- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2005

PARIS — There was no freedom for Shi Tao and Florence Aubenas on World Press Freedom Day, or for Dawit Isaak, or for Marie-Jeanne Ion, or for Ricardo Gonzalez Alfonso, or for many others.

But they were remembered yesterday. Even in press-hostile countries, journalists held marches and sit-ins to demand an end to the threats that press workers face: killings, prison, kidnapping, government censorship and other abuses.

The list of reporters in jail, held hostage, or killed on the job was particularly long this year — in part because of the violence in Iraq. The number of dead is higher than it has been in a decade.

“We will not be cowed. We will not be silenced,” the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines vowed in a statement marking the 15th annual worldwide observance. It said 23 journalists had been killed there in the past three years, with a total of 66 slain since dictator Ferdinand Marcos was ousted in 1986.

In Pakistan, where violence against reporters is common, baton-swinging police arrested 30 journalists who marked the day by protesting outside parliament in the capital, Islamabad, witnesses said. They later were released.

Chanting “Free detained journalists. Reinstate press freedoms,” 1,500 reporters marched through the capital of Nepal. Dozens of reporters have been arrested since King Gyanendra seized power in February, and 12 remain in jail.

Scores of police watched the protest in Katmandu, but did not intervene. Journalists are barred from criticizing the king, his government and the security forces. Independent radio stations have been banned from broadcasting any news.

Press groups in Africa hoped to use the day to focus attention on restrictive laws, such as Kenya’s criminal-libel law, which African leaders use to quash dissent. Most African nations also have so-called “insult laws,” which forbid the press from any reporting that could be considered derogatory to the leadership.

“This has been an extremely bad year for press freedom,” said Robert Menard, director of Reporters Without Borders. “Of course, it’s in Iraq that the majority of journalists are dying. But there also journalists being killed in Peru, Mexico, the Philippines — outside of war zones.”

Fifty-three journalists were killed on the job in 2004, the most in a decade, the Paris-based group said. It said 56 journalists or their assistants have been killed in Iraq since the war began more than two years ago — only seven fewer than during the conflict in Vietnam from 1955 to 1975.

Another 107 were imprisoned as of Jan. 1, the group said.

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