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UN: Conference Calls On Governments To Respect Press Freedom

Manila, 2 May 2002 (RFE/RL) -- An international media forum sponsored by the UN today called on governments to refrain from restricting journalists' rights in the name of the war on terrorism and national security. A statement at the end of the two-day meeting in Manila also asked governments to protect reporters from being attacked and to investigate violence against them.

About 120 journalists and freedom-of-speech activists from around the world gathered to discuss the duties and problems journalists face in covering terrorism-related issues after the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.

The conference was sponsored by UNESCO -- the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.

In related news, the Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders says 31 reporters died in the line of duty last year, and more than 100 were in prison at the year's end.

In its annual statement, released today, the group said that last year, journalists faced more attacks, threats, and imprisonment than the year before.

The report said the worst press repression occurred in countries with one-party regimes like China, Syria, and Iraq, military dictatorships like Burma, and monarchies like Saudi Arabia. The report said nearly a third of the world's population live in countries without a free press.

In reviewing Western countries, the group also targeted the United States and Canada for challenging a journalist's right not to reveal sources, and singled out France and Germany for detaining and prosecuting journalists.