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Journalists Under Siege As Occupational Hazards Rise

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 2 2015 (IPS) - As news coverage from conflict zones — and reporting from authoritarian regimes– continue to be occupational hazards, journalists may fast become an “endangered species.”

RSF renames Paris streets after journalists who were the victims of crimes.

RSF renames Paris streets after journalists who were the victims of crimes.

The United Nations commemorated ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists” on Nov. 2 – even as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed the sad realities of a profession constantly under siege.

More than 700 journalists have been killed in the last decade — one every five days — simply for bringing news and information to the public, he recounted.

“Many perish in the conflicts they cover so fearlessly. But all too many have been deliberately silenced for trying to report the truth.”

Regrettably, only 7.0 percent of such cases have been resolved, and less than one crime out of 10 is even fully investigated.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says impunity leads to more killings and is often a symptom of worsening conflict and the breakdown of law and justice systems.

According to CPJ, 94 percent of journalists killed are local and only 6.0 percent are foreign correspondents. Male journalists account for 94 percent of journalists killed.

Early this year, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Irina Bokova condemned the killing of 87 journalists, media workers, and social media producers, in 2014 alone.

Akshaya Kumar, Deputy United Nations Director at Human Rights Watch, told IPS too often crimes against journalists go unmarked by the U.N. system, especially in conflict zones like South Sudan or places in crisis like Burundi.

U.N. monitors who are on the ground as a part of peacekeeping missions or the offices of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) can and should do much more to push for investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for attacks on journalists, she added.

“Otherwise, when state security forces attack brave journalists like Esdras Ndikumana of Burundi and Peter Julius Moi of South Sudan, they benefit from a climate of impunity.”

In a dedication to fallen or victimized journalists, Reporters Without Borders has decided to rename 12 Parisian streets after journalists who have been murdered, tortured or disappeared.

The renamed streets are those with embassies of countries where journalists have been the victims of unpunished crimes.

The embassy addresses have been changed to draw attention to the failure of these countries to take action and to remind them of their obligation to do whatever is needed to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice, the Paris-based organization said in a statement released Nov. 2.

RSF (the French acronym for Reporters Without Borders) said it is using these 12 emblematic cases to highlight the fact that crimes of violence against journalists usually go unpunished because official investigations are inadequate or non-existent and because governments are apathetic.

RSF calls on the public to support the #FightImpunity campaign by visiting the http://fightimpunity.org website.

The ‘International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists’ was proclaimed by the 193-member U.N. General Assembly to highlight the urgent need to protect journalists, and to commemorate the assassination of two French journalists in Mali on Nov. 2, 2013.

Meanwhile, CPJ said the ambush of a convoy in South Sudan and the hacking deaths of bloggers in Bangladesh propelled the two nations onto the CPJ’s Global Impunity Index of countries where journalists are murdered and their killers go unpunished.

According to the report released last month, “Getting Away With Murder,” the worst offender is Somalia, which edges Iraq out of that spot for the first time since CPJ began compiling the index in 2008.

One or more journalists have been murdered in Somalia every year over the past decade, and the government has proved unable or unwilling to investigate.

In Iraq, CPJ said, targeted killings have ebbed since the Iraq War. More recently, Islamic State (IS) has abducted and killed at least two journalists, but violence and fierce control of information have made it impossible for CPJ to accurately document additional cases.

Only Colombia has shown enough convictions in journalist murders and decrease in violence to exit the list since 2014.

“Despite calls by the United Nations for states to take greater steps to protect journalists in situations of armed conflict and to ensure accountability for crimes against the press, little progress has been made in combatting impunity worldwide,” said Elisabeth Witchel, author of the report and CPJ’s consultant on the Global Campaign Against Impunity.

“More than half of the countries on the index are democracies with functioning law enforcement and judicial institutions, but killers still go free. The international community must continue to put pressure on these governments to live up to their commitments.”

“The cases of impunity that we are presenting are terrible symbols of passivity or deliberate inaction on the part of certain governments,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

Last month, RSF referred the cases of missing journalists to the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

In a letter sent to the chairs of these two working groups, Ariel Dulitzky and Seong-Phil Hong, Deloire has asked them to open or re-open investigations into these cases and to initiate the relevant procedures with countries breaking international law in this area.

The list includes: María Esther Aguilar Cansimbe (Mexico), missing since 2009; Borja Lázaro (Colombia), missing since 2014; Prageeth Ekneligoda (Sri Lanka), missing since 2010; Ahmed Rilwan (Maldives), missing since 2014; Pirouz Davani (Iran), missing since 1998; Sofiane Chourabi and Nadhir Ktari (Libya), missing since September 8 2014; Nazım Babaoğlu (Turkey), missing since 1994; “Chief” Ebrima Manneh (Gambia), missing since 2006; Eleven journalists (Eritrea), missing since 2001.

The others named were five journalists working for Libya’s Barqa TV – an Egyptian cameraman (Mohamed Galal) and four Libyans (Khaled Al-Subhi, Younès Al-Mabrouk, Abdussalam Al-Maghrebi and Youssef Al-Qamoudi). At least nine journalists from Iraq have been missing since 2014.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

 
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