Washington, 3 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- An independent U.S.-based organization says Yugoslavia, Ukraine, China and Cuba head the list of the world's top 10 "Enemies of the Press."
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released its annual list today to coincide with World Press Freedom Day. The CPJ is a non-profit, international organization that works to promote and protect press freedom around the world. The "Enemies of the Press" list focuses on leaders who the CPJ says are particularly "unrelenting and brutal" in their suppression of the press.
Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ, says leaders of the 10 countries have been "disastrous for independent journalism." She says these regimes have "knowingly acted to suppress information through countless violations against journalists, including, censorship, imprisonment, physical attack, and even murder."
The CPJ named Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic as the world's worst press enemy in 1998.
According to the CPJ, suppression of the press in Yugoslavia occurred through intimidation, assault, crippling fines and license denials -- all codified in a "Draconian" media law which was enacted last October.
The CPJ says: "Milosevic's repression of all independent media has quelled every opposition voice, imperiled journalists' lives, and filled the airwaves with hate speech."
A new addition to the list in 1998 is Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma. The CPJ says: "Kuchma runs roughshod over any expression of opposition."
The CPJ says Kuchma's "tacit acceptance" of violence against the press has encouraged bombings of newspaper offices, assaults on reporters and editors, and a general climate of fear and self-censorship. Kuchma is also cited as using tax and libel laws as instruments of hostility to journalists.
The CPJ says: "[Kuchma's] tax policies force print and broadcast outlets without foreign support to seek financial aid from businesses and politicians who then extort favorable publicity. Crushing fines forced three newspapers to shut down in recent months."
Noticeably absent is Belarus President Alyksandr Lukashenka, who had been on the list for several years.
Chrystyna Lapychak, CPJ's program coordinator for Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics, told RFE/RL that dropping Lukashenka from the list in no way suggests that press conditions are improving in Belarus. She says the situation for the press in Belarus is still "very bad" and that Lukashenka still remains a "serious violator of press freedoms."
But, she says this year the CPJ wanted to highlight nations where there was a "serious deterioration of press freedoms and working conditions for journalists
"Each year we look at where we feel the most serious rate of decline has taken place. We felt we wanted to emphasize Ukraine this year especially with last year's elections and all the opposition media that was shut down, and all the problems facing journalists in Ukraine, and with the upcoming presidential elections -- we really felt compelled to highlight that deterioration this year." The other leader's on the CPJ list are President Jiang Zemin of China; Cuba's President Fidel Castro; the Democratic Republic of Congo's Laurent Kabila; Ehiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi; Tunisia's President Zine Abdine Ben Ali; Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad; President Alberto Fujimori of Peru; and Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak.
(The full list of the "10 Enemies of the Press" is available on the CPJ website at: http://www.cpj.org)