Murder of Pearl marked 2002 as year of bloodshed

Pearl: brutally killed last January

The murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl last January marked out 2002 as a year in which journalists were deliberately targeted and assassinated for pursuing stories that expose terrorism, corruption or criminal activity, according to the International Federation of Journalists’ annual report.

"These journalists paid the ultimate price for their stories," said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary, announcing a total of 67 journalists and media staff killed past year. "It is time for the international community and the media industry to join hands in a new campaign to hunt down those who target journalists for asking the tough questions that help keep democracy intact."

After the IFJ released its figures, Tigran Naghdalian, head of Armenia’s public TV station, was shot dead by gunmen on 28 December, becoming the 68th media casualty of 2002.

Pearl was investigating al-Qaida and international terrorism when he was kidnapped in Pakistan by a group who videotaped his brutal killing.

"This unprecedented and chilling display of brutality reminds journalists that global media is in the frontline of the struggle for democracy and human rights," said White.

Pearl was one of several cases where investigative journalists have been targeted, pointed out the IFJ – others were in India, Colombia, Russia and Brazil.

"We have to do more to reduce risks," said the IFJ, which, with the International Press Institute, has established a coalition of more than 80 media, journalists’ unions, press freedom groups and international organisations to launch the International News Safety Institute early this year.

The new organisation will co-

ordinate safety actions in defence of journalists and media staff around the world. "The world is an increasingly dangerous place for working journalists," said White, "and we need a new culture of safety awareness that will reduce the risks to reporters without diminishing the media’s right to cover the stories that need to be reported."

Once again, the IFJ focused on Latin America, where journalism is particularly threatened. In Colombia the toll has been high – 10 deaths in the year.

The IFJ also reiterated concern that high-profile assassinations of journalists – Gyorgy Gongadze in Ukraine and Martin O’Hagan in Northern Ireland – remain unsolved. "Governments have a responsibility to bring killers to justice," said White, "and in these cases we know from sources on the ground that more can and should be done."

Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders warned in its 2002 report that: "Hardly any murders of journalists in recent years have been solved. Those who ordered them still walk free and have never been touched by the law in their countries."

RWB said the number of arrests, attacks and threats against journalists soared last year, even though fewer were killed. The group says at least 25 journalists were killed during the year because of their opinions or for simply doing their job.

By Jon Slattery

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