All over the world, journalists are targeted for their work. Some are murdered, some are fired, some are banned orharassed, some are simply not rehired because they have taken stands that offend governments, editors or mediaowners.
Of the 24 journalists killed for their work in 2000, the Committee to Protect Journalists noted that “The majoritydid not die in crossfire. They were very deliberately targeted for elimination because of their reporting.”
In December, for example, suspected right-wing paramilitary gunmen killed Colombian radio journalist Alfredo AbadLopez as he was saying good bye to his wife outside their home.
In December, Panama’s Legislative Assembly approved a bill repealing some of the more onerous provisions of thecountry’s “gag laws.” The gag rules comprise a range of articles, laws, and decrees —-— many promulgated undermilitary governments —-— that permit prior censorship and criminalize criticism of public officials. One decree stillon the books permits a National Board of Censorship to restrict information deemed obscene, immoral, or offensive to”the basic principles of Christian morality.” Dozens of journalists have been prosecuted under these laws.
We have with us journalists who have experienced some of the ways in which the freedom of the press is curtailed. Onewas jailed after exposing government corruption and faced death threats against his family. Two were fired forpursuing a story they believed in; one is in the midst of a month-long sit-in to keep his country’s media free ofgovernment control.
- Jane Akers and Steve Wilson, veteran news reporters for Fox TV in Tampa, Florida who were fired forrefusing to water down an investigative report on Monsanto’s controversial milk hormone, rBGH (recombinant bovinegrowth hormone).
- Jan Molacek, reporter for foreign news desk of the state-owned Czech TV, Prague.
A week ago, after a month-long sit in by journalists at the state-run Czech Television’s newsroom. The reportersextended their control Wednesday, taking over management of the network as well.
Their move was the latest development in a four-week fight that began Dec. 20, when the journalists holed up in thenewsroom to protest Jiri Hodac’s appointment as Czech Television director. They alleged that Hodac has close ties topolitical leaders, particularly former Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus, and they complained that the council thatappointed Hodac is itself picked by political parties.
Amid rising pressure and public protests, Hodac resigned as director. Now as an emergency measure, the Czechparliament is expected to appoint an interim director acceptable to the striking journalists and to move to eliminatepolitical considerations from the television’s management.