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1/23/04 - JOURNALISM UNDER SIEGE IN 2003 - 2004-01-23

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that thirty-six journalists were killed in the line of duty in 2003. The war in Iraq was a major factor. But elsewhere, many journalists were deliberately targeted by governments in direct reprisal for their reporting.

In Iran, Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi was arrested while covering the opposition student movement. Ms. Kazemi was interrogated for seventy-seven hours, and severely beaten. She died in a Tehran hospital July 11th.

The Iranian government initially denied any responsibility for the death of Ms. Kazemi. But in response to mounting international outrage, the Iranian government later began an inquiry. Initial autopsy and investigative findings have directly implicated Iranian government officials in Ms. Kazemi’s death.

In Russia, Aleksei Sidorov, editor-in-chief of an independent publication known for its reporting on organized crime and government corruption, was stabbed to death outside his home. His predecessor was also murdered in a case that has never been solved. Other journalists were killed in the Philippines, Colombia, Nepal, Indonesia, India, Burma, Cambodia, Ivory Coast, and Guatemala.

Detention and harassment also rose sharply. Another press freedom group, Reporters Without Borders, says that more than seven-hundred journalists were arrested in 2003. As of January 1st, over one-hundred were still in prison.

The country with the largest number of imprisoned journalists is Cuba. Twenty-seven were arrested in a roundup of dissidents last March. They received sentences of up to twenty-seven years in what Reporters Without Borders called "Stalinist-type trials."

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; [including] the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers." As these reports show, this right is widely denied in practice.