IPI Re-Affirms Countries on the Watch List

10 May 2002
Source: International Press Institute (IPI)

At its meeting, held in Ljubljana, Slovenia on 9 May 2002, the Executive Board of the International Press Institute (IPI) unanimously agreed to keep Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Venezuela and Zimbabwe on the “IPI Watch List”.

In Russia, the Executive Board found that there had been no changes to the media scene. Commenting on the Russian situation, IPI Director Johann P. Fritz said, “In conclusion, it is difficult to see any improvement. The violence against journalists continues unabated and, with the demise of TV-6, independent broadcasting has all but disappeared.”

With regard to South Korea, the Executive Board resolved to leave the country on the “IPI Watch List” because of the need to monitor the plight of the 23 media outlets fined under the 2001 tax investigation and to ensure that these fines do not have a disastrous impact on their ability to operate. In addition, the Executive Board noted that these companies have been forced to seek outside financial assistance in order to pay their fines and IPI is oncerned about their impact on editorial independence.

Speaking of the situation, Fritz said, “What can be said with some assurance concerning South Korea is that the government needs to frame a better response to calls for media reform than the imprisonment of media owners.”

Concerning Sri Lanka, the Executive Board said there is a continuing need to review the situation in the country. Commenting on the media environment, IPI Chairman Hugo Buetler, editor-in-chief of the Neue Zuercher Zeitung, said, “Though not directly related to press freedom, the high numbers of deaths during the election campaign and on election day are a strong indication of the problems in Sri Lanka. Until this violence ceases, the country will remain a dangerous country for reporters.”

Regarding Venezuela, Fritz said, “The failed coup is an indication of the instability plaguing the country. Since the return of the president, there have been reports of media outlets refusing to cover the coup and it appears a number of journalists have left work due to the climate of intimidation.”

Zimbabwe was also kept on the “IPI Watch List” with the Executive Board profoundly disturbed by the attacks on the media. “An examination of the Zimbabwean media scene reveals that both the government and the Zanu-PF party are deeply prejudiced against the media and there is no sign that this will change in the near future,” said Fritz.

Devised by IPI, the “IPI Watch List” is a mechanism to detect and document regressive tendencies in countries that appear to be moving towards restricting press freedom. Each country’s status on the “IPI Watch List” will be evaluated twice yearly by the IPI Executive Board.

For further information, contact IPI at Spiegelgasse 2, A-1010 Vienna, Austria, tel: +43 1 512 90 11, fax: +43 1 512 90 14, e-mail: Michael Kudlak at mkudlak@freemedia.at, Barbara Trionfi at info@freemedia.at, or David Dadge at ddadge@freemedia.at, Internet site: www.freemedia.at