By Kirsten Murphy, Silha Fellow, and Anna Nguyen, Silha Research Assistant
Reporters sans Frontiers (RSF), or Reporters Without Borders, a media advocacy group based in Paris, France, has released its annual report on worldwide freedom of the press. According to the report, 25 journalists were killed in 2002, down from 31 in 2001. Arrests of journalists increased from 489 to 692, and cases of censorship increased from 378 to 389 in 2002. The group reports that 1,420 reporters were physically attacked or threatened last year and 118 journalists are in prison as of the end of 2002. According to the report, China, Turkey, Iran, Russia, Colombia and Saudi Arabia are among the worst offenders.
The RSF report states that although journalists working in dangerous areas of the world risk being caught in crossfire, most journalists are killed by armed groups. "[D]eath or injury of journalists in these conflicts is not always purely accidental. Sometimes the combatants, even from regular armies, deliberately target inconvenient witnesses to their deeds." RSF's report is available at http://www.rsf.org/ rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=144.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports that 19 journalists were killed in 2002, down from 37 in 2001. CPJ is also investigating the deaths of 13 journalists whose killings may have been related to their work. The report states that three journalists were killed in Colombia and two in Pakistan, including Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Three journalists were killed in Palestine and three were murdered in Russia in 2002. The report is available online at: http://www.cpj.org/ killed/killed02.html.
Eduardo Yáñez, a television commentator on Chilevisión's debate show "El Termómetro" was convicted on Jan. 31, 2003 of "disrespect" and sentenced to 18 months in prison by the Chilean Court of Appeals under Article 263 of the Penal Code. Yánez was ordered to pay the equivalent of $460 US dollars because of a Nov. 27, 2002 episode in which he called the Chilean judiciary "immoral, cowardly, and corrupt" for refusing to compensate a woman who had been in prison for a crime she did not commit. Yánez plans to appeal on constitutional grounds. (Compiled from reports from www.cpj.org and the New York Times.)
Chinese journalists on the mainland will have to take reassessment tests before they can be issued a license to work, the South China Morning Post reported on Dec. 7, 2002. The new system raises concerns that journalists who do not support the government will not receive a license.
Others fear that journalists who break the rules will be banned from working, according to a story posted on mediaguardian.co.uk on Dec. 10, 2002. A senior journalist from a government information service told the Sydney Morning Herald, "Working as a journalist in a non-democratic country, we have to have a high awareness of what to say, and what not to say."
The tests will be administered this year by the Chinese State Press and Publication Administration with the Ministry of Personnel. Those who pass will receive a certificate allowing them to work as journalists, according to the Media Guardian. Those who fail the tests will be given a three to five year transition to retake the tests, and those who fail repeatedly within the deadline will be forced to leave journalism. Lin Jiang of the Chinese State Press and Publication Administration told the South China Morning Post that the tests would cover publication regulations, news codes, and policies relating to press and publications as well as Chinese communist party ideology.
He told the Media Guardian that the measures taken will outlaw practices, such as bribery, which have plagued the Chinese media as the number of publications grew in recent years.
"The certification is not a life-long guarantee; violators' certifications would be withdrawn, they might be barred from retaking the qualification examinations for a couple years of for life," Lin told the South China Morning Post. He also said it would encourage competition between China's half million journalists, raising the standards of the profession.
On Feb. 1, 2003, Colombian rebels released to the Red Cross two journalists abducted on Jan. 21, 2003. Scott Dalton, a photographer from Texas and Ruth Morris, a British reporter, were kidnapped by the National Liberation Army (ELN) while on assignment for the Los Angeles Times in the eastern state of Arauca, Colombia.
On Jan. 27, 2003, Morris had stated over the rebel's clandestine radio station, Voice of Liberty, that she and Dalton were in good health. The ELN announced on Jan. 28, 2003 on another radio station, RCN, that the reporters would be released within one or two days, but in a separate statement on the same day on Voice of Liberty, the ELN insisted that the government must stop attacks on the region in order for the journalists to be released. After 11 days in captivity, the reporters were released and flown to Bogota by the Red Cross. Both reporters stated that they were treated well by the rebels, considering the circumstances.
The conflict between the rebels and the government is nearly 40 years old. The CPJ and RSF recognize Colombia as one the most dangerous countries for journalists. (Compiled from reports from The New York Times and the Associated Press)
Violence erupted in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna on Nov. 20, 2002 over an article published in the Nigerian newspaper This Day on Nov. 16, 2002. The article, written by fashion writer Isioma Daniel, commented on the "Miss World" contest, scheduled to be held in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on Dec. 7, 2002.
In the article, Daniel suggested that the Prophet Mohammad would have approved of the Miss World contest and might have chosen one of the beauty queens to be his wife. The article sparked outrage from the Muslim In the article, Daniel suggested that the Prophet Mohammed would have approved of the Miss World contest and might have chosen one of the beauty queens to be his wife. The article sparked outrage from the Muslim community in Nigeria, many of whom believed Daniel's comments insulted the Prophet Mohammed.
Riots ensued in Kaduna, during which over 200 people were killed. Over 1,000 people were injured during the three days of riots and 11,000 were made homeless by the destruction and violence. Twenty churches and eight mosques were burned. Rioters also burned down This Day's Kaduna office.
In the northern state of Zamfara, the local deputy governor Mamuda Aliyu Shinkafi issued a fatwa calling for Daniel's death and instructing Muslims that it was a religious duty to kill the reporter. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo contended that the riots were the result of irresponsible journalism, but the Nigerian government nevertheless said that the fatwa is void and will not be enforced because it is unconstitutional. However, the government took no legal action against Zamfara's deputy governor.
Tensions have run high in Nigeria since 2000, when the mostly Muslim northern states adopted Sharia law. The country is divided between Muslims in the north and Christians in the southern states. An attempt to introduce Sharia law in 2000 in the northern state of Kaduna resulted in riots in which more than 3,000 people died.
This Day published several apologies for the article and Daniel resigned from the paper and is reportedly hiding in the United States. The Miss World contest was moved to London.
Two American journalists and a Zimbabwean freelance photographer were arrested in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe on Jan. 28, 2003 and held for by the Zimbabwe government. The reporters, Dina Kraft of the Associated Press and Jason Beaubien of National Public Radio were arrested for being in an unauthorized area while on a U.N. World Food Program trip. The journalists were not mistreated and were released after seven hours. However, authorities erased the photographs taken by the freelance photographer, Tsvangirayi Mukwazihi.
Foreign journalists must be accredited by the government, according to draconian new press laws in Zimbabwe. On Jan. 24, 2003, police arrested five foreign church workers suspected of working in Zimbabwe as unaccredited journalists. The group, composed of citizens of the United States, Germany, Finland, and Kenya, were traveling in Zimbabwe as part of a Lutheran World Federation, reporting on hunger, AIDS and development work in Zimbabwe. They were released on January 28.