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See above, Reporters without Borders map of World Press Freedom predators (colored in red, by Reporters without Borders). (Credit: RSF.org)

Today is World Press Freedom Day.  In recognition, press freedom groups are releasing lists of those they say make it hard for the press to report freely.

The UN General Assembly started World Press Freedom Day in 1993, according to EditorsWeblog.

Reporters without Borders published its annual list of press freedom predators.  This year’s list of 38 “predators” include “politicians, government officials, religious leaders, militias and criminal organisations that cannot stand the press, treat it as an enemy and directly attack journalists.”

Reporters without Borders noted that, like last year‘s list, many “predators” have stayed on the list for more than one year.

According to the press freedom group, “pride of place goes to North Africa and the Middle East.”  Last year, the Middle East and Africa were also areas of concern.  “For the coming year,” Reporters without Borders focuses on Pakistan and Cote d’Ivoire as areas that need work.

Christian Science Monitor noted that the Committee to Protect Journalists says 132 journalists have been killed since 2009, 16 of those this year.

The U.S.-based human rights group Freedom House stated that global press freedom is at its lowest in ten years, Voice of America reported. The group considers only 68 of 196 “countries and territories” as free.

USAID

In a press release, USAID backed the annual celebration and noted that it “has been supporting the development of independent media for more than twenty years.”

USAID went on to note that it puts in about $500 million each year “to support civil society and media projects globally” including backing local media outlets and training for journalists.

USAID cited several of its programs including a women in the media project in Senegal, a media literacy program in Armenia and a mobile platform program in Afghanistan.  StinkyJournalism has written about USAID’s involvement in Liberia.  U.S. ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield announced last fall the creation of an $11 million Liberian civil and media program.

Concern in Africa

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The IFJ announced that it “joined its African group, the Federation of African Journalists” in petitioning Eritrea’s president, Issayas Afewerki, to “release  all journalists detained by his government.”

According to the two groups, roughly 30 journalists “have been detained, without charges” in the past ten years in Eritrea.

The South African National Editors’ Forum reported that there is “an erosion of press freedom” in South Africa, citing media restrictions bills in Parliament.

Concern in Asia

The Wall Street Journal noted that the IFJ’s South Asia report for World Press Freedom Day “continues to paint a somber picture of the riskiness of being a journalist in South Asia.”

“In most countries in the region the past year has been less lethal for journalists than earlier years. But the deteriorating situation in Pakistan is of urgent concern, as are widespread forms of official and unofficial suppression of media reporting,” IFJ Asia-Pacific director Jacqueline Park is quoted as saying.

Concern in Pakistan

Pakistani journalist Munno Bhai criticized the media’s responsibility, the Express Tribune reported.  Bhai stated that “responsibility is the most important element of freedom.  Unfortunately, the media has misunderstood the meaning of the freedom.”

Bhai went on to comment that journalists aren’t acting ethically. A media critic, Dr. Mehdi Hassan, added that the media’s standards are “very low” and that much news reporting is “based on speculation rather than fact.”  Hassan reportedly attributed the dropping standards to the media’s rush to be first.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists’ secretary general, Muhammad Amin Yousaf, also commented to the Tribune that Pakistani media isn’t free.

Read more here.

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World Press Freedom Day 2011 Includes Noting Media’s Responsibilities & Global Ethical Standards

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