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Journalists Around The World Faced Intimidation and Prison in 2018: Report

Tuesday, Time magazine selected journalists who have been targeted for doing their work, the “guardians” of truth, as their Person of the Year.

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A man holds a poster showing images of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman (L), dubbed "assassin," and of journalist writer Jamal Khashoggi, dubbed "martyr," during a prayer service for Khashoggi, in Istanbul, Turkey. VOA

A multipronged crackdown on the press continued throughout 2018, the Committee to Protect Journalists concludes in a report published Thursday.

Imprisonment, intimidation and allegations that journalists produce “fake news” surged in 2016, when U.S. President Donald Trump won the election, CPJ found.

Trump has been a vocal critic of the press, often chastising journalists as “very dishonest people.”

The number of journalists in jail dipped 8 percent, from 272 in 2017 to 251 this year. But that doesn’t mean the situation has improved, Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, told VOA.

The numbers fluctuate and may not reflect every imprisoned journalist. They also remain markedly higher than just a half decade ago.

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks during a media conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, Oct. 29, 2018. VOA+

More importantly, targeting a single journalist can have far-reaching repercussions.

“The effects are not only, obviously, [on] the journalists themselves and their families and their colleagues, but we really are talking about the effect on citizens as a whole,” Quintal said.

CPJ’s report highlighted several bright spots.

In Ethiopia, which has experienced dramatic reforms under new leader Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, no journalists are currently known to be imprisoned, for the first time in 14 years.

Improvements in some countries, however, don’t necessarily rub off on others.

“Unfortunately, neighboring Eritrea remains the highest jailer of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa, with 16 journalists in jail as we speak,” Quintal said.

Worldwide, report author Elana Beiser, CPJ’s editorial director, singled out China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as troublespots, highlighting how wide-ranging efforts to silence journalists have become.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Quintal’s region of focus, Cameroon, where seven journalists are in jail, is a new country of concern. At least four of those journalists faced false news charges in what Quintal called “a huge, huge setback.”

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Jamal Khashoggi on the cover of Times as the ‘Person of they Year”

Overall, more than two dozen journalists have been charged with publishing false news, mainly in Africa.

Accusations and imprisonments can propel self-censorship, with profound effects on citizens’ right to information.

“When you see your colleagues being put in jail, when you see them accused of so-called fake news, when they’re being arrested on false news charges,” Quintal said, “it does, obviously, have a chilling effect.”

Quintal herself was targeted, along with colleague Muthoki Mumo, in Tanzania last month.

Despite having an invitation letter from the Media Council of Tanzania, the two, both former journalists, were detained and interrogated.

Quintal, from South Africa, and Mumo, from Kenya, were kept in custody for five hours.

“We were lucky because we were able to leave Tanzania,” Quintal said, contrasting her experience to journalists in the country who have gone missing or continue to face intimidation.

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Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. VOA

“The abusive nature of what happened to us showed the world the true nature of what is going on in Tanzania at the moment,” she added.

Quintal and Mumo’s case was unusual. Governments tend to target their own citizens, and journalists imprisoned by their governments make up 98 percent of cases, CPJ concluded. They also found that 13 percent of journalists in jail are women, an 8 percent increase from 2017.

Despite worrying signs, there is room for optimism, Quintal said.

When new leaders come to power, she said, human rights and press freedoms can improve very quickly.

Also Read: Facebook Rolls Out New Tool that Lets Journalists Examine Political Ads

Quintal pointed to The Gambia as one example, where the new president, Adama Barrow, has created space for journalists to work without fear of reprisal.

Tuesday, Time magazine selected journalists who have been targeted for doing their work, the “guardians” of truth, as their Person of the Year. (VOA)

Next Story

World Wildlife Conference to Discuss Tackling Illegal Trade in Endangered Wild Fauna and Flora

Tackling the illegal trade in endangered wild fauna and flora and strengthening trade rules for fisheries, timber, and exotic pets

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FILE - Radiated tortoises, originally a native species of southern Madagascar, are on display during an annual flora and fauna expo in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 29, 2010. VOA

Tackling the illegal trade in endangered wild fauna and flora and strengthening trade rules for fisheries, timber, and exotic pets are just a few of the many controversial and emotional issues to be discussed over the next two weeks at a World Wildlife Conference opening in Geneva Saturday.

Thousands of delegates are expected to gather at Geneva’s cavernous Palexpo Exhibition center.  They will be lobbying for their pet wildlife projects through elaborate, imaginative displays and persuasive talk fests.

The 183 Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, is hosting this extravaganza.  CITES sets the rules for international trade in wild animals and plants.

Governments interested in changing the levels of protection that CITES provides have submitted 56 new proposals for discussion.  These, says CITES range from proposals to ensure trade in at-risk species remains sustainable to calls for a ban on trade in species threatened by extinction.

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FILE – Conference attendees walk by a display of elephants and other wildlife at The International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, in Honolulu. VOA

One of the hot button issues on the agenda is that of the conservation of African elephants.  Chief of CITES Scientific Services, Tom De Meulenaer, says the debate on trade in elephant ivory has been raging for 25 years.  He says three new proposals will be under debate.

“Two of them are coming from southern African countries and they seek to liberate or to open up trade in ivory again,” said De Meulenaer. “There is a third proposal from other countries in Africa, which is in competition with this one because it seeks to close all trade in ivory.  Obviously, these three proposals are not compatible and will be subject of deliberations by the COP (Conference of the Parties).”

The conference also will consider new wildlife trade rules on an array of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and plants.  A topic likely to generate a lot of interest is whether to exempt musical instruments made of precious wood from trees protected by CITES.

Bass guitars, violins, clarinets and other musical instruments are made wholly or partially from Rosewood and other precious woods.  Organizers promise a fascinating debate with prominent members of the music industry.

Also Read- First CNG station Opened in Dibrugarh, Assam

One of the overarching problems threatening the survival of many wild animals and plants is that of illegal international trade in wildlife.  CITES warns the growing involvement of organized crime groups increases the risks faced by enforcement officers such as park rangers.

The conference is not just a talking shop.  It has teeth.  CITES is a legally binding treaty.  So, officials say anything decided at the conference will have a concrete impact on citizens, businesses and governments in 90 days when the new rules come into effect. (VOA)