In a society still savoring its first taste of free speech, nothing stirs passions like the prospect of losing that voice.
The ongoing showdown at a Russian TV station has echoes of a similar protest at a Czech television station in January. At that time, some 100,000 people took to the streets of Prague to protest a political appointment to the board of Czech Television. But the stakes in the battle for control of Russia's last independent media conglomerate are arguably bigger (page 7).
While a free press is considered a cornerstone of democracy, those in power may see independent media as a threat. The just-released International Press Institute annual report on press freedom concludes that in a survey of 165 nations, "in many countries silence is preferred to the truth." Worldwide, some 56 journalists were killed in the line of duty last year (www.freemedia.at/index1.html). The report says that Colombia replaced Sierra Leone in 2000 as the most dangerous place to practice this profession. In fact, the Americas topped the death toll among the regions, with 20.
Of course, it doesn't take such an extreme to keep the public from getting the truth. In many cases, the report notes, a threatening phone call, or police operatives hanging around outside a reporter's house or her child's school, can be enough to stop a story.
David Clark Scott World Editor
KEEP THE WINDOW CLOSED
It was a hot and sunny day. The Monitor's Nicole Gaouette was riding with an Israeli army spokesman, on her way to visit the main security cooperation office in northern Gaza for today's story (page 1). The air conditioner wasn't working, so Nicole rolled down the car window to get some air. "He firmly told me to roll it up, explaining that he was worried about stray bullets," says Nicole. "It was a bit of a wake-up call as to how tense things were, even in an area with Israeli army houses on one side and the district command office just in front of us," she says.
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