Alice Rice writes at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism; alas, the breaking news is that she could have added Tunisia to the list:
Today the United Nations highlights the pressures and dangers facing journalists across the world with a conference in Tunis and a themed day, World Press Freedom Day.
Tunis is a slightly strange choice of location for the conference – barely three weeks ago Reporters Without Borders issued an open letter highlighting a crackdown on protesters that saw 16 journalists assaulted, including two foreign reporters.
Still, here are five reasons a day dedicated to press freedom is still sorely needed:
- Vietnam: Bloggers have been repeatedly harassed and detained after reporting on wildcat strikes and other topics the authorities would prefer to keep away from the public attention. In mid-April, Human Rights Watch called for the immediate release of Nguyen Van Hai, Phan Thanh Hai, and Ta Phong Tan, all members of the Club for Free Journalists, which HRW says was set up to ‘promote freedom of expression and independent journalism’. The three are currently facing criminal charges for conducting propaganda against the state.
- Russia: In the run-up to the elections earlier this year, Reporters Without Borders highlighted a series of attempts to intimidate journalists, stemming from both the government and from other sources. Eight reporters were arrested covering the protests that followed Putin’s re-election and two were beaten, according to Reporters Without Borders.
- Thailand: Chiranuch Premchaiporn faces up to 20 years in jail under Thailand’s strict lese-majeste laws, which criminalise comments that are critical of the King. Chiranuch is not accused of making the comments herself: instead, she is an online editor at Thai news website Pracithai. A number of anonymous online commenters had posted negative messages about the Thai royalty; Chiranuch is being held liable. Earlier this week a court delayed its verdict on her case.
- Ethiopia: The government has employed anti-terror laws to crack down on journalists. Last summer, as the Bureau reported, reporter Martin Schibbye and photographer Johan Persson were arrested attempting to cross into the troubled Ogaden region, while Ethiopian journalists Eskinder Nega and Sileshi Hago were arrested for plotting terrorist attacks. Two further Ethiopian journalists were arrested after writing critical articles about the government. Last week, a prominent independent news website was blocked for at least five days, according to Reporters Without Borders.
- UK: Although super-injunctions have dropped out of the headlines, thanks in part to the ongoing phone-hacking scandal, they are a key tool for the rich and powerful to silence press scrutiny. Despite a number of high-profile backfires last year, super-injunctions remain in favour among some of the UK’s more ill-behaved high-flyers. This week Private Eye cheekily suggested that two individuals in the top 10 of the Sunday Times Rich List are currently enjoying this particularly British status symbol.
Unfortunately, this list could have been 10, 25 or 50 examples long. Whether through incarceration, violence, intimidation, web blocking or lawyers’ letters, the threats to press freedom are plentiful, widespread and show no sign of subsiding.
From The Bureau of Investigative Journalism