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'Risk List' Shows Countries Where Reporters and Press Freedom are Most in Peril

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'Risk List' Shows Countries Where Reporters and Press Freedom are Most in Peril
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It's called the "risk list." Compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists, it's a list of the 10 countries where press freedom suffered the most in 2012.

These are countries where censorship is standard operating procedure, where reporters are intimidated, jailed, beaten, tortured and even killed for what they write, while their killers go free. And censorship doesn't stop with traditional media outlets like newspapers and TV; Internet censorship is also rampant.

In alphabetical order, they are:

• Brazil: Four journalists were murdered for doing their jobs in 2012, making Brazil the world's fourth deadliest for the press. Six out of seven journalists killed in the past two years had reported on official corruption or crime. Censorship is widespread. Businessmen and politicians have filed hundreds of lawsuits seeking court orders to bar crusading reporters from publishing anything about them. They claim journalists have offended their honor or invaded their privacy. In the first six months of 2012, Google said it received 191 orders from Brazilian courts and other authorities to remove online material.

• Ecuador: The country got some positive PR for granting asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in its London embassy, but President Rafael Correa demonizes the press, calling reporters "liars" if they don't echo his views. And new laws barred news outlets from promoting political candidates in the 90 days before an election. That may not sound so bad, but the law is seen as benefiting Correa and his successful 2013 re-election bid. Meanwhile, government regulators closed at least 11 private broadcasters during 2012 that had been critical of the government.

• Ethiopia: An anti-terror law that criminalizes coverage of opposition and separatist groups was used to go after journalists. Six journalists were imprisoned in Ethiopia, making it the second-worst jailer of journalists in the region. Another 49 Ethiopian journalists have been forced into exile since 2007.

• Iran: The uprising of a few years ago demonstrated the power of citizen journalism in Iran, but things have gone downhill since then. More than 40 journalists were jailed in Iran as of December, many of those subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement, a lack of medical care and torture. One imprisoned blogger died in state custody. Iran's Islamist regime blocks millions of websites, intimidates reporters via social networks and jams satellite signals, including BBC's Persian-language service.

• Pakistan: Seven journalists were killed here in 2012, five in targeted attacks and four who worked in Baluchistan, where reporters are caught in the crossfire between separatist factions and the Pakistani military. With 19 unsolved journalist murders in the past decade, including the 2011 slaying of Syed Saleem Shahzad, Pakistan ranks 10th on CPJ's Impunity Index of countries where the killers of reporters go free.

• Russia: Press freedom has gone from bad to worse since Vladimir Putin regained control of the country in May 2012. He signed new laws aimed at stifling dissent that placed strict limits on public assembly. Defamation was made a criminal offense and curbs were placed on web content. Meanwhile, the slayings of 16 journalists remain unsolved.

• Somalia: A dozen reporters were murdered for their work here in 2012, including four killed in 24 hours in Mogadishu in September. The CPJ says not a single journalist slaying has been successfully prosecuted since 1992. "People who kill journalists continue to walk freely in town the next day," Abdulaziz Billow, a Mogadishu-based correspondent for Iran's Press TV, told CPJ.

• Syria: This is the deadliest place for journalists on the planet. At least 28 journalists were killed and two others went missing between in 2012. Most were local reporters and citizen journalists, though at least four international correspondents also died. The CPJ said President Bashar al-Assad's forces are behind many of the killings, though some attacks against news outlets seen as pro-government have been attributed to rebel forces. CPJ says Syrian authorities have tortured to extract their online passwords.

• Turkey: This country jails more journalists than any other on earth. Nearly 50 reporters are currently behind bars, most of them Kurds charged with supporting terrorism by covering the activities of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party.

• Vietnam: More than a dozen reporters are behind bars here, many for charges relating to blog posts on politically sensitive topics. The Communist government controls the media. Censors meet weekly with top newspaper editors to dictate what can and can't be covered.

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