 21 April.

Thankfully, Saberi, who was protesting an eight-year jail sentence for spying for the U.S., has since started eating again. But the international campaigning for her release goes on. Next week, an Iranian appeals court will hear her case, and a verdict is expected shortly thereafter.

As World Press Freedom Day was commemorated on 3 May, Saberi is just one of about 125 journalists jailed worldwide because of their work - and an example of the threats hundreds of thousands of journalists and others face for exercising their right to free expression.

Of this figure, nearly 700 journalists have been killed since 3 May was first celebrated in 1993, according to U.S. President Barack Obama, who acknowledged World Press Freedom Day in an official statement. Tragically, the latest fatality to be added to the list was gunned down on World Press Freedom Day: Mexican journalist Carlos Ortega Samper, who just a day before his death wrote that he had been threatened by local government officials.

The numbers are grim, no matter where you are. A global survey published by Freedom House last week shows media freedom has declined for the seventh straight year - with journalists facing more obstacles to their work in every region of the world.

"Restrictions can happen in any type of environment, including democracies," says Karen Karlekar, managing editor of the annual "Freedom of the Press" report.

"We found that only 17 percent of the world's population live in countries that enjoy a fully free press," she added.

World Press Freedom Day serves as an occasion to pay tribute to Saberi, as well as journalists such as Ortega who risked their lives to give us the news. They understand better than anyone that media contributes significantly to processes of dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation, the theme of this year's World Press Freedom Day.

It is also a time to remind the world of the countless other press freedom violations across the globe, while also developing initiatives that defend and promote journalists and the right to press freedom. Continuing on from last week, see how IFEX members and partners did just that in our round-up of 3 May activities: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/archivefeatures/242/

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