Press freedom deteriorates in Cyberspace, Egypt, Russia – CPJ

Risk List underlines mass surveillance, fatalities, and censorship

Mass surveillance programs by the U.S. and U.K., as well as restrictive Internet legislation by various governments and a wave of cyber attacks globally, are among the disturbing developments that have landed cyberspace on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Risk List, released today.

CPJ added the supranational platform of cyberspace to its list of press freedom-restricting countries because of the profound erosion of freedom on the Internet, a critical sphere for journalists worldwide. CPJ also identified Egypt and Bangladesh, torn apart by political polarization, with journalists caught in the middle; Syria, which continues to be wracked by violent conflict; and authoritarian Vietnam. Also included are Ecuador, Liberia, Russia, Turkey, and Zambia–all nominal democracies where the space for free expression and independent newsgathering is rapidly shrinking.

“Violence and repression continue to be the greatest threat to journalists worldwide, but online censorship and massive state surveillance are also disrupting the global flow of information,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “The Internet has become the essential platform for journalists around the world to carry out their reporting and to publish their stories. But government censorship and monitoring, from China to Iran, have grown more sophisticated and online repression has increased as a result. The U.S. also has a special responsibility. While the Obama administration has championed online freedom, the NSA spying program has undermined global confidence in the Web as a means of independent expression.”

CPJ developed the Risk List in 2012 to highlight places where press freedom is on the decline. Significant downward trends during 2013 included:

-Deterioration in several indicators, including fatalities and censorship, in Egypt

-New legislation to stifle free speech in Ecuador, Liberia, Russia, Vietnam, and Zambia

-Firings and forced resignations of journalists in Turkey at the government’s behest

-Targeted violence against journalists in Bangladesh and Russia, and a soaring rate of abductions in Syria

-Crackdowns on online journalism in Russia, Vietnam, and Bangladesh

The list is based on the expertise of CPJ staff, and generally takes into account press freedom indicators such as journalist fatalities and imprisonments, restrictive legislation, state censorship, impunity in anti-press attacks, and journalists driven into exile. Countries on the Risk List are not the worst press freedom offenders, but rather the places where CPJ documented the most significant deterioration of the media climate during 2013. While “cyberspace” does not meet the standard criteria, CPJ included it on the 2013 list in order to draw attention to the deteriorating conditions for online speech and the threat to independent journalism online.


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