More than 251 journalists in 13 countries were killed “with impunity” in the past decade, the Committee to Protect Journalists has reported. Across the world, the unpunished murders lead to self-censorship and press silence, the group reported. The group singles out Iraq, Somalia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka as the worst environments for journalists. The situation for journalists worsened in Mexico but improved in Russia in 2010, the group wrote in a new report. “The targeted killing of journalists serves as a silencing message to others, ensuring that sensitive issues are not subjected to public scrutiny,” Committee to Protect Journalists Executive Director Joel Simon said in a statement. “Many journalists who were murdered had been threatened beforehand but were left unprotected. Governments can either address anti-press violence or see murders continue and self-censorship spread.” In a report released on Wednesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists wrote that murders of local journalists constitute the majority of unsolved cases, and that corruption and dysfunction in law enforcement keep journalists’ killers from being brought to justice. The committee found the killings lead journalists to avoid sensitive topics, quit the profession or flee in order to avoid violence
A press freedom organization called on Thailand’s government Tuesday to form an independent commission to investigate the deaths of two foreign journalists during violence connected to recent political protests. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, in a statement received in Bangkok, condemned the violence in the capital that caused the shooting deaths of Japanese Reuters cameraman Hiro Muramoto and Italian photojournalist Fabio Polenghi, and injuries to at least seven other foreign and local reporters. In an open letter, the committee’s director, Joel Simon, accused the Thai government of obstructing an investigation into Muramoto’s death by preventing journalists from interviewing soldiers who were near him when he was shot and by failing to release surveillance camera footage of the area. The 43-year-old Japanese cameraman was shot while covering street clashes on April 10. Simon also claimed that the 45-year-old Polenghi may have been “deliberately targeted” by government forces on May 19 because “he was killed while visibly carrying a camera in an open area with few protesters.” There have been no official findings about either death. Almost 90 people died and more than 1,800 were hurt during protests that began in March to demand early elections. The demonstrations were crushed by the army on May 19.
A reporter working for Newsweek magazine has been sentenced in absentia to 74 lashes and more than 13 years in prison, raising concerns about a new government crackdown ahead of the anniversary of disputed presidential elections. Maziar Bahari, who holds dual Canadian and Iranian citizenship, was among scores detained amid a crackdown after elections last year. He spent nearly four months in jail but was released on bail of IRR 3bn (GBP 200,000) and allowed to join his British wife in London in October. The journalist wrote in this week’s Newsweek that the sentence was handed down on Sunday on charges including assembling and conspiring against state security, collecting secret and classified documents, spreading anti-government propaganda and insulting the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr Bahari said he was also sentenced to one year and 74 lashes for “disruption of public order”. He was arrested in June as security forces clamped down on widespread anti-government protests. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the sentence.
Unpunished violence against journalists has soared in the Philippines and Somalia while Iraq has the worst record of solving murders of reporters, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP) said. The New York-based media rights group published its 2010 “Impunity Index” on Tuesday, a list of a dozen countries where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes. The CPJ’s Impunity Index “calculates the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of a country’s population” for the years 2000 through 2009 and ranks them accordingly. Twelve countries made the list with five or more unsolved cases. Iraq was number one with 88 unsolved journalist murders, or 2.794 unsolved murders per one million inhabitants. Somalia, with nine unsolved murders, was next, a rating of 1.0 unsolved murders per million inhabitants. The Philippines, with 55 unsolved cases, was next followed by Sri Lanka with 10, Colombia with 13, Afghanistan with seven, Nepal with six, Russia with 18, Mexico with nine, Pakistan with 12, Bangladesh with seven and India with seven. The CPJ said the Philippines jumped to third on the list from sixth the previous year notably because of the massacre of more than 30 journalists in Maguindanao province in 2009. The group said Brazil and Colombia, meanwhile, “made marked improvement in curbing deadly violence against journalists and bringing killers to justice.” The CPJ said more than 90 percent of victims are local reporters covering sensitive topics such as crime, corruption, and national security
Leading media and press freedom organisations have called upon the United States army to open a new investigation into the killings of two journalists in Iraq in 2007. Military video depicting the slaying of more than 12 people – including the two Thomson Reuters news staff – by two Apache helicopters was leaked to whistleblowing website Wikileaks on Monday. The attack took place on the morning of 12 July 2007 in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad killing two Saeed Chmagh, a 40-year-old Reuters driver and assistant, and Namir Noor-Eldeen, a 22-year-old war photographer. Reuters has pressed the U.S. military to conduct a full and objective investigation into the killing of the two staff. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) have now joined the news agency’s call for a fresh investigation. An investigation following the incident by the US military concluded that the soldiers acted in accordance with the law of armed conflict and its own rules of engagement and were unaware of the presence of the journalists. Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act since the attack, but without success. The US military did release documents to the news agency last year relating to the presence of weapons on the scene.
In another stinging report about journalists’ rights in Mexico, the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (known as CEPET in Spanish) recorded 183 “attacks” against reporters in 2009, including 13 killings. The CEPET report says the number represents a 10 percent increase in attacks against journalists in Mexico over 2008. The attacks include threats, arbitrary detention or intimidation, injuries and disappearances, the study says. The study says the biggest increase in violence against journalists in 2009 occurred in the state of Oaxaca, where independent American journalist Brad Will was killed while covering the political unrest there in 2006. The report includes attacks against media installations, such as a grenade assault on a Televisa station in Monterrey in January 2009. Journalists in Mexico often face intimidation or violent reprisals from politicians or organized crime for reporting on corruption and narco-related matters, media watchdogs say. Previously, La Plaza reported on a study by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists that says 32 reporters and editors have been killed in the last 10 years in Mexico.
An increase in online journalists and freelancers has made the press more vulnerable to repression, but new media are also helping raise awareness about such attacks, a watchdog group said on Tuesday. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in its annual report, released at a Tokyo news conference, that freelancers and local reporters faced more risk of attack from dictators, repressive governments and militant groups because they did not have media organizations to back them. But blogs, social networking sites and other new forms of media have also helped fight censorship, although there were exceptions such as in China. E-mail alerts, Facebook petitions and blog posts helped raise the visibility of imprisoned journalists in Iran after crackdowns on the media in the aftermath of a disputed presidential election last June, CPJ said. That international pressure helped in the release of high-profile journalists such as Newsweek correspondent Maziar Bahari and freelancer Roxana Saberi. But advocates of media freedom faced obstacles in China, where CPJ said tight online censorship hindered access to information on infringements
The Philippines this year has been the world’s most dangerous country for journalists, an official of the advocacy group the Committee to Protect Journalists told CNN’s “Amanpour” program Wednesday. The killing of at least 18 reporters in a massacre that claimed the lives of almost 60 people this week means the Philippines is now even more hazardous than Iraq for journalists, said Bob Dietz, CPJ Asia Program coordinator. The massacre in the Philippines is the single worst mass killing of journalists in history, according to the CPJ. The reporters were part of a group of more than 50 unarmed civilians traveling to register a candidate in an upcoming gubernatorial election in the southern province of Maguindanao. Violence against journalists is nothing new. Ressa, a former CNN Jakarta Bureau Chief and now managing editor of ABS-CBN in Manila, said attacks on reporters come from many directions, even the government. She added that there is a culture of impunity in the Philippines, and journalists there have to develop a “sixth sense” to operate in areas where law and order is weak, so they can tell where the danger is coming from even as they continue trying to tell the story of the people who live in those areas.