Press freedom in "paradise" : Reporters Without Borders exposes dictatorships in "paradise".
Powdery sand beaches, coconut palms, turquoise seas and shimmering temples... Behind the postcard clichés, the other side of picture is quite different. In Burma, Cuba, Maldives, Seychelles, Tunisia and Vietnam, press freedom simply does not exist. Independent journalists are treated as public enemies and are relentlessly harassed by the authorities. Everything possible is done to ensure they are reduced to silence.
Reporters Without Borders urges everyone setting off for one of these "paradise dictatorships" to practice responsible, informed tourism. To bear in mind that these countries flout the most basic rights of journalists and human rights activists.
The military junta in Burma has not yielded an inch and maintains complete news censorship. Prison conditions for the 11 detained journalists continue to deteriorate. The editor of a sports weekly was condemned to death in 2003 for exposing corruption in Burmese football.
Cuba is the world’s biggest prison for the press. Twenty nine journalists are detained on the island. Most were given jail sentences of between 14 and 27 years at the end of grotesquely unfair trials. Their families complained of a "second sentence" when their loved-ones were transferred to prisons often several hundred kilometres from their homes. The government has a monopoly of news reporting in Cuba.
Two people who ran an e-mail newsletter in the Maldives have been serving life sentences since July 2002. President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Asia’s longest-serving head of state, cannot stand the least criticism. He more or less directly controls all of the archipelago’s leading news media.
The years pass but the Seychelles stays the same. The only opposition newspaper, Regar, is harassed by the authorities. Government officials have brought a series of lawsuits against the weekly, asking so much in damages that just one conviction would suffice to force its immediate closure. The government keeps strict control of the state-owned media.
Despite a very limited liberalisation in broadcasting, Tunisia still does not offer sufficient guarantees for free expression. Two journalists are still in prison and those who are critical of the government are ceaselessly harassed and prevented from working. The print media continue to be at the exclusive service of President Ben Ali and his government.
The Vietnamese media are all controlled by the state so the Internet offers the only outlet for dissident views and independent news reports. The authorities cracked down in 2003 and several Internet users were arrested. A 71-year-old journalist, Nguyen Dinh Huy, has been in prison since 1993 for campaigning for press freedom.
Since 1 January 2004:
13 journalists have been killed
The most deadly country for the press is still Iraq, where 10 journalists and media assistants have died so far this year. Since the fighting began in March 2003, at least 23 journalists have been killed there while doing their job, at least six by US army gunfire.
6 media assistants have been killed
431 journalists have been arrested
366 journalists have been physically attacked or threatened
178 media have been censored
On 3 May 2004, 133 journalists were in prison in 22 countries
The biggest prisons were Cuba (29 journalists in jail), China (27), Eritrea (14), Iran (12) and Burma (11).
73 cyber-dissidents were in prison (61 of them in China) for posting information on the Internet.
42 journalists were killed
1,460 physically attacked or threatened
and 501 media were censored
- Read the 2004 Report
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