The International Federation of Journalists today condemned a “culture of neglect and indifference” over killings of journalists which is making journalism more dangerous than ever. The IFJ says that 150 journalists and media staff were killed last year, the highest ever, and has warned that the situation will get worse unless political leaders act to bring the killers to justice.
Launching the IFJ report Targeting and Tragedy on media casualties last year the IFJ General Secretary Aidan White criticised governments who do not take the murder and assassination of reporters seriously.
“In more than 90 per cent of all cases there are few serious investigations by the authorities and only a handful of the killers are ever brought to trial,” he said. “A combination of police corruption, judicial incompetence and political indifference has created a culture of neglect and indifference which makes every day hunting season for attacks on media staff.”
White said that impunity in the killing of journalists “remains the intolerable scandal of our times that can no longer be ignored by the international community.” He said the IFJ has called for action by the United Nations Security Council and has pressed the Secretary General Kofi Annan to mobilise governments to act against the targeting and killing of journalists.
“The truth is that even democratic governments turn a blind eye to the crisis of violence against media,” said White. “In Iraq, where media people hardly dare walk the streets, there are 18 cases of unexplained killings of journalists and media staff by United States soldiers. Justice demands that these deaths are properly investigated. If not, speculation about military targeting of journalists will persist.”
The IFJ report says 2005 was a year “scarred by targeting and tragedy.” Some 89 of the listed killings were journalists and media people murdered “in the line of duty” many of them assassinated by ruthless killers working for political gangs or criminals. Another 61 were killed when disaster struck while on assignment – 48 of them alone in a Tehran plane crash where questions are being asked about the safety of the military aircraft in which they were travelling.
“The list is a cruel catalogue of sacrifice and illustrates in painful detail just how journalists and media staff continue to suffer for press freedom and their profession,” he said.
But the IFJ also highlights action from within journalism to counter the crisis. Around 100,000 Euro was paid out last year from the Federation’s International Safety Fund to provide humanitarian relief for the media victims and their families. And the International News Safety Institute, a coalition of media employers and journalists’ groups, is vigorously campaigning for change and a culture of safety within the media industry.
The IFJ says the most dangerous countries for journalism were Iraq (35 killings), the Philippines (10 killings) and Colombia, Mexico and Haiti, the notorious “deadly triangle” of countries plagued by drugs gangs in which nine journalists were murdered.
The IFJ plans to organise worldwide protests on 8 April this year to highlight demands for more action against impunity. This day is the anniversary of the US attack three years ago on the Palestine Hotel, a media centre in Baghdad, in which two journalists, Taras Protsyuk of Reuters and JosÃ© Couso of the Spanish network Telecinco, were killed. Another reporter, Tareq Ayyoub, died on the same day when the US bombed the offices of Al Jazeera in the city.
The IFJ report was expanded this year to give information on the Federation’s solidarity and assistance programme through the IFJ Safety Fund. A special appeal at the beginning of 2005 in response to the Tsunami disaster in 2004 in which around 78 journalists and media staff were reported dead or missing raised more than 100,000 Euro. In addition the IFJ Fund made payments to the families and victims of killings in more than 25 countries as well as to victims of the Pakistan earthquake disaster in which three journalists died.
A special disaster relief fund has also been created by the IFJ, in the name of the former IFJ Senior Vice President and Chair of the European Federation of Journalists, Gustl Glattfelder who died last year.