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Don’t allow journalists’ killers to get away with murder

[guardian.co.uk, Friday, 18 November 2011 11:22 No Comment]

Next Wednesday has been declared as the "international day to end impunity" – an initiative designed to highlight the way in which authorities across the world fail to investigate the murders of journalists and others who advocate freedom of expression.

It is also something of a call to action to demand justice for victims – including reporters, artists, musicians and politicians – whose killings have been ignored by the authorities.

Too often, people who kill journalists in certain countries are getting away with murder.

Launched by the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), the date for the end-impunity-day (23 November) was specifically chosen to mark the second anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre in the Philippines, in which 32 journalists were slaughtered.

Soon after IFEX announced its plan, Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad was found murdered in Islamabad, most likely for his reporting on ties between Al Qaeda and Pakistan‘s navy.

Shahzad is one of 16 journalists murdered in Pakistan since 2000. Yet only one conviction has ever been recorded – for the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

There are many more countries where impunity for journalists’ murders is prevalent. The New York-based press freedom body, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), has been running an impunity index since 2008.

It ranks Iraq as the highest in terms of unsolved murders (92) in the past 10 years, with Somalia and the Philippines not far behind. They are followed by Sri Lanka, Columbia and Afghanisation.

In the last couple of years, Mexico has also featured high in the chart, with a score of unsolved murders of journalists.

Joel Simon, CPJ’s director, writes: "Since 1992, CPJ has documented the cases of 625 journalists who have been murdered for their work.

"The majority of journalists killed are not battlefield casualties–they are hunted down and targeted for murder. In nine out of 10 cases, their killers walk free."

Attacks spread beyond journalists to support workers. For example, Reporters Without Borders is reporting that two employees of the Mexico City business daily El Financiero – regional circulation supervisor Osvaldo García Iñiguez and driver José de Jesús Ortiz Parra – were abducted on 14 November.

The day is being supported by a host of press freedom and journalism organisations, including the International Press Institute (IPI), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and, in Britain, by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

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