Dangers still face journalists

Waghied Misbach

Waghied Misbach

A total of 59 journalists have been killed since November, according to the latest statistics released by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN).

The figures were released in a report at the weekend on the eve of the gathering in Cape Town of the world's editors and media executives.

President Thabo Mbeki is expected to open the global congress today.

The half-year review report was presented on Saturday to the board of the Paris-based WAN. The report painted a grim picture of attacks, imprisonment and murder facing journalists in many countries. It said Iraq remained the deadliest place, where 26 journalists were killed since November.

"The past six months have brought another disturbingly high death toll among journalists and media professionals, killed both in and outside of conflict zones," the report said. It added that investigative reporters had continued to receive death threats.

"An almost-total impunity still exists throughout the world, most notably in Central and Latin America, but also in war-torn Iraq and in Russia," the report said.

"Administrative and legal harassment, arbitrary arrests and detentions have remained a pattern to suppress press freedom in countries as diverse as Belarus, Egypt, Zimbabwe, China and Vietnam," the report said.

The report said criminal defamation had still been broadly used against journalists over the past six months and that cases of prosecution on the severe charges of "treason" or "extremism" seemed to be on the rise.

"New court and search cases throughout Europe and in the US confirm the urgency of providing for clear legal protection of journalists' confidential sources," the report said.

The Paris-based global organisation for the newspaper industry, defends and promotes press freedom worldwide.

Representing 18000 newspapers WAN's membership includes 76 national newspaper associations, newspaper companies and individual executives in 102 countries, 12 news agencies and 10 regional and worldwide press groups.