IFJ report condemns governments after deaths of record number of journalists

Campaigners
have launched a blistering attack on international governments for
failing to prevent a record number of media deaths in the line of duty
last year.

The International Federation of Journalists this week
revealed that there were 129 killings, murders, assassinations,
crossfire accidents and unexplained deaths of media workers in 34
countries in 2004, the highest count for a decade.

In its annual
report, the IFJ condemned foreign governments for creating a culture of
impunity that has made killing a journalist only half as risky as
burgling a house in London in terms of the likelihood of being arrested
for the crime.

And while broadcasters such as the BBC have good
training programmes for foreign correspondents, according to the NUJ,
national newspapers are often careless of their employees’ and
freelance’ safety.

The report was released this week simultaneously at press conferences in London, Brussels, Washington and Sydney.

Aidan White, IFJ general secretary, said: “The loss of media lives on the scale set out in this report is hard to bear.

“It should remind us all of the sacrifice that journalists and media staff make in the cause of free expression.

“Above all, we should mobilise our effort beyond outrage and indignation to combat the injustice of impunity.

“The
IFJ continues to focus on the failure of governments to bring killers
to justice and, in many cases, not even to investigate media murders.”

It
is planning a worldwide protest on 8 April over the US failure to carry
out an independent inquiry into the Palestine Hotel attack in Baghdad
on that date in 2003.

It has criticised the government of the
Philippines, where 13 journalists were killed. There were only two
serious investigations, neither of which led to prosecutions.

It
is also campaigning for better training and safety equipment for
journalists from their employers, as well as more focus on tackling the
stress of working in conflict-torn countries.

According to a recent survey of foreign correspondents, a fifth returned from conflict areas showing symptoms of depression.

At
the London press conference this week, Jim Boumelha, treasurer of the
IFJ, said a culture of fear was preventing journalists in trouble
hot-spots from reporting on serious issues.

“There are stories
about corruption or drugs trafficking that never see the light of day
anymore because journalists are scared,” he said.

“It is affecting the profession as a whole.”

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