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Tuesday 8 January 2013

World: Governments Urged to do More to Ensure Journalists’ Safety

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has released a report saying that 2012 has been one of the bloodiest years for journalists and media workers after recording 121 killings in targeted attacks and cross fire incidents.

By George Okore

The high number of journalists and media workers killed in 2012 is due to systematic failure by governments and the United Nations to fulfill their international obligations to protect and enforce journalists’ basic right to life.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has released a report saying that 2012 has been one of the bloodiest years for journalists and media workers after recording 121 killings in targeted attacks and cross fire incidents. According to annual IFJ report published  annually on  journalists and media workers killed in work-related incidents since 1990, 121 journalists and media staff lost their lives in targeted attacks, bomb attacks and other cross-fire incidents this year, up from 107 recorded in 2011.

This constant finding in IFJ annual reports brings into sharp focus need for genuine measures to protect journalists and punish those responsible for violence against media.  Last month, IFJ urged accountability for violence targeting media at UN Inter-Agency’s conference in Vienna, Austria which officially launched UN Action Plan on safety of journalists and the issue of Impunity.  “The situation is so desperate that inaction no longer represents an option. We now look to UN Plan on safety of journalists and the issue of impunity to deliver on its mandate,” added IFJ General Secretary Beth Costa.

In the same month, journalists and media practitioners from Eastern African region heard that they  are operating in a climate of fear with threats to their personal safety.  A consultative meeting on journalists’ safety in Nairobi, Kenya noted that many journalists are increasingly becoming traumatized, but lack necessary counseling to deal with the situation.  The forum organized by East Africa Journalists Defense Network in collaboration with Article 19 and European Union, was a follow up to similar meeting held in February 12, 2008 and dubbed Nairobi Roundtable.

As was before, the meeting found that safety of journalists and media practitioners in Kenya and entire region has never been seriously addressed.  The meeting also noted that most media practitioners are sent on assignment without adequate facilitation including transportation, logistical support and backup. Article 19 Regional Director Henry Maina said many regional journalists lack basic training on how to safeguard their personal safety and understanding of conflict patterns.

Police spokesman Erick Kiraithe promised Kenyan journalists covering upcoming general elections will be provided with utmost safety while Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA) Chairman Oloo Janak observed that most journalists are not provided with adequate safety gear and kitting. He urged media owners to provide insurance cover, more so to the numerous correspondents and freelancers.

Back to IFJ report, 30 journalists died in accidents or of illness while they were at work in 2012, against 20 last year. “The death toll for 2012 is another indictment of governments which pay lip service to the protection of journalists but have consistently failed to stop their slaughter “It is no wonder that these sky-high numbers of killed journalists have become a constant feature in the last decade during which the usual reaction from governments and the United Nations has been a few words of condemnation, a cursory inquiry and a shrug of indifference,” says Jim Boumelha, IFJ President.

Syria tops the IFJ’s list of the most dangerous countries for media in 2012. More violence and lawlessness in Somalia turned the country into a media killing field while organized crime in Mexico and insurgents in Pakistan account for the high numbers of fatalities in these countries. The IFJ report says in their majority, journalists were deliberately targeted because of their work and with the clear intention to silence them.

As of 31 December, IFJ recorded fearsome information on killings of journalists and media staff in 2012. During the period under review, 121 journalists were victims of targeted killings, bomb attacks and cross-fire incidents. Another 30 scribes were victims of accidental and illness related deaths.

The deadliest region in 2012 was Middle East and Arab World with 47 journalists and media personnel killed.  Syria had the region's highest death toll with 36 dead. Among countries with the highest numbers of media fatalities are Syria (35), Somalia (18), Pakistan (10), Mexico (10), Philippines (5) and Iraq (5)

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