Saturday, June 30, 2012

2012 on Track to Be the Deadliest on Record for Journalists

2012 on Track to Be the Deadliest on Record for Journalists

By Curtis Brainard
June 29, 2012

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago - With 72 journalists
killed so far this year, 2012 is on pace to be the
deadliest on record, the International Press Institute

(IPI) announced here on Sunday.

The media freedom organization's executive director,
Alison Bethel McKenzie, choked up and struggled to speak
as she addressed the group's annual conference.

"From Somalia to Syria, the Philippines to Mexico, and
Iraq to Pakistan, reporters are being brutally targeted
for death in unparalleled numbers," she said.

The most lethal year so far in the 15 that IPI has been

keeping records was 2009, when 110 journalists died.

Last year was the second worst, with 102 deaths.

Syria, where peaceful protests have turned into a

violent civil war, has been the most dangerous country

in 2012, with 20 professional and citizen reporters,

both local and foreign, killed so far, according to McKenzie.

"It is deeply disturbing that in a year still massively

impacted by the once unimaginable-the overthrow of

brutal Arab regimes through people and media power-

journalists are dying on the job in record numbers," she said.

Unlike the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which

also monitors casualties, IPI counts accidental deaths,

such as those of five Indonesian journalists killed when

a plane crashed during a demonstration flight in May.

Still, the two groups are in rough accord on the violent

pace of 2012. According to CPJ, 46 journalists have died

so far this year, on track to match or surpass the 97

lost lives it recorded in 2009, the highest number in

the 20 years the group has kept statistics.

CPJ figures also finger Syria as the deadliest country

for journalists in 2012. As recently as Wednesday,

gunmen attacked a pro-government TV station near

Damascus, killing three journalists and four others,

according to the Associated Press.

"Local reporters have been savagely eliminated. Many

have been brutally tortured," said IPI's McKenzie of the

general situation in Syria.

Cruelty has been global, however. Mexico, whose gruesome

drug war made it the most dangerous country to cover

last year, according to IPI, continues to be a lethal

environment for the media. Two weeks ago, one of the

powerful cartels there kidnapped and murdered Victor

Manuel Baez Chino, who covered crime in the state of

Veracuz for a local edition of the national newspaper

Milenio. He was the fifth journalist be killed in the

state in the last six weeks, the AP reported.

A few days after Baez Chino's murder and halfway around

the world, assailants in Bangladesh stabbed to death

newspaper reporter Jamal Uddin while he visited a tea

stall, according to CPJ. The list goes on and on, and

even more journalists have only narrowly escaped having

their names added to it.

On Sunday, two unexploded hand grenades were lobbed onto

the premises of a privately owned TV news station in

Greece, The Wall Street Journal reported (the South East

Europe Media Organization, an affiliate of IPI, had

noted an increase in attacks against media in the

country a week earlier). And on Monday evening, gunmen

from the Pakistani Taliban opened fire on a privately

owned TV news station in Karachi, injuring two

employees, according to the BBC.

Other forms of press intimidation-from kidnapping in

Honduras, to a beating in Peru, to imprisonment in

Ethiopia-continue to plague news organizations as well,

IPI reports.

At the group's conference this week, special envoys from

the United Nations, the Organization for Security and

Co-operation in Europe, the Organization of American

States, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples'

Rights issued a joint declaration calling for

international mechanisms to address crimes against

freedom of expression.

"Impunity is winning," UN Special Rapporteur on the

right to freedom of opinion and expression Frank La Rue

told journalists.

Sadly, he's right, and if governments around the world

don't take immediate and strong action to curb violence

against the press, 2012 will be remembered as the

deadliest year in media history.

Disclosure: IPI paid for my travel and lodging to attend

the conference, where I hosted a panel on covering the

environment, part of which addressed recent reports that

journalists on that beat are also under increasing threat.

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