Monday, May 05, 2003

People often criticise us for being too hard on poor countries and letting Western democracies off lightly. "Moralising by the rich," they say. "It's your culture that's talking."...

Our answer is still the same. We firmly believe that attacks on the free flow of information are relative. We think the complete absence of press freedom in one country is more serious than simple flaws and abuses in another. We think journalists who cannot work without risking death or injury deserve more help than their colleagues in countries where the press is a true "fourth estate."...

We are well aware, and we say so, of the threats to civil liberties, including press freedom, contained in some of the steps taken in 2002 by the US government in its fight against terrorism. We know that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's control of the broadcast media is bad for Italian democracy, and we say so. We protest too each time French police or courts challenge a journalist's right not to reveal sources.

We recognise that the dependence of reporters on the military in wartime makes their work less credible. But all these real problems do not alter the fact that in the United States, Italy and France, news flows more freely than on average in the rest of the world, and that their journalists enjoy an independence that is the daily envy of colleagues living under repressive regimes everywhere.

--From the 2003 annual report on press freedom released by Reporters sans frontieres on Saturday.

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