Reporters Without Borders dedicates its 15th annual Jailed Journalists Support Day to the two kidnapped French journalists in Iraq. It is campaigning to release and notes that, in all, 198 men and women are in prison around the world for doing their job of trying to keep us informed. Nine others are missing.
A canvas several square metres in area was displayed on the facade of the Paris city hall this morning, underneath the gigantic photographs of the two French journalists held hostage in Iraq. The canvas shows a man reading a newspaper in silhouette, consisting of the names of the 207 people who are paying too great a price for press freedom.
Of this record number, 128 are journalists and 70 are cyber-dissidents (see details at www.rsf.org). The biggest prisons are China (26 journalists and 62 cyber-dissidents), Cuba (26 journalists), Iran (15), Eritrea (14), Nepal (12) and Burma (11). These six countries account for more than 80% of the total.
Plenty of topics are banned there - corruption in China, lack of freedom in Cuba, the reformist-hardliner struggle for power in Iran, the dispute with Ethiopia in Eritrea, the Maoist guerrillas in Nepal and the ideas of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma.
More than 200 media worldwide have each adopted an unjustly imprisoned journalist and are publicising their plight today to ensure they do not languish in another prison - the jail of being forgotten. Along with well-known prisoners such as Raúl Rivero (Cuba) and Win Tin (Burma), lesser-known figures need our support too.
The families of the nine journalists who have gone missing since 2000 are fighting as well to see their loved ones are not forgotten. They include the relatives of Frédéric Nérac (France), who vanished in Iraq in March 2003, and his compatriot Guy-André Kieffer, who disappeared in Côte d’Ivoire in April this year.
Key press freedom figures:
47 journalists and 14 media assistants have been killed so far this year
46 journalists and media assistants have been killed in Iraq since the fighting began there in March 2003
More than 350 media have been censored worldwide so far this year
Other country-prisons for journalists and cyber-dissidents are Algeria (4 journalists), Vietnam (3 journalists, 4 cyber-dissidents), Turkey (3 journalists), the Maldives (3 cyber-dissidents), Rwanda (2 journalists), Uzbekistan (2), Azerbaijan (1), North Korea (1), Egypt (1), Laos (1), Libya (1), Morocco (1), Pakistan (1), Sierra Leone (1), Syria (1 cyber-dissident), Tunisia (1 journalist) and Yemen (1 journalist).
To finance its activities, Reporters Without Borders is offering a book of photographs, "Jean Dieuzaide for press freedom," on sale everywhere in France for 8 euros.
Reporters Without Borders thanks Paris City Hall for its support.