Magazine article Editor & Publisher

World Press Freedom

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

World Press Freedom

Article excerpt

With the day to mark its significance set for this week, distracted democracies appear to miss the global crackdown on the media

In recent weeks, it sometimes seemed the only authoritarian head of state who had not unleashed waves of repression on his nation's press was Saddam Hussein. Of course, before the war, Saddam had no reason to tighten the screws on the wholly obedient Iraqi news media, and once the hostilities were under way, he had no opportunity for a crackdown.

All around the globe, though, his fellow enemies of the press saw their chance. They apparently calculated that the world was too fixated on events in Iraq to much care what they did to their own local journalists who, in the best of times, labor in obscurity and danger.

For the most part, they calculated correctly. Oh, there was one exception. Clearly, Fidel "History Will Absolve Me" Castro is losing his timing so late in his career. With the mass arrest and draconian sentences quickly imposed on independent Cuban journalists, Fidel managed to derail a serious congressional effort to lift the U.S. trade embargo and to alienate even his longtime apologists in the European Union and Latin America.

But almost everywhere else, the new surge of aggression against the press has gone unchallenged, even unremarked. The terrible fact is that, as World Press Freedom Day (Saturday) approaches, jails have been filling with journalists, newspapers and radio stations have been forced to close -- and reporters are falling at the hands of assassins who believe with considerable justification that they will never be punished for their murders. …

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