Yesterday, the Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York City, released its annual “Attacks on the Press” report , which paints a grim picture of the deaths, imprisonments, and censorship of reporters across the country. The report says that, in some ways, the findings are more troubling than ever, and today, news broke supporting the need for greater attention on threats to the free press: two journalists covering Syria died pursuing a deadly bombardment of a central city.
Just last week, Anthony Shadid, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for the New York Times, also died in Syria, due to an apparent asthma attack.
This latest news fits into a larger landscape of increasingly complex challenges for reporters internationally, which the CPJ’s full report available online describes in great detail.
The report finds that in the Arab world, reporters are facing new and unpredictable threats tied to uprisings. In Asia, intimidations have had a chilling impact on journalism, CPJ says. In Africa, investigative reporting is considered a threat to development, and in Latin America, state media has functioned as a political weapon against independent press. The survey reports that in 2011, 46 journalists were killed and 179 were imprisoned.
Censorship in Asia ranges from official repression to violence — with 156 unsolved journalist murders since 1992, the report says. Pakistan has had the most deaths over the last two years, a factor contributing to the unsafe environment which has forced many into hiding or exile. While microblogs are becoming an important part of the journalism landscape in China, mainstream media, the report says, still faces great challenges in reporting on the country as authorities continue to imprison and detain journalists and also block the internet.
The report also includes an interesting discussion on how changes in technology have impacted the challenges reporters face.
While video footage and social media have been key in reporting on repression in Burma, Syria, Egypt, and other countries, the report says that there is an urgent need for digital reporters to fully understand the dangers of going to these nations. About half of the journalists imprisoned worldwide work primarily online — and the CPJ finds that many of these journalists are freelancers or work for smaller, local outlets and may not have the support or training they need to minimize risk abroad. Online journalists rarely appeared on CPJ’s death toll before 2008.
Also statistically of interest, photographers and camera operators made up around 40 percent of the total death toll which the CPJ says is about double the proportion it has documented since it began keeping fatality records in 1992.
“While the Internet has provided the equivalent of a printing press to millions of people across the world, it has also broadened the power to shutter those presses. Technology is allowing journalists to slip the chains of censorship, but that newfound freedom will be ﬂeeting if not defended,” Sandra Mims Rowe, chair of CPJ, writes in the preface of the report.
CPJ also sent Runnin’ Scared a statement on the deaths in Syria this morning.
“Our colleagues Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik gave their lives to report a story of grave importance, a story the Syrian government has sought to choke off from rest of the world,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “The killing of these journalists, who were observers in a conflict zone, represents an unacceptable escalation in the price that local and international journalists are being forced to pay.”