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Report says attacks on journalists on the rise

By Innocent Anaba with Agency report

A new global survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, has said that  attacks on journalists are getting worse, with more attempts by repressive governments to censor the media. “Freelancers and online journalists are more vulnerable than ever before”,  the survey which was launched at the UN headquarters in New York during the week said. The UN  new edition of the CPJ finding entitled, “Attacks on the Press” in 2009, analyses threats in more than 100 countries.

“The situation that the CPJ has found in its annual survey of press freedom worldwide is a grim picture. This past year of 2009 is the worst in the 30-year history of CPJ for journalists deaths, some 70 journalists were killed for their work, a huge number was killed in the Philippines. But overall the trend was continuing attacks and murders of journalists and a lot of them were targeted and murdered as we saw in some countries like Russia, “Robert Mahoney, Deputy Director of CPJ said.

He said repressive governments had implored the use of social media, such as Facebook, which should be a tool for journalists, to go after the press.  “We have Facebook which the Iranian government is using to go after and find dissidents and journalists”,  he said.  On Africa, the CPJ report said high numbers of local journalists fled several African countries in recent years after being assaulted, threatened, or imprisoned, leaving a deep void in professional reporting. “The starkest examples are in the Horn of Africa nations of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, where dozens of journalists have been forced into exile. Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and the Gambia have also lost large segments of the local press corps in the face of intimidation and violence”, said the report.

On Nigeria, the report describes as a worrying trend the assault  of some journalists carrying out their legitimate duty and in a particularly the killing of one. CPJ particularly highlighted the assault of “journalists with impunity”, by local operatives of the PDP during the Ekiti State governorship rerun election in 2009.

The killing of Bayo Ohu, an Assistant Political Editor and political reporter for the Guardian Newspaper by six assailants, was also cited in the report. It said, “with 21 national dailies, 12 television stations, and several emerging online news sources, Nigeria continued to boast as one of the most vibrant news media cultures on the continent. But a series of attacks fanned fears in the press corps and prompted self-censorship”.

The CPJ advised journalists, groups and organisations to constantly engage in advocacy by bringing their plight into the public sphere. This would ensure that no victim of repressive  government remained anonymous, it said.


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