The uncle (L) and father of Reuters journalist, Waleed Khaled, cry over his his body at Baghdad's Yarmouk hospital after he was shot in the Iraqi capital's Al Ghazalea district August 28, 2005. At least 63 journalists were killed worldwide in 2005, the highest number in a decade, a media watchdog said on Tuesday, but it also noted media had become freer in India and some Central American countries. (Ali Jasim/Reuters)
At least 63 journalists were killed worldwide in 2005, the highest
number in a decade, a media watchdog said on Tuesday, but it also noted media
had become freer in India and some Central American countries.
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in its latest annual
report that more than 1,300 media workers were attacked or threatened last year
and more than 100 were in jail.
For the third year running, Iraq was the most dangerous country. Seventy-four
journalists and media workers have been killed there since the U.S.-led invasion
in March 2003, making it the deadliest conflict for the press since World War
"Violence against journalists is now routine in Bangladesh, the Philippines,
Nigeria and Mexico and it goes unpunished," the RSF report said.
"Imprisonment is the favored weapon of authoritarian rulers to silence
journalists," it said. "The picture is much the same from year to
year and China, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran and Burma are still the countries
holding most journalists."
RSF said many journalists in countries such as Tunisia or Iran turned to blogs
and the Internet when censored in the mainstream media, but these were also
"The (Iranian) information ministry boasts that it currently blocks access
to hundreds of thousands of websites, especially those dealing in any way with
sex but also those providing any kind of independent news," RSF said.
The watchdog said it had expanded its list of "predators of press freedom"
in 2005 to include Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, "who made inflammatory
remarks as soon as he took office and forced reformist newspapers to close down."
Turning to Europe and North America, RSF said the battle to defend the secrecy
of journalistic sources was more pressing than ever, and said the repeated searches
of reporters' homes and offices in several European states was alarming.
"Concentration of media ownership, even if it doesn't yet seem to much
affect media diversity and freedom, will also perhaps concern us in the future,"
RSF said the independence of Italy's media was threatened by the fact that
outgoing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi owned or indirectly controlled several
However, RSF said 2005 had also seen some improvement in press freedoms, with
the media being freer now in India, some Central American countries and the
Indonesian province of Aceh.
"The row over the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad printed in a Danish
newspaper in September is a sign that people are very interested in freedom
of expression," it said.
Anger over the cartoons outraged Muslims who consider drawings of the Prophet
blasphemous. The caricatures, which were reprinted in several Arab and European
papers, sparked violent protests in which more than 50 people were killed.
"The definition of (freedom of expression) often varies from one continent
to another, but the row has shown that nobody is indifferent to the issue. And
making an issue of press freedom can only benefit us all," RSF said.