How long will they get away with murder?

“Imagine the unthinkable: having to pay with your life for an article you wrote, a photo you took.

Because it offended someone, because it touched a sensitive subject.”

So begins the World Association of Newspapers’

(WAN)
introduction to next week’s World Press Freedom Day. “Imagine that the
person who killed you – who shot you in the head, who stabbed you to
death, who threw a bomb into your office – walks free for the rest of
his life. While your family, your friends and your colleagues never get
a chance to get on with their lives, having to live with the fact that
your murderer was never caught.”

It’s a feeling that the family
of James Miller doesn’t have to imagine. Since the young documentary
maker was shot in broad daylight by an Israeli soldier two years ago,
while making a film about children, they have campaigned to bring his
murderer to justice. And they’ve so far been thwarted at every turn by
military mendacity and incompetence.

This week they have launched
civil proceedings against the soldier and asked for a judicial review
of the decision not to prosecute him by Israel’s Judge Advocate General.

The
Millers’ suffering, as WAN points out, is a reality shared by the
friends, family and colleagues of hundreds of journalists who have been
killed over the past ten years. More than 500 have been murdered in
that decade. Yet in eight out of ten cases, their killers have never
been caught.

In many cases, this is because of a closing of ranks from military or governmental officials.

And
that’s why the theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day – next
Tuesday, 3 May – is Getting Away With Murder. WAN wants to raise
awareness about the culture of impunity and to bring pressure to bear
on those governments which are turning a blind eye.

We can all
help by visiting the website www.worldpressfreedomday.org, and, if it’s
appropriate, by using some of the free editorial material there. On the
day itself, there’s a conference at London’s Frontline Club.

Among
the speakers will be Alagi Yorro Jallow, managing editor of The
Independent in Gambia, whose colleague Deyda Hydara was murdered.

His
attitude is a humbling one. “For every one journalist who is murdered,”
he says, “there will come four more prepared to stand up to the thugs
who would silence us.”

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