Scribes unsafe in Iraq, Zim

2004-05-03 10:32
New York - Iraq is the most dangerous place to be a journalist, followed by Cuba and Zimbabwe, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which released on Sunday a list of the 10 most hazardous countries for the job.

Twenty-five journalists have died in Iraq since the war began in March, 2003, the group said, many of them after combat was officially declared over. Several journalists have also been abducted and detained there.

"Postwar Iraq is fraught with risks for reporters: banditry, gunfire and bombings are common," the report said. "Insurgents have added a new threat by systematically targeting foreigners, including journalists, and Iraqis who work for them."

In Cuba, a crackdown on the press by President Fidel Castro last year left "an unprecedented 29 journalists behind bars," the group said, with some journalists serving prison terms of nearly 30 years.

Those not imprisoned regularly face police intimidation and harassment, and are warned to stop writing or suffer the consequences, the Committee said.

Police in Zimbabwe arrested journalists who reported on pro-democracy rallies, and reporters were also attacked by ruling party supporters.

For four years there, the government has harassed the press, and last year closed the country's only independent daily newspaper. In February, the court upheld legislation that made it a criminal act to practice journalism without government approval.

An act of courage

"In all of these places, reporting the news is an act of courage and conviction," said Ann Cooper, the group's executive director. "Journalism is essential in helping all of us understand the events that shape our lives, and our need and desire for information cannot be eliminated by violence and repression."

Also listed:

  • Turkmenistan, where "independent journalism is practically nonexistent," CPJ said, and the president maintains control over all newspapers, radio and television stations.

  • Bangladesh, where reporters "routinely face threats, harassment and often brutally violent physical attacks in retaliation for their reporting," the group said. Seven journalists have been killed there in the past eight years.

  • China, where more than 40 journalists are imprisoned, making it the world leader in jailing journalists, according to CPJ.

  • Eritrea, where the government banned the private press and detained independent reporters in September 2001.

  • Haiti, where journalists were attacked during the uprising that led to the ouster in February of Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

  • The West Bank and Gaza Strip, among the most unpredictable assignments for journalists. At least three journalists have been killed there since April 2003.

  • Russia, where CPJ said "subtle and covert tactics" have allowed the Kremlin to stifle reports on government corruption, criticism of the president and human rights abuses by Russian forces in Chechnya.

    Committee to Protect Journalists: www.cpj.org

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