The IFJ Says Impunity and "Callous Indifference" Remain Threats as New Wave of Media Killings Wipes out Optimism Over Death Toll in 2008
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today issued its report on the killings of journalists in 2008 with a warning that 2009 could be the deadliest year yet for journalists. A wave of killings in the first days of the new year have undermined hopes that the falling death toll recorded in 2008 was the first sign of a change in the pattern of killings which have risen dramatically in recent years.
"The welcome relief brought about by the decline in the killings of journalists in 2008 has been shot lived;" said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary at a press conference to launch the report entitled ‘ Perilous Assignments: Journalists and media personnel killed in 2008'. "Ten colleagues died in January alone and from all regions of the world either in targeted killing or as a direct result of their work."
The IFJ recorded 109 deaths of journalists and media staff in 2008, marking a decrease from the 2007 all time record of 175 deaths.
The IFJ says that the international community still needs to step up to confront the challenge of impunity in the killing of journalists. "We often see politicians, even in democratic countries showing callous indifference to the threats posed by attacks on journalists and media. That must end," said White.
According to the report, Iraq remains the most dangerous countries despite a substantial drop of media casualties from 65 in 2007 to 16 last year. The other dangerous zones were Mexico and India with 10 deaths each.
The IFJ says the culture of impunity for crimes against journalists and the systematic failure to respect the rights of journalists deny journalists the protection they are entitled to in their work, especially during armed conflict.
"The recent conflict in Gaza provides a powerful example of the dangers facing journalists" added White. "Media personnel and installations were targeted by Israeli military, causing casualties, including two fatalities in January and extensive damage to property."
The IFJ was the first press freedom advocacy group to call for an investigation into the Israeli targeting of the media during the conflict in Gaza and is gathering information for a report on these attacks which will contribute to the investigation.
"Israel must be held accountable for the violations of international law and the international community, including the European Union, must enforce effectively provisions for the protection of journalists and media staff, especially Resolution 1738," White said.
The IFJ report also indicates that the organisation's Safety Fund contributed in 2008 over 100.000 Euro in humanitarian assistance grants to more than two dozens families of killed journalists and journalists in need. The Fund is also contributing to humanitarian efforts to help journalists as part of the IFJ Solidarity campaign launched in the wake of the Israeli attack on Gaza.
"The Safety Fund, created and funded by journalists to help colleagues in need is a shining example of solidarity in action," added White. "Through this Fund, journalists or their families, who otherwise would have been left to fend for themselves after tragedies such as accidents or the death of a bread winner, have been given a lifeline to help find their feet again."