Dying to report the news.
Journalism always has been a risky business in any kind of armed conflict, from gang wars to major military engagements. But given the pace of fatalities worldwide through the first half of 2007, this could become the deadliest year on record for members of the news media.
Seventy-two journalists and other news media workers were killed covering the news in the first six months of the year, according to the International News Safety Institute. Counting deaths from all causes, including health-related and accidents, 100 journalists and their support workers died on the job from January through June 2007.
The Brussels-based International News Safety Institute tallies deaths for all news media personnel - journalists as well as support workers such as drivers, translators and office personnel, whether staff or free-lance - provided they died because of their work gathering or distributing the news. The institute is a coalition of media organizations, media freedom groups, unions and humanitarian campaigners dedicated to the safety of media workers.
No place in the world is more dangerous for journalists than Iraq, where 22 reporters and support staff - mostly Iraqis - were slain in the first half of 2007 and 14 others died in conflict-related incidents. Iraq has been the world's deadliest place to practice journalism for the past decade, even before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which uses a different reporting methodology than INSI, says 108 reporters have been killed while covering the Iraq war during the past four years, 86 of whom were Iraqis. In addition to the daily threats posed by car bombings, mortar attacks and snipers, Iraqi journalists are regularly targeted for assassination and kidnapping.
The danger may be more visible in a combat zone, but only one in four journalists killed on the job in the past 10 years died covering armed conflicts. A desire to kill the messenger resulted in the peacetime murders of at least 657 men and women who were covering the news in their home countries during the past decade, the INSI reported.
Tragically, most of the criminals, corrupt officials or rogue police responsible for murdering reporters are never even identified, much less apprehended. Nine out of 10 killers of journalists are never prosecuted.
"In many countries, murder has become the easiest, cheapest and most effective way of silencing troublesome reporting. And the more the killers get away with it, the more the spiral of death is forced upwards," says Rodney Pinder, director of INSI.
Almost one-fourth of the news media deaths recorded by INSI over the past 10 years came at the hands of armed forces or police personnel. That underscores the need for meaningful sanctions for governments that fail to live up to their responsibilities under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738.
Worldwide, the situation continues to get worse. The news media death toll is increasing every year, largely as a result of the dismal failure of governments to investigate the murders and prosecute the perpetrators.
Journalists and their employers also must do all they can to ensure their safety, including undergoing professional training for reporting in conflict or disaster zones.
Above all, crimes against journalists must be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted. If those who would murder members of the news media can do so with impunity, they will also kill any hope of an open, civil society.
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|Title Annotation:||Editorials; 2007 shaping up as a deadly year for journalists|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Jul 5, 2007|
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