To mark World Press Freedom Day on May 3, RFE/RL asked its journalists working on the ground in some of the world's most dangerous and restrictive media environments to describe what "press freedom" means to them. Whether sharing personal accounts of abuse and harassment or honoring colleagues killed in the line of duty, their stories reflect the daily risks journalists throughout the world face in pursuit of a free press.
"RFE/RL journalists represent the most cherished and championed ideals of an independent media, even when they are restrained by those who would wish them silent," says RFE/RL's Acting President and CEO Kevin Klose. "They are autonomous, fearless and dedicated to their mission of providing free and verifiable media in unfree societies."
WATCH: "What Press Freedom Means To Me"
Recent threats against RFE/RL's Azerbaijan journalists Khadija Ismayilova and Yafez Hasanov highlight repression in action, where authorities in Baku have presided over a period that has been particularly harsh on free media.
New reports released for World Press Freedom Day by various media watchdog groups confirm the dangers to reporters who work in RFE/RL's target regions. Freedom House's Freedom of the Press 2013 report cites 13 of RFE/RL's broadcast countries as "Not Free" and another eight as "Partly Free." According to Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) 2013 Press Freedom Index , three of RFE/RL's broadcast countries are classified in the worst possible category of "Very Serious Situation" and another nine are in the next category of "Difficult Situation." Turkmenistan remains the most restrictive of all RFE/RL broadcasting regions in which to report, with a ranking of 196 out of 196 for Freedom House and 177 of 179 for RSF (bested only by North Korea and Eritrea). The Committee to Protect Journalists' CPJ 2013 Impunity Index listed Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Russia on its list of the top 10 countries where "journalists are slain and killers go free."
Read more about RFE/RL's reporters at our Journalists In Trouble and Watchdog blogs, as well as in a recent feature on cyber censorship in Fair Observer.
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