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New Challenges, Familiar Threats: WAN-IFRA Releases Global Press Freedom Report

At least 15 reporters and other media professionals have been killed in Syria in the past 12 months, as the safety of journalists continues to be of major concern in conflict zones and elsewhere, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers reported on Wednesday in its Global Press Freedom Report.

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Covering the period from June 2012 to May 2013, the report takes a twelve-month snapshot of the major issues affecting press freedom and freedom of expression worldwide. It also records the number of journalist deaths and provides detailed information on the particular circumstances.

The full report, released on the final day of the 65th World Newspaper Congress, 20th World Editors Forum and 23rd World Advertising Forum in Bangkok, Thailand, can be found at http://www.wan-ifra.org/node/78158.

The safety of journalists continues to be of major concern in areas where conflict makes reporting the news dangerous, often deadly. The report reveals that at least 15 media professionals lost their lives in Syria, and at least 10 in Somalia. Whether at the hand of extremists, organised criminal gangs or official security forces, journalists increasingly find themselves in the firing line.

A total of 54 deaths were recorded between June 2012 and May 2013.

Where the media is targeted, impunity for the killers of journalists continues to prolong the agony for the victims' families and cast a chilling shadow over the profession. In countries where justice persistently fails, such as in Pakistan or Mexico, independent investigative reporting is vital and journalism is too frequently a deadly occupation.

The report finds that criminal defamation and other legal weapons aimed at muzzling independent media persist, with cases in Russia, Italy, Libya and Cameroon highlighting the global appeal to those in power of legislation that stifles criticism and debate. Proposals for tighter press regulation in the United Kingdom and a Secrecy Bill in South Africa have caused global alarm.

Soft-censorship has become the weapon of choice for governments looking to exert financial pressures on the independent press. Government interference in advertising distribution in countries such as Argentina and Azerbaijan forms part of a larger worldwide pattern of economic sanction against independent journalism.

Policing the digital debate has led to increased online censorship and imprisonment of netizens in countries around the globe. Bahrain has targeted Twitter users while Vietnam continues to jail bloggers in its on-going suppression of political debate. The report finds that China remains key to how online censorship will develop, with its Great Firewall still policing hundreds of millions of users and restricting the free-flow of information.

Download a free copy of the full report at http://www.wan-ifra.org/node/78158

Since 1998, WAN-IFRA has actively monitored the cases of media employees who pay the ultimate price in their efforts to bring us the news. WAN-IFRA's figures include all media workers killed in the line of duty or targeted because of their work. They also include cases where the motive is unsure or where official investigations have not been completed. More information can be found at http://www.wan-ifra.org/node/71581/



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