Risk to journalists 'increased by war on terrorism'

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The Independent Online

The war on terrorism has dealt a heavy blow to freedom of the press around the world, contributing to a sharp increase in the number of journalists killed, imprisoned, assaulted or legally harassed, a pressure group said yesterday.

The war on terrorism has dealt a heavy blow to freedom of the press around the world, contributing to a sharp increase in the number of journalists killed, imprisoned, assaulted or legally harassed, a pressure group said yesterday.

In its latest annual survey, the Committee to Protect Journalists spoke of a "press freedom crisis that was global in scope" – and one inspired in some measure by the clampdown within the US, not least the State Department's efforts to censor a Voice of America interview with the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

The report, Attacks on the Press in 2001, lists over 500 cases of media repression in 140 countries. Last year 37 journalists were killed as a result of their work, compared with 24 in 2000. The increase was largely, but not exclusively, due to the campaign in Afghanistan, where eight journalists died.

CPJ points out that most of those killed did not die while covering conflicts, but were murdered because of their reporting on sensitive issues like government corruption and crime. The number of journalists imprisoned jumped by almost half, to 118 from 81 in 2000. For the third successive year, China was the worst offender, holding 35 journalists in jail at the end of last year.

A host of countries – among them Zimbabwe which denounced independent journalists as "terrorists" – imposed new curbs on press freedom in the wake of 11 September, often in the name of "national security."

The Committee hdid note some improvements, notably in Yugoslavia following the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, as well as in Sri Lanka and Syria. Eight journalists jailed in Ethiopia were freed following an intensive international campaign.

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