Home > news > Iraq tops worst places for reporters

“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.”

From Associated Press, May 4, 2004

Iraq is the most dangerous place to be a journalist, followed by Cuba and Zimbabwe, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Sunday in 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 since May 1, 2003, when President Bush declared that major combat had ended. Several journalists also have 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. Other journalists in Cuba 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 ruling party supporters have attacked reporters. For four years, Zimbabwe’s 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.

“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. Independent writers are frequently targeted.

* 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 President 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” such as lawsuits and corporate takeovers have allowed the Kremlin to stifle reports on government corruption, criticism of the president and human rights abuses by Russian forces in Chechnya.

Newspaper poll ‘incites murder’

Posted: 27 April 2004 By: Jemima Kiss
Email: jemima@journalism.co.uk

Israeli newspaper site Ma’ariv has been forced to remove a reader poll that asked if Israeli whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu should be killed after his release from prison.

Published on 20 April, the poll attracted more than 4,500 votes and asked readers to vote on ‘what should be done with Vanunu?’.

Thirty-three per cent of readers voted that Mr Vanunu should be killed, 28 per cent voted that he should be kept in jail and 2 per cent were undecided. A majority of 36 per cent voted that he should be allowed to leave the country.

Israeli peace group Gush Shalom, co-founded by journalist and peace activist Uri Avnery, organised an email protest and contacted Menny Azuz, the Israeli Attorney general.

In an email to its members outlining their complaint to Mr Azuz, the group stated that readers could interpret the option of murder as a legitimate act, seemingly endorsed by the publication.

“This is precisely the point at which freedom of speech ends and naked incitement to murder begins.”

Ma’ariv is one of the most widely circulated newspapers in Israel and is published in Hebrew. The web edition offers both a Hebrew and English-language version.

“Ma’ariv likes to have sensational and often vulgar headlines on its news pages, although the inside pages feature more balanced articles,” said Adam Keller, spokesperson for Gush Shalom.

“But the level of incitement expressed in the notorious ‘opinion poll’ was beyond what we are used to.”

Gush Shalom claims that Ma’ariv received hundreds of email complaints after publishing the poll and was also faxed copies of complaints sent to the Israeli Attorney General. The poll was pulled from the site over the weekend and was also removed from the archive of daily polls.

Another poll, asking if Mordechai Vanunu is a hero or traitor, remains on the site showing that 59 per cent of respondents voted ‘traitor’.

Mr Vanunu was imprisoned by the Israeli government in 1986 after revealing details of Israel’s highly secretive nuclear weapons programme in an interview with UK newspaper the Sunday Times. He was released on 21 April and will be subject to house arrest until further notice.
Journalist snared
In a case rife with 1st Amendment implications, the incident has opened debate about how far the press can go to cover covert activism…

From Los Angeles Times, May 4, 2004
By Ashley Powers

Eco-radicals often use sabotage in the name of what they call environmental protection. When an Earth First! activist slipped into a restricted desert canyon near Tucson in March to foil a cougar hunt, author and journalist John H. Richardson accompanied him.

Richardson says he went along to witness radical environmentalism in action for an article for Esquire. State authorities say he crossed the line. They arrested him and charged him with trespass and disabling mountain lion traps in Sabino Canyon.

Richardson says he was an observer, not a participant.

“I didn’t see what damage it could cause to the [closure] policy or a human being or the lion hunt,” he said. Besides, he asks, how else could he get the story?

In a case rife with 1st Amendment implications, the incident has opened debate about how far the press can go to cover covert activism, and how far the government can go in restricting reporters’ access to public land. If convicted, Richardson and activist Rod Coronado, the subject of his story, could face thousands of dollars in fines and up to 18 months in prison.

Richardson’s arrest underscores the challenge the media face covering radical activists who disrupt logging, attack Hummers, burn big houses and destroy animal research labs. In 1999, for example, a reporter from the Colorado Daily in Boulder was arrested while observing a predawn raid at a Vail ski resort where activists chained themselves to a truck.

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press recorded about 30 arrests or detainments of journalists in the last two years. “We tend to see a lot of this in environmental-related cases,” says legal director Gregg Leslie. He says activists are “media-savvy and tend to invite the media along.”

Alex Markels, an environmental journalism fellow at the University of Colorado at Boulder, says extremist groups are secretive.

“It makes reporting these stories extremely difficult because, essentially, your subject has no face,” he says.

To tell these stories, journalists take risks. One time, the Colorado Daily reporter, Brian Hansen, debated whether to follow Earth First! members onto private land being logged. They hopped the fence. He stayed. He saw nothing. Another time, he decided to linger at the protest in Vail. “I knew if I left, there would be no way to get the story,” says Hansen, now a freelance writer. Journalists usually have the same access to land as the public. “The closure of national parks applies to everyone,” says Wallace Kleindienst, assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting the Arizona case.

The case also begets another question: Did the writer become a part of his story? “If he participated in the act, he has no claim to immunity as a journalist,” says Robert Glennon, a University of Arizona law professor. “It’s the difference between going along with someone buying drugs and seeing what went down, and trying the cocaine to see if it’s the right quality.”

Ultimately, the case may turn on a key point: What really happened that night?

What’s undisputed is this: About 3 a.m. on March 24, Richardson, Coronado and an unidentified activist crept into Sabino Canyon, which had been closed for two weeks to capture cougars. The canyon is near homes, and mountain lions had been spotted in the area.

Coronado, who served four years in federal prison for torching a mink research lab in Michigan, says he and the other activist dribbled mountain lion scent to thwart hunting dogs. The activists shadowed hunters, filmed them and disabled snares. Richardson says he only watched. Coronado agrees that that’s what happened: “He saw the unedited version of what we do.”

At dawn, a helicopter buzzed overhead. The three sprinted and stumbled on a snare. Richardson “feared being caught by the trap” and tried “to protect himself from the trap,” says a letter from his lawyer. Defense lawyers contend the closure was illegal and therefore no trespass occurred, a point the government disputes.

Federal prosecutors say in their complaint that an officer with the Arizona Game and Fish Department saw Richardson helping dismantle the snare.

Richardson and Coronado were arrested and led out of the canyon past a phalanx of reporters. The third person eluded capture. Authorities seized Richardson’s cassette tapes and put in him in jail for one night. Richardson says he took notes throughout the ordeal for his yet-to-be published article.

Richardson had, he says, intended to end his story with Coronado disappearing into the canyon’s darkness, alone.

Now, with a trial scheduled in federal district court in Tucson on June 3, it seems likely that a jury will write the story’s ending.