Tag Archives: Killings

New site to help protect journalists

The International Federation of Journalists opened a website to campaign for journalists’ safety: Safety of Journalists

The website provides information on the strategies, programmes and activities related to the safety and human rights of journalists, including details on the IFJ International Safety Fund.

There will be regular advice on safety for journalists who need to work or travel to regions affected by conflicts, political instability and outbreak of diseases as well as natural disasters.


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UN Security Council now discussing protection of journalist

The UN Security Council has a good group of journalists assembled to discuss safety of journalists around the world.

The discussion comes from a concept paper issued by the US Mission to the United Nations:

“Given the critical role of journalism in informing the international community’s understanding of conflict, we seek to underscore the vital importance of protecting journalists in these situations. The right to freedom of opinion and expression is a human right guaranteed to all, including journalists, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; journalists are also entitled to the same rights online that they have offline.”

Discussion now going on at the UN Live Page.

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Filed under International News Coverage, Press Freedom

Addressing impunity is a global issue not limited to just the media

Being a journalist has never been a safe job in many countries and the arrest rate and death toll makes that clear.

  • 984 journalists and media workers were killed since 1992
  • 19 journalists and media workers have been killed so far this year
  • 594 of the murders have not been investigated or prosecuted
  • 232 journalists are in jail for doing their job

The raw numbers of murders and jailings are frightening. What is especially frightening is the impunity that so many murders can be left unaddressed.

The Committee to Protect Journalists released a new report on Pakistan and the lack of follow-up in the murders of 20 journalists. (Roots of Impunity: Pakistan’s Endangered Press And the Perilous Web of Militancy, Security, and Politics)

According to the report, Pakistan ranks among the world’s deadliest nations for the press today.

But just in case you think the problem is limited to the volatile area of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, think again.

Honduras, which has the highest murder rate in the world, is also dangerous for journalists. (The numbers from the rest of Central America are not so great either. )

Murder Chart

The InterAmerican Press Association (SIPA in Spanish) sent a special team to Honduras to look into the situation. (Misión de la SIP llega a evaluar libertad de expresión) The IAPA/SIPA team is looking at more than just the murders of journalists. It is looking to see how the Honduran government is living up to its pledges of a year ago to protect journalists and to prosecute those who attack journalists.

(FYI: The IAPA/SIPA has a whole project on impunity. Going to its reports page you can see that Honduras is mentioned a lot but so is Brazil, Mexico and Colombia. No one country in the Western Hemisphere has a monopoly on impunity when it comes to the harassment and murder of journalists.)

One thing to remember is that impunity comes from a government’s lack of political will to deal with the situation. The inaction is not because of a government policy to target the journalists and other defenders of human rights. (Unlike places such as China, Venezuela and Cuba where the weight and anger of the rulers and their supporters are indeed targeted against independent media outlets.)

The CPJ report on Pakistan is clear about this:

The violence comes in the context of a government’s struggle to deliver basic human rights to all citizens. The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan laid it out succinctly when it said in its annual report in March 2012 that “militancy, growing lawlessness, and ethnic, sectarian and political violence exposed the government’s inability to ensure security and law and order for people in large parts of the country.”

In Honduras, the CPJ notes:

CPJ research shows that the authorities have been slow and negligent in investigating numerous journalist murders and other anti-press crimes since the 2009 coup


Journalists who report on sensitive issues such as drug trafficking, government corruption, and land conflicts face frequent threats and attacks in a nation so gripped by violence and lawlessness that it has become one of the most murderous places in the world.

Unfortunately because Honduras is the murder capital of the world, journalists doing their jobs could be caught in the crossfire, be targeted for reasons other than journalism or maybe not even be targeted but just be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

None of that dismisses the pain and suffering the families and a free society feels because of the killings. It just may be that the journalists are not targeted because they are journalists. But without vigorous and successful investigations and prosecutions we will never know.

And that brings up to the real point.

The main problem in Pakistan is the same as the problem in Honduras: Weak government agencies unwilling to do anything or who frightened into doing nothing.

Addressing the issue of impunity, therefore becomes more than complaining about how the media (or lawyers or reform politicians or students) are treated.  It is a problem of strengthening government agencies to allow them to step up and address the growing chaos in their societies. And it is a problem that requires the rest of society also to step up and demand better of their governments.

The prosecutors and judges in the countries are often afraid to order investigations and prosecute the killers of journalists because then their lives (and the lives of their families) are put at risk. Likewise, individual citizens could quickly become targets if they start demanding justice for those human rights defenders that are killed.

Yet, the only way to seriously address the problem of impunity is to strengthen civic society organizations while providing protection to the most outspoken of the society.

Unfortunately, the knee-jerk reaction to the impunity situation from some influential circles is to cut funding that is designed to help strengthen and improve the very institutions needed to conduct the investigations. The logic seems to be: “You don’t have the resources to do proper investigations so we will pull the funding we were giving you to improve your resources to conduct proper investigations.”

Bottom line is that fighting impunity means addressing a wide range of issues at once.

  • It means addressing poverty — to prevent the narcos/religious fanatics from getting new recruits.
  • It means strengthening and supporting civic organizations so they can both stand up against fanatical and criminal elements AND demand more from their governments.
  • It means providing training and funding to the law enforcement agencies so they can weed out and keep out corruption, conduct proper investigations and then conduct proper prosecutions.

That is a tall order. And it costs money. Unfortunately too many government leaders in the developed world are penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to supporting the types of programs that are needed.

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Filed under Harassment, Honduras, International News Coverage, Killings, Press Freedom

March for justice in Mexico

Journalists is the Mexican state of Veracruz marched over the weekend to demand protection for journalists and for the government find and prosecute those responsible for killing investigative journalist Regina Martinez.

Government officials say they have the killer of Martinez, who was found beaten and suffocated in her house. But her co-workers don’t believe them.

The man convicted of the murder is Jorge Antonio Hernandez Silva. According to the government versions, Martinez was killed because she interrupted a robbery by  Hernandez Silva.

Unfortunately for the government, Hernandez Silva says he was forced to confess after being tortured for several days. The editors at Martinez’s publication, Proceso, don’t accept the government story, pointing out that none of the fingerprints in the Martinez apartment match Hernandez Silva.

The local authorities did not do themselves any favors when, according to Proceso, some current and former state officials issued orders to capture a reporter who questioned the verdict and “to do him harm if he resists.”

After the national government stepped in and expressed its skepticism of the local version of events, Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte  met with editors of Proceso and promised a full investigation.

See original story: Mexican journalists march against attacks on press

Mexico has become one of the most dangerous countries for journalists. The threat comes from drug cartels and corrupted government officials. Since 1992, 28 journalists and media workers have been killed in Mexico. Of those 28 cases, 22 have not been solved.

The national government has stepped up its efforts to protect journalists and to deal with the lack of action by local governments.

Late last week the national legislature passed a bill giving the federal government jurisdiction over crimes against journalists. It only awaits the president’s signature.

Read more about the bill and the problem of impunity in Mexico: In Mexico, a movement and a bill against impunity


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Filed under Corruption, Harassment, Killings, Mexico

Brazilian becomes 1st journalist in the Americas to be killed in 2013

Brazilian radio station manager Renato Machado Gonçalves became the first journalist in the Western Hemisphere to be killed this year when he was gunned down in front of his home Jan. 9.

The motive for the killing is not known but local authorities said his profession as a journalist has to be considered.

According to Reporters Without Borders, Concalves did not receive any threats before the attack.

Witnesses said two individuals on a motorcycle intercepted him outside and opened fire. Hit four times, twice in the chest, he died of his injuries after being taken to Ferreira Machado Hospital in Campos. A São João da Barra police station has been given the job of investigating his murder.

One of his colleagues told Reporters Without Borders that Gonçalves was physically attacked at a meeting of the São João da Barra municipal chamber during last October’s local elections. There were several cases of violence against journalists during the campaign, as well as attacks on news media and many cases of court-ordered censorship.

Brazil was pegged as the 5th most dangerous country for journalists in 2012.

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Filed under Killings, South America

Journalists and war zones, a new danger

David Carr has a good piece in the New York Times on how attacks against journalists in conflict zones are being written off as attacks on terrorists and terrorist supporters.

Using War as Cover to Target Journalists

He cites the case of two Al-Aqsa TV journalists:

Mahmoud al-Kumi and Hussam Salama worked as cameramen for Al-Aqsa TV, which is run by Hamas and whose reporting frequently reflects that affiliation. They were covering events in central Gaza when a missile struck their car, which, according to Al-Aqsa, was clearly marked with the letters “TV.” (The car just in front of them was carrying a translator and driver for The New York Times, so the execution hit close to our organization.) And Mohamed Abu Aisha, director of the private Al-Quds Educational Radio, was also in a car when it was hit by a missile.

I would think there would be better examples of the use of war to attack journalists. Journalists from Al-Aqsa have as much editorial freedom as those from Xinhua or the North Korean media.


Should journalists — independent or not — have been targeted? Nope.

Should Israel have targeted the journalists in their vehicle? Nope.

Is Al-Aqsa TV independent from an organization centrally involved in a war? Also, nope. Under a general theory of war-making, targeting propaganda arms of an enemy makes sense. But that means headquarters and propaganda masters, not necessarily the grunts.

And, as Carr points out, a lot of the growing danger comes as the bean counters reduce the resources necessary for independent journalists to do their jobs:

At a time when news outlets in the United States are cutting foreign operations for monetary reasons, cheap and ubiquitous technology has lowered the entry barrier for others who want to engage in journalism, some of whom are already in the theater of conflict and may have partisan motives. Many of those newer players are young and inexperienced in ways that make them particularly vulnerable in the middle of dangerous conflicts.

Other journalists have close affiliations with partisan forces in these conflicts.

As news media organizations become increasingly politicized, all journalists risk ending up as collateral casualties because they are working adjacent to outlets viewed as purveyors of propaganda.


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Filed under Killings, Middle East

For some a game; For too many reality

International End the Impunity Day is November 23.

The International Freedom of Expression Exchange site has a digital game designed to draw attention to impunity and motivate more people to engage in the issue called Break The Silence.

IFEX launches online game for Day to End Impunity campaign

In one scenario in this game, you are a Twitter user in the Americas. Drug cartels and organised crime have infiltrated the political, judicial and law enforcement systems in your country.

In another, you are a musician in Africa. Your government is handing down orders to silence artistic expression. Those who challenge the status quo are being censored, and those who persevere are being threatened and intimidated.

In a third, you are a protester in the Middle East, in a country with an established authoritarian regime in power. Voices of dissent are violently suppressed by the police and military.

In each scenario, you must navigate through a labyrinth where others are doing everything they can to silence your voice.

In the TWITTER scenario, the opening screen is:

Drug cartels and organised crime have infiltrated the political, judicial and law enforcement systems in your country.

Those who speak out about the corruption are often faced with threats, attacks and even murder. These crimes are rarely punished.

What will you risk to be heard?

Followed by

You witness an exchange of cash between a known drug lord and the chief of police. You decide to tweet about it on your Twitter account.

So far, this all sounds familiar to anyone living in Honduras or Mexico.

From this point you make choices about whether to keep pushing ahead or back off. Depending on how you decide the danger to you and your family increases or decreases.

The game accurately describes what can (and does ) happen to people who stand up to narcos and dictators.

Before people start complaining about all the money “wasted” on programs overseas to break up the narcos and support democratic forces, they should play this game and see what it really costs to not stand up to these thugs.


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Filed under Censorship, Corruption, Press Freedom