Rights group releases list of threats to press freedom

[JURIST] Journalism rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) [advocacy website] released a report [text; press release] Monday listing 40 "Predators of Press Freedom" throughout the world. The list includes several prominent politicians and groups including Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Spain's Basque separatist group ETA [JURIST news archives] and the Sinaloa, Gulf, and Juarez drug cartels in Mexico. The report also lists both Israeli and Palestinian forces as predators of press freedom, stating that Israel Defense Forces [JURIST news archive] (IDF) "tend to behave arbitrarily towards Palestinian journalists and media workers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. At least 33 Palestinian journalists were physically attacked and injured by Israeli soldiers during 2009 and another 25 have been since the start of 2010. Israeli soldiers implicated in these abuses are rarely prosecuted." In the Palestinian territories, the report found, "[j]ournalists have been paying dearly for the power struggle between Fatah and Hamas ... ever since Hamas seized power in the Gaza Strip in June 2007" as each side has tried to suppress the other's message through coercion and detention. The RSF release coincides with World Press Freedom Day [UN News Centre report]. Sri Lanka, whose Defense Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse is on the RSF list of predators, recognized the day by pardoning Tamil journalist Jeyaprakash Tissainayagam [BBC report], who had been convicted of raising money for terrorism and inciting racial hatred. The US and many European countries had criticized Tissainayagam's arrest and conviction.

Many recent disputes have arisen over freedom of press. Last month, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ordered the government of Azerbaijan [JURIST report] to secure the immediate release of imprisoned Azeri journalist Eynulla Fatuallyev, who was jailed on what many international organizations claim are spurious charges. Also last month, many rights groups expressed concern [JURIST report] over a Fiji draft bill that would allow the government to sentence journalists to up to five years in prison for publishing controversial content and require them to reveal sources of information. In March, Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged the Cuban government [JURIST report] to allow more freedom of expression and release those jailed for criticizing the government. Norway finished tied for first in RSF's annual Press Freedom Index in 2009, 2008 and 2007, while Finland, Iceland, Ireland, and the Netherlands took the top spot in 2006 [JURIST reports].

 

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