IPI Calls for Increased Awareness of Journalists' Safety on World Press Freedom Day
With 54 journalists killed in 2002 and 23 journalists killed since the Start of this year, 14 of them during the war in Iraq, the need for increased safety for the media has never been more urgent.
Across the world journalists face increased threats to their physical safety: From Colombia, where 18 journalists have been killed since the start of 2002, to Russia, where 9 journalists have been killed in the same period.
According to IPI's statistics, since 1997, 352 journalists have been killed at the rate of nearly 5 per month, many of them in the most appalling of circumstances. In breaking down the total figure for deaths from 1 January 1997 to 19 April 2003, 43 journalists were killed in Africa, 109 in the Americas, 76 in Asia, 85 in Europe, and 39 in the Middle East and North Africa.
Such deaths have placed a high price on the right of everyone under Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights to "seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers," and they reveal the desperate need for increased vigilance from the international community and governments, if journalists are to continue in their role as watchdogs. The recent events in Iraq have only served to reaffirm this need.
From the outset of the war, journalists were killed during bombing raids, in conflict on the ground, in a suicide bombing, and in tragic accidents where journalists appear to have been mistaken for enemy forces. One of the deadliest days in the fighting occurred on 8 April when three journalists were killed: two when the Hotel Palestine, where journalists were staying in Baghdad, was shelled, and one in the bombing of the Baghdad office of Qatar-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera.
When examining these incidents, IPI believes that these deaths could have been avoided if there had been better awareness among allied officers and their subordinates that journalists were working at these sites. It is therefore necessary to explore possible methods of better coordination between governments, the military and the media in times of war.
With this in mind and to mark the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, 3 May 2003, the International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, leading journalists and media executives in over 115 countries, in conjunction with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), will officially launch the International News Safety Institute (INSI). Managed by a key group of industry leaders in the field of media safety and tasked with fostering good practice in the provision of safety training, the Brussels-based INSI will work towards reducing the risks for journalists practicing their profession.
On World Press Freedom Day, IPI calls on governments around the world to accept the right of journalists to report freely on events, including conflicts, to do everything possible to ensure the safety of journalists, and to prevent the murderers of journalists from escaping with impunity.
IPI, the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, is dedicated to the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information, and the improvement of the practices of journalism.