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Bangladesh: detained journalists accused of anti-state activities

The prisoner's tale, by Saleem Samad


India: Censorship of documentary
Curbs imposed on Bangladeshi media over war
India: Militant leader threatens to kill journalists in Kashmir
RSF publishes annual photo album to help imprisoned journalists
Press freedom declines worldwide
Threats and intimidation for secular and independent press in Bangladesh
CPJ sent the following open letter today to Prime Minister Khaleda Zia
World press freedom day: May 3, 2003


Bangladesh: Journalist brutally attacked


Bangladesh: Harassment of news editors must stop

Journalist attacked by police, detained and charged with theft
23 Pakistani journalist shot dead- help needed
24 2003 round-up reporters without borders
Previous publications

2003 round-up reporters without borders


2003, a black year
42 journalists killed and a steep increase in other press freedom violations

In 2003:
• 42 journalists killed
• at least 766 arrested
• at least 1,460 physically attacked or threatened
• at least 501 media censored

By contrast with 2002 when:
• 25 journalists were killed
• at least 692 arrested
• at least 1,420 physically attacked or threatened
• at least 389 media censored

At 1 January 2004,
• 124 journalists were in prison around the world
• 61 cyberdissidents were in prison around the world

General Trends

Every gauge of press freedom violations in 2003 stood at red alert. Although the number of physical attacks and threats has remained almost stable since last year, other press freedom violations have increased dramatically compared to 2002 and over-all since 2001.

The number of journalists killed (42) is the highest since 1995 (49 journalists killed, 22 of them in Algeria). The massive military deployment and the unprecedented scale of media coverage of the war in Iraq have a lot to do with it. But a more global and particularly worrying fact emerges: covering a war is becoming more and more dangerous for journalists. Added to the traditional dangers of war, are the unpredictable hazards of bomb attacks, the use of more sophisticated weapons - against which even the training and protection of journalists is ineffective and belligerents who care more about winning the war of images than respecting the safety of media staff. So many factors increase the risks of war reporting. As a result of the violence of conflicts, but not only because of that, the number of journalists physically attacked and threatened has stabilised at a very high level and slightly up on 2002.

Arrests of journalists and censorship of media reached a record high in 2003. The relentless growth in violations of press freedom since 2001, is, undoubtedly linked to the fight against terrorism and to anti-terror laws adopted by some countries since the 11 September attacks. This new geo-political factor broke the downward trend registered in 1999 and 2000.

Seat of international tension and terrorist violence, the Middle East is the worst case region for press freedom this year. With the war in Iraq and the continuing
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is the Middle East that has seen the largest number of journalists killed (16) equal with Asia, which however has a far larger population. The Arabic-language press continues to groan under the weight of repressive and sclerotic regimes (Saudi Arabia, Syria) or sham democracies (Jordan, Yemen, the Palestinian Authority), while Lebanon, for so long a haven of media freedom, is displaying an ever more worrying contempt for the rule of law. In the Maghreb and Iran, expressing an opinion or publishing a cartoon can lead to prison.

In Asia, the press is still beset by the same ills: endemic violence (in Bangladesh), large numbers of arrests (Nepal) and censorship (China and Burma). Asia remains a continent where it was outstandingly dangerous to work as a journalist in 2003 (16 killed). It is also the world’s largest prison for journalists, cyberdissidents and Internet-users.
In Latin America, press freedom violations remained relatively stable in contrast with 2002, with the notorious exception of Cuba where the leading figures of the independent press have been imprisoned. On the other hand there has been a marked deterioration in the press freedom situation in Central Asia. The general trend on the African continent has been a worsening of working conditions for journalists, including in countries until recently held up as good examples such as Niger and Senegal. The deterioration that has affected the local and international press is linked to wars and civil conflicts, but also the fossilisation of some authoritarian regimes such as Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe.

Finally, things are satisfactory within the European Union, with the notable exception of Italy, where the conflicts of interest of Silvio Berlusconi, both prime minister and owner of a media empire, still poses a threat to pluralism of news and information. In most central and eastern European countries, journalists have had to contend with harsh and archaic defamation laws. Despite this, the ten countries set to join the EU on 1 May 2004 have respected press freedom. Things remain unstable in Serbia-Montenegro, where censorship was slapped on after the assassination of the prime minister, Zoran Djindjic, and in Romania, where journalists investigating corruption or criticising the party in power encounter growing problems.

A high level of physical attacks and threats

The number of journalists physically attacked and threatened remained stable compared with 2002 but at a very high level.

In Bangladesh things were as bad as ever. More than 200 journalists were physically attacked or received death threats from political activists, religious extremists or local criminal gangs. Complete inaction by the authorities only served to consolidate the endemic violence. In Afghanistan, two journalists condemned to death by fatwa following the publication of an article on secularism had to flee abroad.

Source: reporters without borders,



Photo : Altaf Hossain/ Drik