Wed, Mar 16, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Threats targeting the Asian press are rising, report says

AFP , WASHINGTON

Threats against press freedom in Asia "spiked" last year as authoritarian regimes in North Korea and Myanmar kept a tight grip on the media while the Philippines remained the deadliest place in the continent for journalists, a US-based media-rights group said yesterday.

Despite having "one of the freest presses in Asia," the Philippines was the second-deadliest country in the world after war-wracked Iraq, where 23 journalists were killed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists' (CPJ) annual survey on worldwide press freedom.

At least eight Philippine journalists, mainly rural radio broadcasters, "were gunned down in retaliation for their work," according to CPJ's report titled Attacks on the Press in 2004.

"Threats to press freedom spiked throughout Asia in 2004, even as the news media claimed significant accomplishments" with their "key roles" covering elections in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the report said.

A CPJ delegation concluded that Bangladesh was the most dangerous country for journalists in that region, as three were murdered in retaliation for their work. Journalists received scores of threats from extremists and suffered routine harassment and physical attacks.

China continued to hold the most journalists in prison in the world, with at least 42. The report said 122 journalists were imprisoned worldwide last year.

"It was a disappointing year for those who hoped that President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) would allow a greater degree of freedom for China's increasingly market-oriented press," the report said.

In military-ruled Myanmar, conditions for journalists "deteriorated" as hardliners tightened their grip on power and cracked down further on the official media and "the few remaining independent writers and editors," the report said.

"One thing remained certain in 2004" in Stalinist North Korea, the report said. "There is no press freedom in the country, only government outlets that voice the pronouncements of Kim Jong-il's authoritarian regime."

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