- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2002

A total of 37 journalists were killed and 118 jailed worldwide last year as a direct result of their work, a watchdog group has reported.
Eight of the deaths occurred in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led war on terrorism began in October 2001, but most of the killings were in reprisal for the journalists' reporting on sensitive topics, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in its annual report released Tuesday.
"Most [of the jouranlists killed] were murdered in reprisal of what they wrote," said the group's executive director, Ann Cooper.
"The message in many countries is it is OK to murder a journalist," Ms. Cooper said.
Seven journalists covering the war in Afghanistan, including an Afghan, were killed in bombings while a Swedish television cameraman was killed during a robbery.
The list does not include Daniel Pearl, the South Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal who was kidnapped and killed in Pakistan this year.
The Afghanistan deaths were largely the reason for the sharp increase in killings from 24 in 2000, the group said.
The number of journalists in jail has also increased by nearly 50 percent from 81 in 2000 to 118 last year. More than two-thirds of the increase came from crackdowns in Eritrea and Nepal after September 11.
Kavita Menon, coordiator of CPJ's Asia program, said Nepal's government targets journalists for information and to prevent reporting of sensitive information.
"Things got markedly more difficult for the press this past year," CPJ President Gene Roberts said. The group noticed improvement in the working conditions for journalists over the past few years, but "last year that positive trend ended," he said.
The group said the harshness of crackdowns in countries such as Mozambique have created a vacuum in the free press, and government-controlled news organizations have been filling the void with propaganda.
But China holds the world record as the leading jailer of reporters for the third year in a row with 35 journalists held behind bars last year.
Ms. Menon said China's record on freedom of press does not show a trend of improvement, but rather deterioration in certain cases.
"We have noticed a serious deterioration of press freedom in Hong Kong since the hand-over," she said.
The group listed Algeria, Russia and Colombia as the three most dangerous countries for journalists, where 60, 34 and 29 reporters were killed respectively since 1992.


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