IFJ says impunity for killing journalists must end

By Caitlin Pike

The International Federation of Journalists has called on the UN and the US to launch a worldwide campaign to stop the killers of journalists evading justice.

It comes after two inquests within a week found the Israeli Defence Force guilty of murdering film-maker James Miller and unlawfully killing photojournalism student and peace activist, Tom Hurndall.

The IFJ wants an end to what it believes is a "crisis of impunity" which sees scores of journalists killed in targeted assassinations each year and only "a handful" being investigated and ever leading to prosecution of those responsible.

Hurndall, who was studying photojournalism at Manchester Metropolitan University, was shot in Gaza three weeks before Miller.

Hurndall’s mother, Jocelyn, said of the investigations by Israeli authorities into both her son’s deaths and that of Miller, there was a "whole attitude of a cover-up, it was wholly lacking in any sort of rigorous scrutiny".

She added that the case was not just about an individual soldier: "[They] have not addressed the main issue: the culture of impunity."

Both juries at the inquests stated their dismay at the lack of co-operation from the Israeli authorities into the deaths of the men. Director of the International News Safety Institute, Rodney Pinder, has echoed the calls of the IFJ, saying that INSI’s ongoing global survey into media killings, due to report its findings in September, was already pointing to specific areas of concern: "One clear issue coming out of our global survey so far is the culture of impunity, as in the case of James Miller. We can already see that the more people who get away with killing journalists, the more journalists are killed."

The IFJ has sent letters of protest over journalists’ deaths to national governments around the world. The IFJ is particularly concerned over the killing of journalists in Iraq, where they believe more than 20 journalists have died at the hands of US soldiers which have still not been properly explained. They have written to the US government calling on it to investigate all cases where journalists have been killed at the hands of US troops.

IFJ general secretary Aidan White, said: "Three years after the war in Iraq began, more than 100 journalists and media staff have lost their lives. In many cases, we still do not have concrete answers to hard questions about who is responsible and what happened."

The third anniversary of the US attack on Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel, which was well known as a media base, was on 8 April. Two journalists were killed and others wounded. On the same morning, a journalist was killed when the Baghdad offices of Al Jazeera were attacked by US fighter planes. An independent investigation into the fatal shooting of Reuters soundman, Waleed Khaled, and injury of cameraman Haider Kadhem on 28 August, 2005, when US troops opened fire on their car in western Baghdad, found this week that: "The engagement was in breach of the US Rules of Engagement and in our opinion on the current evidence was prima facie unlawful."

Reuters MD David Schlesinger said: "We call upon the US military to order a full, independent and objective inquiry into this terrible incident."

Photo: Reuters/Suhaib Salem

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