'Opportunistic Régimes' Target Journalists

Monday, April 14, 2003
Some governments appear to be taking advantage of the four-week-old war in Iraq to launch unprecedented attacks on journalists and on press freedom in their own countries, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) said today. "While much of the world is preoccupied with Iraq, some opportunistic régimes are quietly turning back the clock on press freedom in their own countries," CJFE Executive Director Joel Ruimy said. "Friends of free expression must let it be known that they are watching while these cynical governments apparently take advantage of the war to crack down on their own journalists and media institutions." Among the countries involved: # Cuba: Authorities arrested a dozen independent journalists on March 18, two days before the war broke out. By March 20 - the day the war started - that number had risen to 20 and it reached 28 by early April. After a series of day-long trials April 3 and 4, all 28 were handed prison sentences of between 14 and 27 years. # Iran: A section of Tehran police responsible for "moral" offences and thought to have close ties to the Intelligence Ministry arrested and detained Behzad Khorshidi, Alireza Jabari and Siamak Pourzand, all prominent independent journalists, between March 17-30. The three are still in custody. # Serbia and Montenegro: Journalists Milovan Brkic and Dragisa Petrovic were arrested April 7 on suspicion of involvement in the murder of former Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. This followed the publication of several articles in which they accused the government of ties to underworld gangs. # Swaziland: The information minister announced on April 8 a new censorship policy for state media banning stories with "a negative bearing on government." Topics specifically banned include the controversy surrounding the government's recent purchase of a luxury jet for King Mswati III at a time when the country faces an AIDS crisis and famine. CJFE is an association of more than 400 journalists, editors, publishers, producers, students and others committed to preserving press freedom and freedom of expression in Canada and around the world. For more information, contact Joel Ruimy at (416) 515-9622 e-mail: cjfe@cjfe.org

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