Press Emblem Campagn, Geneva - During the past year,
ninety-five journalists* in 32 countries paid with their lives for exercising their profession,
according to the 2008 Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) report published Monday.
This figure is lower than the record 115 journalists killed last year,
but this drop of 17.5% is due solely to an improvement in security in Iraq.
On average, nearly two journalists were killed every week in the course of the last
three years (96 in 2006; 115 in 2007; 95 in 2008).
Many others were injured, kidnapped, threatened, imprisoned or unable
to express themselves freely (notably in Burma, China, Zimbabwe and Eritrea).
"The security of media employees has become an overall problem," pointed out
Hedayat Abdel Nabi, president of the PEC. "Sixty years after the adoption of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the violations of press freedom
are widespread in several regions of the world," she emphasized.
"On the positive side, the number of journalists killed in Iraq has greatly declined,
owing to the relative improvement in security in this country.
Unfortunately, the situation has deteriorated in other countries,
a disturbing development," explained the PEC general secretary, Blaise Lempen.
The PEC's "Media Ticking Clock" shows a deterioration in several countries in
2008: Mexico, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Russia, Philippines, Georgia and Croatia. Besides Iraq,
a (precarious) improvement has been reported in Somalia (two killed, as opposed to eight in 2007)
and in Sri Lanka (two killed as opposed to seven last year).
Iraq has remained in 2008 the most dangerous country, with 15 deaths since January.
This is, however, significantly lower than the 50 journalists killed in 2007 (a drop of 70% in the number of victims)
and the 48 killed in 2006. Since the beginning of the war in March 2003, at least 265 journalists have perished in this country.
The crime wave has swelled in Mexico. With nine victims since January (as opposed to three last year),
Mexico is the second most dangerous country in the world this year.
The deterioration is also stark in Pakistan,
in third place, with eight journalists (as opposed to five last year).
The situation has noticeably deteriorated in the tribal zones near the Afghan border.
India follows, in fourth place, with seven journalists killed (two last year), especially in relation to
the ethnic conflicts in the north of the country.
Then comes Philippines (fifth place), with six journalists killed (as opposed to four last year),
particularly because of the conflict on the island of Mindanao,
then Georgia (sixth place, five killed), because of war with Russia in August.
Among the ten most dangerous countries are Russia (four killed, one last year),
mainly murders linked to the conflicts in the Caucasus, then, new this year,
Thailand (in eighth place with four killed, none last year).
Two victims have been reported in nine other countries, putting them all in
ninth place: Afghanistan, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo,
Nepal, Nigeria, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Venezuela and –
a country appearing on the list for the first time since 1995 – Croatia.
One victim was also reported in each of the following countries in
2008: Bolivia, Brazil, Burundi, Cambodia, Dominican Republic,
Ecuador, Gaza, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran, Kenya, Niger, Panama, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
The report shows that the relative improvement in security in Iraq has, unfortunately,
been compensated for by a deterioration in several other countries.
The figure of 95 killed in one year is practically the same as the 2006 figure,
in spite of a net drop in the number of victims in Iraq.
Besides murders, many kidnappings took place this year, notably
in Afghanistan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Gaza and Mexico.
While Somalia has experienced fewer murders than last year (two as opposed to eight),
several journalists were taken hostage.
The majority of victims (almost three-quarters) were in zones of armed conflict.
Among the most dangerous countries,
Mexico and Thailand were exceptions, for there is no armed conflict in these countries.
Considered by region, the final figures are somewhat surprising. Asia is in the lead,
with four countries among the eight most dangerous
(a total of 30 killed in seven countries: Pakistan, India, Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka,
Nepal, Cambodia) ahead of Latin America (20 killed: Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela,
Guatemala, Bolivia, Ecuador, Panama, Honduras, Brazil, Dominican Republic),
then the Near East (19 killed: Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Gaza). Europe follows,
this year, for the first time in a long time, with a relatively high number of victims
(11 killed: Georgia, Croatia, Russia), ahead of
Africa (10 killed: Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Uganda, Niger, Burundi, Kenya, Zimbabwe).
The great majority of journalists killed were personally targeted because of their profession.
There were deliberate killings aiming to eliminate individuals owing to their investigations or
opinions running counter to those of armed groups,
political groups criminal networks or local interests.
Accidental causes (for example death during a terrorist explosion or from a stray bullet)
represented, this year, about 10% of the total.
Impunity remains the rule. When investigations take place, they are difficult to carry out in conflict zones,
trails are long and drawn out or simply do not correspond to criteria of impartiality.
(A good example is the trail of the alleged killers of Anna Politkovskaïa in Russia.)
The consultation undertaken by the PEC has resulted in the setting up of an informal working group in Geneva,
entrusted with discussing the means for reinforcing the protection of media in areas of conflict and violence.
Few governments have expressed support for a new international convention,
as proposed by the PEC during a consultation launched one year ago. However,
most of the countries that have expressed an opinion said that there is a need to enforce better existing laws.
The PEC will continue its discussions with governments throughout 2009 in order to arrive at an
improvement in the security of journalists in areas shaken by crises and violence.
It hopes that the Human Rights Council will be able to adopt a strong resolution next year
on the respect of freedom of expression.
For further information and the list of victims: www.pressemblem.ch
* Note that the one year period is from December 15th 2007 to December 14th 2008
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