Rising toll of journalists killed this year reaches 21

Attacks on journalists are increasing during 2001, according to the International Federation of Journalists.

It has revealed that the death toll of journalists and media staff killed since the beginning of the year has already reached 21.

Most recently, three journalists were assassinated in Colombia. One, Yessid Marulanda, a journalist with Notipacifico TV News, was gunned down on 3 May, World Press Freedom Day.

The IFJ has consistently warned that many of the killings of journalists go unpunished and are the result of deliberate murder attacks rather than accidental deaths of those reporting from danger zones.

The killings began at the start of 2001 in January, which saw the murders of Rolando Ureta, programme director and broadcaster of Radio Mindanao in the Philippines, and Salvador Medina Velazques, reporter and chairman of the board for radio station Nemity in Paraguay.

February was marked by the killing of Oz Rusli Radja, a journalist from the weekly magazine Pena Lestari in Aceh, Indonesia, JosŽ Luis Ortega Mata, publication director and journalist with weekly Semanario de Ojinaga in Mexico, and Mohammad Yusop, radio broadcaster for RXID, from the Philippines.

March saw the assassination of Vitaliy Khatov, newspaper publisher from Estonia, the killing in Kuwait of Hidaya Sultan al-Salem, prominent owner and editor of the weekly magazine Al-Majales, Saul Antonio Martinez Gutierrez, investigative journalist and deputy editor of the daily El Imparcia in Mexico, and the first victim of the clashes in Macedonia, Kerem Lawton from Associated Press.

April saw the violent deaths of Witayudh Saengsopit, director of radio station Home Media in Thailand, Nahar Ali, correspondent for Anirban in Bangladesh, Flavio Bedoya, journalist for the weekly newspaper Voz in Colombia, and Carlos Alberto Trespalacios from Colombia.

The IFJ said in a statement: "It is a tragedy that 10 years after press freedom was made a defining point of democracy we see that journalists and media workers are still suffering routine violence in the line of duty."

It added: "The problem is that too many of these attacks take place with impunity. The authorities must act now to bring those responsible to justice."

The IFJ publishes an annual review of journalists and media staff killed in the line of duty. Until publication, the majority of cases remain under investigation.

Last year, the federation estimated that 62 journalists were killed around the world.

It said that the year had been marked by a series of assassinations and targeted murders of journalists.

Many of the attacks were directed against media exposing corruption or expressing political dissent.

By Jon Slattery

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