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RFE/RL Journalists Face Violence and Harrassment

Kyrgyzstan -- Funeral of slain RFE/RL journalist Alisher Saipov in Osh, 25Oct2007
Kyrgyzstan -- Funeral of slain RFE/RL journalist Alisher Saipov in Osh, 25Oct2007
(PRAGUE, Czech Republic) A new report examining press freedoms throughout the world demonstrates that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) broadcasts to some of the most closed societies on earth. Of the 20 countries in the RFE/RL area, 15 are ranked in the bottom half of the Reporters Without Borders' 2008 Press Freedom Index. Some - like Iran, Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan - are at the very bottom of the list of 173 countries, indicating a near-total absence of free expression. [See a map of the RFE/RL broadcast region]

"This valuable report highlights the challenges our reporters face every day, many of whom are literally risking their lives in order to bring uncensored news and information to people who live in places without access to free media," says RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin. "It makes clear that those countries with the highest levels of press freedoms are also the most stable. That means our work around the world is as important as ever."

The report describes Turkmenistan (171st) as a place where "the population is cut off from the world and subjected to propaganda worthy of a bygone era." It calls being a journalist in Iran (166th) or Uzbekistan (162nd) "a high-risk exercise involving endless frustration and constant police and judicial harassment," and describes Alexander Lukashenko's Belarus (154th) as a place where "the leader's ubiquitous portrait on the streets and front pages of the newspapers is enough to dispel any doubt about the lack of press freedom."

Russia's (141st) poor ranking has been changed little by Dmitri Medvedev's election as President. "The press remains subject to violence and harassment" and Russia is still a nation "where state and opposition media are strictly controlled and journalists such as Anna Politkovskaya are killed each year by 'unidentified' gunmen who often turn out to have close links with the Kremlin's security services," according to the report.

As for the Caucasus, the erosion of press freedoms in the past year constitutes "the most significant development in the former Soviet periphery, where two of its three independent countries - Armenia (102nd) and Georgia (120th) - had major problems and introduced states of emergency. And several journalists fell victim to the sudden outbreak of war in Georgia.”

Press Freedom Rankings for RFE/RL Countries (Out of 173)

36. Bosnia and Herzegovina
42. Macedonia
53. Montenegro
58. Kosovo
64. Serbia
87. Ukraine
98. Moldova
102. Armenia
106. Tajikistan
111. Kyrgyzstan
120. Georgia
125. Kazakhstan
141. Russia
150. Azerbaijan
154. Belarus
156. Afghanistan
158. Iraq
162. Uzbekistan
166. Iran
171. Turkmenistan