» More and more journalists targeted, warns UNESCO report
23.03.2010 - UNESCOPRESS

More and more journalists targeted, warns UNESCO report

© Jawad Jalali/UNAMA

The number of journalists murdered is increasing, according to a UNESCO report to be published on 25 March. Most victims, says the report, are targeted in countries that are at peace, but where revealing sensitive information – about drug trafficking, violation of human rights or corruption – can mean risking one’s life.

Of the 28 countries where media professionals were killed in 2006-2007, which UNESCO had asked to provide information concerning the status of judicial inquiries, 15 responded with detailed reports.


Entitled “The safety of journalists and the risk of impunity”, the report is being released on the occasion of the meeting of the Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC) at UNESCO (24 to 26 March). A follow-up to an earlier report published in 2008, it stresses that the absence of threat is “essential to protect the right of all citizens to reliable information and the right of journalists to provide it without fearing for their security.”


In 2008-2009, UNESCO condemned the murder of 125 journalists, a tally comparable to the previous period - 2006-2007 - when the Organization had reported 122 murders. At least 80% of these deaths are due to attacks specifically targeting the victims, emphasizes the report: “in particular deliberate attacks by those who do not wish journalists to investigate and reveal information of public interest.”


However, when the figures are analysed on an annual basis, last year set a new record with 77 murders reported by UNESCO in 2009, exceeding the previous record in 2006 (69 deaths), a period when violence in Iraq was omnipresent. Moreover, the major reductions recorded in 2007 (53 murders reported) and in 2008 (48), were largely due to the improvement of the situation in Iraq.


As for the peak seen in 2009, it can be partly explained by the murder of approximately 30 journalists in only one day, in an ambush in the Philippines on 23 November 2009. This exceptional event has put the country at the top of the list, with 37 murders targeting journalists, ahead of Iraq, where the number of victims fell from 62 to 15 between 2006-2007 and 2008-2009.


Another significant development in 2008-2009, as noted in the report, is that the percentage of murders not linked to conflict situations considerably increased compared to 2006-2007. The great majority of the victims were not foreign war correspondents but local journalists who were generally working on issues of local interest in countries at peace. In the great majority of cases (95%), the victims were men.


The 2010 report notes that “sadly, the frequency of acts of violence against journalists is increasing. In most cases, impunity precludes the way of justice, and if this trend prevails, journalists will remain easy targets. Needless to say this represents a severe threat to freedom of expression and to our ability to seek the truth.”


            During its 27th session, the Intergovernmental Council of the IPDC will consider the draft decision recommending that the IPDC continue monitoring the follow-up of killings condemned by UNESCO’s Director-General. It also invites the UNESCO General Conference to propose that a one-minute silence be observed in newsrooms worldwide on World Press Freedom Day (3 May) to honour the journalists killed each year.


Since 1997, the Director-General of UNESCO has undertaken to condemn systematically any physical attacks on journalists, following Resolution 29 adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference during its 29th session. This Resolution requested governments to adopt the principle that there should be no status of limitations for crimes against a person when these are perpetrated to prevent freedom of expression but also the right of other people to receive information. It also urged the competent authorities to “discharge their duty of preventing, investigating and punishing such crimes, and remedying their consequences.”


The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has stressed that “only the political will of States to bring to justice the murderers of journalists and thus put an end to impunity will, finally, be the best protection for press professionals.”

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