Reporters Without Borders has named “crackdown” the word of 2011 in an assessment of global media freedom during a year in which journalists covering sweeping protests were tested as never before.
The Paris-based press freedom watchdog said Wednesday that the wave of uprisings in the Middle East, the Occupy movement in the West and continued protests in China gave journalists an unprecedented role in advancing democracy. But they also were often targeted by governments trying to quash dissent.
“Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy. Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much,” the group said in a statement accompanying its report.
But the important role journalists played put them in the cross hairs of repressive regimes, the report said, adding: “Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous.”
The heightened unrest resulted in a significant shake-up of the group’s annual Press Freedom Index, which assesses governments’ commitment to protecting media freedoms. The United States, for instance, fell 27 places to 47 because of arrests of journalists during Occupy Wall Street protests.