24 journalists killed, 118 jailed in 1998
WASHINGTON (AFP): At least 24 journalists were killed for doing their jobs in 1998 while 118 were in jail, the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Thursday.
In its annual report “Attacks on the Press in 1998,” the CPJ said Colombia, where 43 journalists were murdered in the past decade, remained the most deadly country for the media: four reporters died there while carrying out their duties in 1998 and the deaths of five others were under investigation.
The 400-page report notes among black spots of the year an “explosion of violence” against journalists in Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and repressive laws against the media enacted in Jordan and Yugoslavia.
Journalists were imprisoned in 25 countries at the end of 1998, but Turkey held the record for the fifth year in a row with 27 journalists jailed, most of them for writing about the civil war with Kurdish insurgents.
China and Ethiopia each held 12 journalist behind bars, said the CPJ, which emphasized that countries were more than ever using laws to muzzle freedom of expression, so that “more journalists than ever face a stark choice: Exercise self-censorship or risk going to jail for hard-hitting reporting.”
The CPJ said its campaigning resulted in the release of three journalists in 1998: Chris Anyanwu from Nigeria, Doan Viet Hoat of Vietnam, and Ruth Simon, Agence France-Presse correspondent in Eritrea.
Examining regional trends in press freedom, the report said that in Africa: “For many journalists, the wave of democratization that swept across the region earlier this decade is a distant memory.”
In Latin America journalists investigating crime and corruption are still the targets of violence. But the CPJ report points out that with the exception of Cuba, the regional press is freer than ever.
In Asia, the CPJ contrast Indonesia, where the fall of longtime autocratic president Suharto gave a boost to press freedom, and Malaysia, where Prime Minister Mahatir Mohamad continues to use the media as a personal propaganda tool. China sent mixed messages in 1998 by relaxing then sharply tightening curbs on freedom of expression, the report noted.