Washington -- Last year was the deadliest
year for journalists in a decade, with 56 killed in the line
of duty, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says in
its newly released analysis of press conditions worldwide,
“Attacks on the Press in 2004.”
The Attacks on the
Press Analysis Report can be found online
on the Press in 2004" Analysis Report)
Although the Uruguayan
media did not face significant restrictions
in 2004, civil and criminal defamation
lawsuits against journalists increased
during the year. At least 15 journalists
were charged with criminal defamation
and 10 with civil defamation, an increase
compared with recent years. Under Uruguayan
law, defamation is a criminal offense
and carries prison sentences of up to
While the media
in Uruguay's capital, Montevideo, work
relatively free of government intervention,
journalists in the country's interior
complain that judicial decisions have
restricted their ability to disseminate
news, according to the journalists association
Asociación de la Prensa Uruguaya
(Association of the Uruguayan Press).
In April, Marlene
Vaz, an editor and columnist for the
Río Branco–based weekly
Opción Cero (Option
Zero), in Cerro Largo Department, was
convicted of defamation and libel and
sentenced to 20 months in prison. A
judge later suspended her sentence and
ordered her to remain under police surveillance
for one year, meaning she must ask authorities
for permission each time she leaves
Río Branco and must notify them
whenever she changes her address.
The charges stemmed
from a series of satirical columns in
Opción Cero between May 2001 and
June 2002. In July 2002, lawyer Jorge
Antonio Rivas, who is also a member of
Río Branco's City Council, filed
a suit against Vaz, claiming that her
columns had offended "his honor."
Rivas claimed that Vaz made several references
about him and his wife in a column called
"Cortitas" (Shorts) and used
his nickname, "Gato" (Cat),
to attack him. Rivas said that Vaz implied
that he had urinated in the local council
building, consumed alcohol and drugs,
and was corrupt. Vaz told CPJ her columns
are satirical and that she never made
such references to Rivas.
On June 9, Vaz
appealed the verdict. While an appeals
court dismissed the defamation charges,
it upheld the slander charges after ruling
that Vaz's columns had invaded Rivas'
private life. The court reduced the sentence
to 10 months suspended but ordered Vaz
to remain under police supervision until
April 22, 2005. Under Uruguayan law, defamation
is the offense of injuring another person's
reputation by false statements, while
slander is considered a more general offense.
lawsuits are also on the rise. In several
cases, journalists were hit with large
fines for "moral and material damages,"
even though the veracity of their reporting
was not challenged. Judges increasingly
admit such lawsuits in court and rule
against the press.
In a positive
development, three suspects were arrested
in April in connection with the nonfatal
shooting of journalist Ricardo Gabito
Acevedo, who was shot in the leg in
late 2003. Acevedo, a sports reporter
with the daily La República
(The Republic) and the TV station Tveo
Canal 5, had reported extensively
on corruption in Uruguayan soccer. While
the alleged gunman remained incarcerated,
the two suspected masterminds, who targeted
the journalist for his corruption reporting,
were released in August and September.
At year's end, the three were on trial.
press reported freely on the October 31
presidential election, which brought a
leftist politician to power for the first
time in the country's history. Tabaré
Vázquez, a socialist doctor, won
with more than 50 percent of the vote.
In August, Congress passed a law banning
political advertising in print media,
radio, and television in the month preceding
the election. According to local journalists,
the law infringed on the right to information
and undermined the transparency of the
election because the media were not able
to publish political advertising, even
in cases when the ads contained information
considered of public interest.
in past years, murder was the leading cause of work-related
deaths, with 36 journalists targeted for their work. In all
but nine cases, the murders were carried out with impunity,”
said CPJ, a New York-based nongovernmental organization dedicated
to the global defense of press freedom.
The report, published March 14, said Iraq
remained the most dangerous place to practice journalism in
2004, but it also detailed restraints on press freedom and
threats to journalists in the former Soviet Union and elsewhere.
In Iraq, 23 journalists and 16 media support
workers were killed while on the job, CPJ said; three-quarters
of the victims were Iraqis. At least 22 journalists were abducted
by insurgents, and one of them was executed by his captors.
Press conditions are deteriorating badly throughout
Russia and most of the other former Soviet republics, the
CPJ report said.
“CPJ's analysis of the 15 former Soviet
republics showed that since the Soviet Union collapsed in
1991, strong press freedom traditions have been established
in only three of the post-Soviet states -- Latvia, Lithuania
and Estonia. Developments in Ukraine offer hope, but elsewhere
the press operates with less freedom than it did in the closing
years of Soviet communism,” the report said.
In Russia, “a midyear purge of independent
voices on state television and an alarming suppression of
news coverage during the Beslan hostage crisis marked a year
in which Russian President Vladimir Putin increasingly exerted
Soviet-style control over the media,” the report said.
On International Press Freedom Day, CPJ named
Turkmenistan one of the “World's Worst Places to Be
a Journalist” because of the government's “stranglehold”
over the domestic media and its persecution of independent
In Tajikistan, President Imomali Rakhmonov
“consolidated his authoritarian rule in 2004, arresting
political opponents and cracking down on opposition newspapers,”
as well as reminding journalists of their obligation to support
the state, CPJ said.
Uzbekistan was “the leading jailer of
journalists among the former Soviet republics,” with
four journalists in prison at the end of 2004, CPJ said.
In Belarus, the report said, “President
Aleksandr Lukashenko strangled the country's independent and
opposition media in the months before deeply flawed October
elections that returned his supporters to Parliament.”
The report said two journalists were killed
in Russia in 2004: Adlan Khasanov, a Reuters cameraman, was
killed by a bomb planted by Chechen rebels in Grozny; and
gunmen shot and killed Paul Klebnikov, editor of Forbes Russia,in
In Serbia and Montenegro, Dusko Jovanovic,
editor in chief of the opposition daily Dan (Day), was shot
and killed in a drive-by shooting in Podgorica, Montenegro.
Attacks on the Press said that in 2004 a total
of 122 journalists were imprisoned around the world for their
work, a figure down slightly from the year before. Three-quarters
of those were in just four countries: China, Cuba, Eritrea
For the first time in three years, one of
the imprisoned journalists is an American, the report said:
A television reporter in Rhode Island is serving six months
of home confinement for refusing to divulge a source.
In at least 74 cases, journalists were imprisoned
on broad "anti-state" charges, such as sedition,
subversion, divulging state secrets, and working against the
interests of the state, CPJ found.
The countries where journalists were killed
in reprisal for their work or in the line of duty, CPJ said,
are: Iraq (23); the Philippines (eight); Sri Lanka and Bangladesh
(three each); India, Mexico, Nicaragua and Russia (two each);
and Brazil, the Dominican Republic, the Gambia, Haiti, Israel
and the Occupied Territories (West Bank), Ivory Coast, Nepal,
Pakistan, Peru, Saudi Arabia, and Serbia and Montenegro (one
In addition, the deaths of 17 other journalists
in 2004 were considered suspicious but were listed by CPJ
as “motive unconfirmed”: these occurred in Bangladesh,
Belarus, Brazil, Colombia, India, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Mexico,
Peru, the Philippines, Ukraine and Venezuela, CPJ said.
In 2003, the death toll of journalists was
38 killed in the line of duty and 14 suspicious deaths in
which the motive was unconfirmed.
Washington File Staff Writer
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: