Russia and Brazil were among 10 countries where press freedom suffered the most in 2012, according to a list compiled by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
CPJ, which published its “risk list” for the first time, also cited Syria and Somalia, which are racked by conflict, along with authoritarian-ruled Iran, Vietnam and Ethiopia.
But it said more surprising was the fact that five countries on the list — Brazil, Turkey, Pakistan, Russia and Ecuador — “practice some form of democracy and exert significant influence on a regional or international stage.”
In compiling the list, the group examined six press freedom indicators: fatalities, imprisonments, restrictive legislation, state censorship, impunity in anti-press attacks and journalists driven into exile.
It said the countries listed were not necessarily the world’s worst places for journalists, which would include countries such as North Korea and Eritrea, but represented those with “the most significant downward trends.”
Brazil’s inclusion stemmed from the murder of four journalists in relation to their work last year, making the country the world’s fourth deadliest for the press, CPJ said.
Six of the seven Brazilian journalists killed in the past two years had reported on official corruption or crime and all but one worked in provincial areas, the report noted.
Russia was cited after President Vladimir Putin signed a series of restrictive laws including the criminalization of defamation and a statute governing online content.
CPJ said the Internet measure gives authorities broad power to block sites deemed to have “unlawful content,” which could include independent news websites.
Syria became the world’s deadliest place for journalists with at least 28 killed and two others missing between January 1 and December 10 last year, CPJ said.
The group said Turkey became “the world’s leading jailer of journalists” with 49 imprisoned for their work as of December 1. Iran was next with 45 journalists behind bars.
Ecuador was cited for new legislation that bars the news media from promoting political candidates “directly or indirectly” in the 90 days before an election and for the intimidation of journalists by President Rafael Correa’s administration.
Ethiopia was cited for its “sweeping anti-terror law to silence critics” and the jailing of six journalists. CPJ said at least 49 Ethiopian journalists have been forced into exile since 2007, the third highest total worldwide.
In Pakistan, seven journalists were killed last year, and the government is doing little to protect reporters targeted or caught between separatist factions and Pakistani military forces, CPJ said, adding that 19 journalist killings in the past decade were unsolved.
Violence against journalists worsened last year in Somalia, where 12 journalists were killed, all in targeted attacks.
Vietnam made the list for its strict controls on news media and 14 journalists behind bars. Many of those detained have been charged or convicted of anti-state crimes related to their blog posts on politically sensitive topics.
Overall, CPJ identified 232 journalists behind bars on December 1, an increase of 53 over 2011. The group has identified 70 journalists killed worldwide in 2012 and six so far this year.