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Govts Fail To Value Media Independence

IPI: Failure of Governments to Respect Media Independence is Worldwide

On World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2005, the International Press Institute (IPI) calls on Governments to allow journalists to work freely and without suffocating restrictions.

In all the regions of the world there are governments that suppress the media's right to practice their profession independently and in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Whether in Africa or the Pacific Islands, Europe or Asia, the Middle East or the Americas, governments are intent on hindering the media's work. To achieve this goal, governments apply a number of methods that are overt in nature; including, press laws, hastily enacted emergency laws, false arrest and imprisonment, physical violence, and threats and intimidation.

There are also covert means such as cutting off the media's access to information. In many countries, the institutions of government refuse to provide up-to-date information, ministers decline to be interviewed and individual journalists or media organisations are excluded from press conferences.

In Nepal, despite the lifting of emergency laws, the media continue to be prevented from independently reporting on the civil war currently taking place in the country; while Burma and China apply sophisticated technology in their hunt for journalists and activists who dare to access information critical of their respective countries.

Within the borders of the European Union (EU), in Poland, harsh criminal defamation and insult laws are still used to prosecute journalists. Moreover, with EU-accession talks this year, Turkey is currently considering an amended Penal Code that doubles criminal penalties where the media are involved. Similar to Europe, in the Americas, "desacato" (defamation and insult) laws and anti-terrorist laws restrict journalists' access to information and, in Venezuela, government-encouraged attacks on the media, as well as toughened media legislation, continue to hinder reporting.

Elsewhere, in Africa, the Zimbabwean government uses its own press law to close independent newspapers because of alleged infringements. The same law is also used to arrest foreign journalists, thus preventing information from flowing out of the country.

In the Middle East, in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, the experimentation with so-called "media free zones," where journalists may report freely, is welcoming, but exposes the hypocrisy of governments who view media freedom and independent journalists as worthy of being quarantined.

Speaking of the media's problems, IPI Director, Johann P. Fritz said, "Given the various crises around the world, such as the need for good governance, and the fight against poverty, hunger and HIV Aids, it is vital that governments resist the temptation to interfere with the media. Sadly, too often, in countries where there are such problems, governments put their own short-term need to remain in power ahead of the well-being of their country and citizens."

"On World Press Freedom Day it is important to remember that restricting the media's ability to properly function is similar to turning the light off in a room: it leaves society unable to see the abuses being perpetrated. There is now a need for governments to reverse this process and recognize the media's independence and its right to report freely," Fritz said.

© Scoop Media

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