By Julie Tomlin and Caitlin Pike
A global inquiry into the rising death toll among journalists was launched on World Press Freedom Day this week.
The aim of the International News Safety Institute (INSI) study is
to find an effective way to reduce the number of journalists killed and
to bring their killers to justice.
The inquiry – the first of its
kind – comes in response to a call from news and humanitarian
organisations, asking INSI to report on the legal, professional and
practical issues related to the protection of journalists in dangerous
It will be led by an appointed “Committee of Inquiry”
made up of news organisations, individual journalists and journalists’
support groups, as well as legal experts and academics.
entirely fitting that we launch this inquiry today, World Press Freedom
Day 2005,” said committee chairman Richard Sambrook, director, BBC
“There is no greater threat to press freedom around
the world than the deaths of journalists seeking to keep free societies
informed. During the inquiry we will keep an open mind, assess the
evidence – look at the underlying trends surrounding the deaths of
journalists – and draw conclusions which we hope to publish on World
Press Freedom Day 2006.”
At least 1,300 news and media personnel
have died in the past 15 years, according to INSI figures. Last year
was the bloodiest in a decade. Although major wars take an increasingly
high toll, most journalists die in their own countries as they report
on issues such as corruption and crime.
film-maker James Miller and Ukranian journalist Gyorgy Gongadze are two
examples of murdered journalists whose killers still enjoy impunity.
years after his death, Miller’s family have launched a civil action
against the Israeli government, having learned that the officer
believed to have shot the cameraman is to go unpunished.
family claims the army did not act with reasonable caution when they
shot Miller in Rafah on 2 May 2003, and is seeking damages from the
At an event to mark World Press Freedom Day
in London, Miller’s father Geoffrey said that the family had applied
for a judicial review in an attempt to take the matter out of the
At the same event Myroslava Gongadze, widow of
Gyorgy Gongadze, who was murdered in the Ukraine, called for an
international mechanism to be established to bring those who kill
journalists to justice.
“The international community has to find
a way to deal with these kind of cases,” said Gongadze, who is
pessimistic about her chances of seeing those who ordered the killing
of her husband brought to justice.
“We all see how hard it is to get at the truth in any case when a journalist is killed,”
added. “This experience has convinced me that without international
accountability many more crimes will be committed and are likely to go
The INSI committee will hear from journalists who
have experience of violence in their own countries as well as on
foreign assignment. The first of these fact-finding sessions will be
held in Kuala Lumpur for Asian journalists on 10 May. Other sessions
will be arranged for journalists in the Middle East, Latin America, the
US, Europe and Africa.
The inquiry will also hear from
governments, military and NGOs. INSI invites anyone with information on
attacks against journalists and media workers to contact the inquiry.
Effects of the ‘war on terror’
CHALLENGE TO FREEDOM
A new report backed by the International Federation of Journalists
claims that press freedom has become a victim of the “war on terror”.
The IFJ used World Press Freedom Day to launch its 56-page
assessment of how “civil liberties and free expression are being
sacrificed by democratic states in the name of security”.
report said: “The war on terrorism amounts to a devastating challenge
to the global culture of human rights and civil liberties.”
jointly by the IFJ and civil liberties group Statewatch, the report
also said: “Media and independent journalism suffer in a pervasive
atmosphere of paranoia which is leading to dangerous levels of