By Sarmad Ali
Islamabad (CPJ/Pakdestiny) Terrorist groups and the governments who purport to fight them have made recent years the most dangerous period to be a journalist, the Committee to Protect Journalists found in its annual global assessment of press freedom, Attacks on the Press, released today.
Some journalists are kidnapped or killed by militant groups while others are surveiled, censored, or imprisoned by governments seeking to respond to that threat, real or perceived.
Attacks on the Press is a collection of essays by regional experts and CPJ staff that examines the array of challenges journalists face. The 2015 edition features a foreword by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, a member of CPJ’s board of directors.
According to CJP, “Journalists are being caught in a terror dynamic, in which they are threatened by non-state actors who target them and governments that restrict civil liberties including press freedom in the name of fighting terror,” said Joel Simon, CPJ’s executive director. “Attacks on the Press surveys this new landscape, providing insights into the myriad threats- from surveillance and self-censorship to violence and imprisonment-that make this the most deadly and dangerous period for journalists in recent history.”
Non-state actors, including criminal organizations and violent political groups, pose a significant threat to journalists as well as a challenge to press freedom advocates and news organizations. In places like Mexico and Paraguay, trafficking organizations are the primary threat. One essay examines how in 2014 journalists became props in propaganda films, reflecting a global trend in the documentation of violence by the perpetrators. Another essay looks at how journalists cope with continuous risks to their well-being.
Further essays examine how governments abuse anti-terror and national security laws to silence criticism. Ethiopia, one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists, has charged most of the journalists behind bars with promoting terrorism. Egypt under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi uses a similar technique; the country recently sentenced three reporters to life in prison because of alleged connections to the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, across the Middle East, the Internet is treated as an enemy, as leaders are all too aware of its power in galvanizing anti-government movements.
In Europe, journalists must contend with limitations in the name of privacy, a rise in right-wing extremism, and homegrown terrorists such as those who murdered eight journalists at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. As in the U.S., a focus on national security forces journalists to think and act like spies to protect their sources, as CPJ Staff Technologist Tom Lowenthal writes.
The combination of threats poses an array of safety concerns for journalists. Conflict in Syria has reshaped the rules for covering conflict, as Janine di Giovanni writes. Many of those covering Syria are in fact covering their first war. Freelancers make up an increasing percentage of journalists killed for their work, leading CPJ and a coalition of press freedom organizations and media outlets to advocate for better global standards for protecting them and the local journalists on whom they rely. Pak Destiny