Thursday, May 03, 2007

Of Pots And Kettles

On international Press Freedom Day, American NGO Freedom House releases its annual report on free speech worldwide.
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The report grades Russia in the bottom third of nations, behind Bahrain, Afghanistan, Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait and even Iraq.

What has Vladimir Putin done to his country to merit this bleak assessment?

In the past five years he's shut down independent TV stations, intimidated opponents and passed restrictive laws on publishing. Most starkly, many Russian journalists have been murdered with impunity by persons unknown.

At least twelve Russian journalists and dissidents have been killed in the past few years, including Anna Politkovskaya, Alexander Litvinenko, Viktor Popkov, Igor Domikov and Yuri Shekochkin.

These are just the few I've found from ten minutes' research - clearly, Russia deserves its place on the Freedom House list of shame.

Sadly, press freedom seems to be on the wane worldwide. In the past few years, many journalists have been killed elsewhere...

Details can be found here, but reporters killed included Mahmoud Za'al, Maha Ibrahim, Ahmed Wael Bakri, Waleed Khaled, Ali Abdel Aziz, Ali Al-Khatib, Burhan Mohamed Mazhour, Assad Kadhim, Mazen Al-Tumeizi, Dhia Najim, Terry Lloyd, Tareq Ayyoub, Jose Couso, Taras Protsyk, Mazen Dana and Ahmad Kareem.


And yet the nation responsible for these deaths sits sixteenth in the Freedom House list and its rulers remain uncensured by the fickle NGO.


Why? Because these journalists were all accidentally killed in Iraq by the American armed forces, and Freedom House is the most neo- of neo-con NGOs. Previous board members have included James Woolsey, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Ken Adelman, Samuel Huntington, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.


In a telling irony, the most prominent media figure to question whether these deaths were actually unintentional was forced to resign.

That's not to say these deaths weren't counted towards the list - they were added to Iraq's statistics. If I'd included the names of journalists killed by insurgents in Iraq it would've been a page long - Iraq is a death-trap for all its citizens, reporters included.

And where is Iraq in the Freedom House list?

In the bottom third, seven places above Russia.

Press freedom? I'm all for it. It's a shame that those who are tasked with monitoring it don't seem quite so concerned.

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