Journalists in harm's way


Today, the Committee to Protect Journalists publishes its annual report on the state of press freedom around the world in a 428-page book, Attacks on the Press in 2002.

The CPJ, based in New York, uses a powerful weapon in its efforts to protect reporters from harm and harassment as they do their jobs. It uses journalism -- investigating complaints and publishing its findings.

Even as the book comes out, journalists are in harm's way. Since the war began in Iraq, two have been killed, another died in an apparent accident, four are missing and two others have been wounded.

On March 22, Terry Lloyd, a reporter for Britain's ITN, was killed, perhaps by "friendly fire" from U.S. or British troops, near the southern Iraqi city of Basra. Two of his colleagues, cameraman Fred Nerac of France and translator Hussein Osman of Lebanon, are missing. A fourth member of the crew, cameraman Daniel Demoustier, escaped with injuries.

The same day, Paul Moran, a free-lance cameraman on assignment for the Australian Broadcasting Corp., was killed in an apparent suicide attack when a man detonated a car bomb at a checkpoint in northeastern Iraq. Australian reporter Eric Campbell was injured in the blast.

Another ITN reporter, Gaby Rado, 48, was found dead yesterday in a parking lot of the Abu Sanaa hotel in Sulaimaniyah in northern Iraq, where he and other reporters were staying, ITN said. He may have fallen from the roof of the hotel.

Two Newsday journalists have been missing since March 24. Reporter Matthew McAllester and photographer Moises Saman were last heard from when they sent an e-mail to the newspaper that day from Baghdad, where they had been having visa difficulties.

Molly Bingham, an American photojournalist who was missing after having similar visa problems in Baghdad, crossed into Syria on Friday.

Other journalists are under threat elsewhere: In recent days, CPJ has reported allegations that Iraqi agents planned to attack Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty because of its Arabic-language broadcasts into Iraq. The station, based in the Czech Republic, is financed by the U.S. government.

The text of the CPJ report is expected to be available at at 9:30 a.m. today.

Following are some "Press Freedom Facts" that the CPJ uses by way of introduction to the report.

-- Kathy Lally

A total of 19 journalists were killed for their work in 2002, including three journalists each in Colombia, Russia and the West Bank. That is the lowest number on record since CPJ began tracking the killings in 1985. Most were local journalists, murdered with impunity.

In the Philippines, warlord politics, official corruption and a breakdown in the justice system have contributed to the fact that 39 journalists have been killed since democracy was restored there in 1986. All of these cases remain officially unsolved.

Angered at trial coverage that implicated her son in the murder of journalist Carlos Cardoso, Mozambique's first lady allegedly sent truckloads of chickens to the homes and offices of several journalists.

Upset by a critical Wall Street Journal Europe article, Romania's Defense Ministry sent a warning to several local newspapers that had republished the article. "Life is short," the ministry warned, "and your health has too high a price to be endangered by debating highly emotional subjects."

Three journalists in Tajikistan were conscripted into military service in retaliation for producing a talk show that criticized local military officials. After they were arrested and detained, military officials told them, "We'll show you how to present us on television."

Eritrea is Africa's foremost jailer of journalists. President Isaias Afewerki banned the entire independent press corps in September 2001, accusing them of "endangering national unity." Eighteen journalists were imprisoned without being charged. When some began a hunger strike in March last year to protest their detention, authorities moved the journalists to unknown sites and have held them incommunicado ever since.

In the run-up to China's 16th Communist Party Congress in November, propaganda officials issued guidelines to reporters listing 32 topics that were forbidden or to be covered with extra caution. On the list of forbidden topics: "Chinese eating dogs that Westerners breed." Among stories that must be reported with greater caution: "Reports on World Cup soccer," "restrictions on negative news" and "high-living consumer lifestyles."

After the office of Respublika, a business weekly in Kazakhstan, was burned to the ground by Molotov cocktails, officials accused the paper's editor of starting the fire herself to help boost circulation.

In April, Israel Defense Forces arrested three Palestinian journalists in the West Bank and held them for nearly six months without charge.

A newscaster in Gabon was fired after stuttering on live radio through the name of President Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the neighboring Republic of Congo. Sassou-Nguesso is married to the daughter of Gabon's president.

In Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Information forced Muhammad Mukhtar al-Fal, editor of the daily Al-Madina, to resign after he published a poem criticizing the country's conservative judiciary as corrupt.

The murder of TV Globo investigative reporter Tim Lopes in June illustrated the dangers that journalists in Brazil face when covering organized crime. Lopes was brutally killed by drug traffickers while working on assignment in one of Rio de Janeiro's favelas, or shantytowns.

When Gambia's president, Yahya Jammeh, was asked whether he would try to improve relations with the press by visiting news media organizations, he replied, "Do you think you need to go into a toilet to know that it stinks?"

According to the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, more than 130 journalists have been arrested in Nepal since the government introduced anti-terrorism legislation in November 2001 that makes contact with or support for the country's Maoist rebels a crime. Sixteen journalists were in jail there at the end of last year.

The United Nations war crimes tribunal on Yugoslavia in The Hague announced a decision to limit compelled testimony from war correspondents in response to an appeal by former Washington Post reporter Jonathan Randal. The journalist, who had been subpoenaed in the case of a former Bosnian-Serb housing minister facing charges of genocide, does not have to testify.

In Belarus, three journalists who dared to write critical articles about President Alexander Lukashenko during the run-up to the September 2001 elections were sentenced to corrective labor for libeling the president, a criminal offense under Belarusian law.

In Chile, a television commentator faces up to five years in jail for "disrespect" after he described the country's judiciary as "immoral, cowardly and corrupt" for not providing compensation to a woman who had been imprisoned for a crime she did not commit.

Islamic authorities in northern Nigeria issued a fatwa urging Muslims to kill a writer from the private daily This Day after her article about the Miss World pageant sparked deadly riots across the country.

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