Global press freedom: Looking back on 2011, pushing forward in 2012...
In the news: Reporters Without Borders has announced that Jean-François Julliard will stand down as its secretary-general at the end of January. Julliard said, “I am leaving Reporters Without Borders at a time when it is in good shape...I hope that this development at the international level will continue. RWB will have more exciting challenges to face.” Olivier Basille, RWB’s representative in Brussels, will be acting head of the organization until a successor is appointed. Julliard will take over as director-general of Greenpeace France on 1 February 2012.
2011 was in many ways a brutal year for press freedom. It signalled a new frontier in the fight against censorship. Whilst the internet and social media arguably helped forge unprecedented levels of involvement in the dissemination of information amongst journalists, bloggers and ordinary citizens, government attempts to muzzle dissenting voices also spiked. Media blackouts ensued and brutal crackdowns on "netizens" led to a 31% increase in arrests.
Writing for Al-Jazeera, the director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Jillian C. York, says, "governments have wizened to this newfound appreciation, cracking down on bloggers with a vengeance. What five years ago was an anomaly has now become commonplace, with new blogger arrests regularly making headlines and often scaring other bloggers into silence or self-censorship."
The surge in deaths, arrests and physical attacks on journalists led Reporters Without Borders to compile for the first time, a list of the world’s 10 most dangerous places for the media. The organisation states that, “For the second year running, Pakistan was the single deadliest country with a total of 10 journalists killed, most of them murdered. China, Iran and Eritrea continue to be the world’s biggest prisons for the media.”
Some of the worst offenders on the list were, perhaps predictably, the sites of (in some cases ongoing) revolutionary upheaval; bloody clashes between protesters and security forces in Yemen’s Change Square claimed the lives of several journalists; Egypt’s Tahrir Square bore witness to the systematic targeting of local and foreign journalists covering the pro-democracy demonstrations; Syria’s hotbeds of dissent- Homs, Deraa and the capital Damascus- continue to suffer from a complete media blackout. Finally, RWB condemned the complicity of the international community who kept quiet over Bahrain’s unflinching news censorship.
Other press freedom predators have slipped under the mainstream media’s radar, quietly continuing to silence “threatening” voices; Pakistan’s Khuzdar district has its media caught in a crossfire between security forces and armed separatists; Philippines paramilitary groups and private militias continue to enjoy impunity where attacks and murders of journalists are concerned; Somalia, Libya and Ivory Coast have all highlighted the perils involved in war reporting; Mexico’s Veracruz state has become an epicentre for a federal war against drug cartels, but has also cost the lives of three journalists and forced others to flee. A situation which is exacerbated by the authorities’ laissez-faire attitude towards media censorship.
2012 PRESS FREEDOM BAROMETER so far...
0 Journalists killed
0 media assistants killed
171 journalists imprisoned
9 media assistants imprisoned
129 netizens imprisoned
For more information visit Reporters Without Borders
Quote of the month:
"The defense of media freedom continues to be a battle, a battle of vigilance in the democracies of old Europe and a battle against oppression and injustice in the totalitarian regimes still scattered across the globe.” Jean-François Julliard, Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General