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India kills more journalists than other SAARC nations

March 1, 2007

India has achieved the dubious distinction of having topped the list in killings of journalists in the last 10 years among the countries of the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). A total of 45 mediapersons were killed in India during the period.

According to a report titled Killing the Messenger, released on March 7, 2007, 1,000 news media personnel around the world have been killed while trying to report the news over the past 10 years – which comes to about two deaths every week.

The survey was conducted between January 1996 and June 2006 by the International News Safety Institute (INSI), a coalition of media organisations, press freedom groups, unions and humanitarian campaigners dedicated to the safety of journalists and media staff.

India also figures in the list of the Top 21 bloodiest countries over the past 10 years for killing of journalists.

Pakistan comes second, after India, with 29 journalists killed, followed by 19 in Bangladesh, 16 in Sri Lanka, and 13 in Afghanistan.

Iraq leads with 138, followed by Russia (88), Colombia (72), the Philippines (55), Iran (54), Algeria (32), the former republic of Yugoslavia (32), Mexico (31), Brazil (27), the United States (21), Ukraine (17), Nigeria, Peru, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka (16 each), and Afghanistan, and Thailand (13).

The figure for Iran was swollen by an aircraft accident in December 2005 when a military aircraft carrying news teams to cover exercises in the Gulf crashed in Tehran, killing 48 journalists and media technicians on board.

The survey conducted by the International News Safety Institute (INSI) found that only one in four journalists died in war and other armed conflicts.

At least 657 men and women were murdered in peacetime, while reporting the news in their own countries. In two-thirds of the cases, the killers were not even identified, and probably will be never be caught.

Most victims lost their lives because of their jobs – eliminated by hostile authorities or criminals. Nine out of 10 murderers in the past decade have never been prosecuted.

The death toll in the news media has increased steadily since 2000.

The year 2005, the last full year covered by the report, was a record with 147 dead.

It has since turned out that 2006 was even worse, with 167 fatalities, according to INSI’s annual tally. The database includes details for 1,000 individuals of 101 nationalities, who died in 96 countries.

Shooting was by far the greatest cause of death, accounting for almost half of the total. Bombing, stabbing, beating, torture, strangulation and decapitation were also used to silence reporting.

Some men and women disappeared, their fate still unknown.

In war, it was much safer to be embedded with an army than being independent news reporters, or unilaterals, who accounted for 92% of the dead.

Overall, armed forces – regular or irregular – police and officials accounted for 22% of the killings.

The death toll was evenly split between print media and the broadcast media, but news agencies, which are fewer in number, were relatively badly hit, accounting for 6% of the total.

Most of those who died were on staff – 91% against 9% freelance – and one-third fell near their home, office or hotel.

Welcoming the report, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said: “This confirms the shocking reality that journalists and the people who work with them are at risk today more than ever before.”

IFJ president Christopher Warren said “it is a wake-up call to the industry and the international political community: we must do more to find and prosecute the killers and we must act together to reduce the risks our people face.”

The IFJ says the report reinforces the calls made by the United Nations Security Council in December 2006 for governments to do more to challenge impunity in the killing of journalists.

According to INSI director Rodney Pinder, “in many countries, murder has become the easiest, cheapest and most effective way of silencing troublesome reporting, and the more the killers get away with it, the more the spiral of death is forced upwards.”

Richard Sambrook, chairman of the special INSI inquiry and BBC’s Global News Director, says: “The figures show that killing a journalist is virtually risk-free. Nine out of 10 murderers in the past decade have never been prosecuted. This encourages more of the same. This is the most shocking fact at the heart of the inquiry.”






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