05 February 2008

Attacks on the Press

The Committee to Protect Journalists has issued its annual report, “Attacks on the Press 2007.” http://www.cpj.org/news/2008/aop01feb08na.html The report discusses troubling trends like “China’s onerous restrictions on the media in the run up to the 2008 Olympic Games, the erosion of press freedom in many of Africa’s new democracies, the criminalization of journalism in central Asia, and the increasing use of vague ‘antistate’ charges to jail journalists around the world.”

The report also details how 65 journalists were killed worldwide in 2007, which CPJ notes is the highest toll in more than a decade. Scores more suffered assault, imprisonment, censorship, and legal harassment.

We here at VOA lament the toll and the trends. Just days ago VOA issued its own statement http://www.voanews.com/english/About/2008-01-28-voa57.cfm condemning the beating of Goran Gavrilov, General Manager of Kanal 77, which rebroadcasts VOA's Macedonian-language radio programs across its nation-wide network. Mr. Gavrilov was beaten violently outside his home in Stip, Macedonia on the night of January 25.

VOA Director Danforth Austin has called for a full investigation into what he described as a brutal attack. As he put it, “To tolerate such violence against the media --- the free flow of ideas --- would be a step backwards for Macedonia."

One of those journalists killed in 2007 worked for us. Alisher Saipov, a journalist who reported extensively for VOA's Uzbek language service was killed outside his office in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. At the time, last October, Director Austin said “We are all deeply saddened by Alisher's brutal death but firmly resolved to continue reporting events in Kyrgyzstan and throughout Central Asia." (See story at http://www.voanews.com/english/archive/2007-10/2007-10-25-voa29.cfm ; also statement at http://www.voanews.com/english/About/2007-10-24-Saipov-Killed.cfm )

VOA joined other major international broadcasters recently in a joint statement calling on governments worldwide to “end any and all practices that hamper the rights of people everywhere to receive and impart information.”

The full statement put it this way:

“In recent years, international broadcasters have seen grave and rising threats to the right to gather information and communicate it across national borders.

“A growing number of countries – in Eurasia, Africa, South and East Asia, and Latin America – have restricted or blocked coverage of events of significant public interest. Journalists – including many working for our organizations – have been detained, arrested, expelled, kidnapped or killed.

“Particularly disturbing are new efforts by some governments, through the licensing and regulatory process, to restrict or forbid local rebroadcasts of our programs on radio and television through local partnerships. And more states are deliberately interfering with broadcast signals or are attempting to block or censor the Internet.

“As international broadcasters, we deplore such efforts – and call upon governments to end any and all practices that hamper the right of people everywhere to "receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." [United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights]

“Each of us has a different history, a different mission, different resources and different experiences, but we all share a common goal – to present accurate and comprehensive news and information to audiences around the world.

“Accordingly, we oppose efforts to restrict this important work, and call upon governments worldwide to halt such practices.

“Adopted in Hilversum, Netherlands on November 30, 2007
BBC World Service (United Kingdom) Deutsche Welle (Germany) Radio France Internationale (France) Radio Netherlands Worldwide (Netherlands)”

We owe it to courageous journalists like Alisher Saipov and Goran Gavrilov as well as to our audiences worldwide to continue fighting for the free flow of information, opinions and ideas.

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