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Impunity for killers of journalists threatens freedom of expression, says WAN-IFRA report

(WAN-IFRA/IFEX) - Vienna, Austria, 12 October 2011 - Media employees worldwide continue to face physical violence and persecution of all kinds, whether from public officials, criminals or terrorists. Assaults are daily - and often deadly - for those who challenge governments, report on conflict or investigate corruption and crime, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) said Wednesday in its annual review of press freedom worldwide.

Forty-four journalists have been killed so far in 2011 and hundreds of media employees have been harassed, threatened or physically attacked. Impunity prevails in many parts of the world for the perpetrators as they seek to influence or mislead public opinion by targeting a free press, said the report, presented to the Board of WAN-IFRA, meeting in Vienna on the eve of the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum.

Some 1,100 newspaper publishers, chief editors, managing directors and other senior newspaper executives were gathering in Vienna for the Congress and Forum, the global meetings of the world's press.

The press freedom review said attacks against the media continue to make Pakistan one of the world's deadliest for journalists. In the last 10 years, 36 journalists have been targeted and killed and none of their cases have been brought to court. In 2010, the country was the world's deadliest for the press; in 2011, eight journalists have already lost their lives there.

Violence and impunity remain Mexico's major challenges in terms of press freedom. The Mexican government's so-called "war on drugs" has had devastating consequences for the Mexican media. According to WAN-IFRA research, 30 media professionals have been killed since the start of the government's offensive in December 2006, with most of the perpetrators remaining at large.

The report said:

- Media professionals across the Americas are increasingly exposed to the wave of violence resulting from the conflict between drug-trafficking syndicates and government authorities. Populist regimes' intolerance of dissent or scrutiny has led to increasing harassment of the critical and independent press through criminal defamation legislation. More than ever before, governments have become the biggest enemies of press freedom in the region.

- In Asia, established democracies have seen a rise in impunity, censorship and violence against journalists in the past year.

- Press freedom continues to suffer from a deep-rooted culture of impunity, intimidation and harassment in certain parts of Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

- Despite the fall of dictatorships across the Middle East and North Africa, little progress has been made in installing legislation that will protect the freedom of the press in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt. Governments in other Arab states have been obliged to make concessions to pro-reform demonstrators in order to remain in power, but promises of change have likewise brought little improvement in terms of media freedoms.

- A culture of unrelenting violence, harassment and intimidation, particularly alongside elections, continues to stifle freedom of expression across the African continent. Sweeping anti-terrorism laws, criminal defamation and treason charges are regularly used to detain local and foreign journalists who criticise or question authority.

Click below to download the full report:
WANIFRA_international_ WPFR_2011.pdf (4371 KB)

Click here to read details of the cases of journalists murdered in 2011

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