Press rights group says 21 journalists dead in Commonwealth countries

The international press freedom group, Reporters Sans Frontieres, said Wednesday that 21 journalists were killed in Commonwealth countries since the last meeting of heads of state in 1997.

The international press freedom group, Reporters Sans Frontieres, said Wednesday that 21 journalists were killed in Commonwealth countries since the last meeting of heads of state in 1997.

The report was released prior to next week's meeting of 54 Commonwealth leaders in Durban from Nov. 11 to 15.

The French-based Reporters Without Borders, as the group is called in English, urged the leaders to give the same priority to press freedom as they have in recent years to the erosion of democracy.

Since 1995, the Commonwealth has suspended Nigeria, Sierra Leone and more recently Pakistan for installing governments that were not democratically elected. Nigeria and Sierra Leone have returned to the Commonwealth, but Pakistan's expulsion will be considered next week.

"This commitment to fundamental freedoms needs to be taken further," the group said.

The group charged that 13 Commonwealth countries flout press freedom: Bangladesh, Cameroon, Gambia, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

It said 260 journalists were jailed or arrested since the last summit, and another 190 were victims of violence or torture.

Eight journalists were killed by rebels in Sierra Leone in January.

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