The right to seek, receive, and impart information is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And the role that free media play in sustaining democracy cannot be overestimated.
But journalism is not only an important profession, it is also a dangerous one. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists lists the “World’s Worst Places to be a Journalist.” At the top is Iraq, where twenty-five journalists have been killed since March 2003. This includes a dozen Iraqis killed so far this year.
It is less well known that Bangladesh has become very dangerous for journalists. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Bangladeshi reporters “routinely face threats, harassment, and often brutally violent physical attacks in retaliation for their reporting.” In January, Manik Saha, a reporter for Bangladesh’s New Age newspaper and the British Broadcasting Corporation, was killed by a homemade bomb in the southwestern city of Khulna. Reporters without Borders, based in France, says that more than two-hundred Bangladeshi journalists were assaulted or received death threats in 2003.
Another country where it is dangerous to be a journalist is China. The Committee to Protect Journalists says that forty-one journalists are now imprisoned in China. The Iranian government has also shut down many newspapers and jailed journalists. Among the other governments notorious for jailing or interfering with the work of journalists are Cuba, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Zimbabwe, Burma, Sudan, and Russia. And journalists in Ukraine and Tunisia continue to face censorship and harassment.
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that journalists make an important contribution to freedom of the press every day:
“Many of them face great danger in doing that, and we respect that and we admire that. And certainly we have every sympathy for those who lose their lives for carrying out what to all of us is a very, very important freedom.”
Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, put the matter well. “Our need and desire for information,” she says, “cannot be eliminated by violence and repression.”