The Committee to Protect Journalists is marking World Press Freedom Day, Saturday, May 3, by naming the World’s Worst Places to Be a Journalist. The list of 10 places represents the full range of current threats to press freedom.
At the top of the list is Iraq, where nine journalists covering the U.S.-led war there were killed in action during the first three weeks of hostilities, falling victim to Iraqi or U.S. fire, land mines, or suicide bombers. Four other journalists in Iraq died in accidents or from illness. A brutal crackdown launched in Cuba by Fidel Castro’s government put an unprecedented 28 journalists behind bars in March, and they are serving lengthy prison terms of up to 27 years.
During the last year, independent journalists in Vietnam who dared to criticize the ruling Communist Party in print or on the Internet were harassed, placed under heavy surveillance, or thrown in jail. CPJ also placed Afghanistan, Chechnya, the West Bank and Gaza, Eritrea, Togo, Colombia, and Belarus on the list of Worst Places to Be a Journalist.
“Many journalists who report from these places have made the ultimate sacrifice; others are in jail serving long sentences,” said CPJ acting director Joel Simon. “But their colleagues persevere, confronting government crackdowns, physical violence, harsh press laws, and indiscriminate gunfire to bring us the news,” said Simon.
West Bank and Gaza
Indiscriminate gunfire from the Israeli army made the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip a treacherous beat. Three journalists have been killed by Israeli gunfire there in the last 12 months, including cameraman Nazeh Darwazeh, who was shot in the head at close range by an Israeli soldier in April despite being well marked as a member of the press. Israeli soldiers are rarely punished when they shoot journalists.
Journalists operating near the front lines in the West Bank and Gaza continue to face a variety of other obstacles. In recent months, journalists have been wounded by Israeli military strikes; the Israeli army has closed Palestinian radio stations; and military checkpoints and a tough Israeli government policy limiting press accreditation continue to hamper reporting. Militant Jewish settlers, meanwhile, perpetrate violent attacks against journalists, and Palestinian security forces and militias have physically assaulted, threatened, and confiscated materials from journalists.