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Middle East Claims 40 percent of Journalists Killed in 2013

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 10 2014 (IPS) - The strife-torn Middle East has accounted for around 40 percent of all journalists killed last year, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

“The media crisis in the Middle East is truly without precedent”, said Joel Simon, Executive Director of CPJ, at a U.N. press conference on Wednesday.

The political upheaval in the Middle East has resulted in journalists being kidnapped, jailed or killed by both governments and non-state actors.

As a result, CPJ has called on U.N. member states to take decisive action against these widespread criminal acts and support the first International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on November 2.

Sherif Mansour, CPJ coordinator for the Middle East and Northern Africa, told reporters that in February Egypt was added to the CPJ risk list because of the killing of six journalists.

Currently, Egypt is among the top five countries that jail journalists. The conviction of three Al Jazeera journalists (Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed) “exposed Egypt’s judiciary to global ridicule”, Simon said.

Mansour pointed out that self-censorship by news organisations, and censorship by governments threaten not only freedom of expression
but also force independent and critical voices into silence or exile.

Referring to Iran, CPJ said it is concerned that President Hassan Rouhani is not delivering on his promises to re-open the 4,000-member Association of Iranian Journalists, while dozens of journalists remain imprisoned, often with no charges and no access to their lawyers.

With around 35 journalists in jail each, Iran and China are heading the list.

Maziar Bahari, Iranian journalist and filmmaker, called on the media to challenge Rouhani, when he arrives in New York next week to address the U.N. General Assembly sessions – specifically about his country’s violations against the media.

According to CPJ, Syria is the most dangerous place for journalists, and it has been such since 2011, with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria increasingly posing threats.

“More than 70 journalists have been killed covering the Syrian conflict and about 80 have been kidnapped and 20 journalists are still missing”, Simon said.

Simon said governments should not pay ransom for kidnapped journalists, as ultimately this would make the environment more dangerous and would fund terror operations threatening journalists themselves.

“We have some countries that say they don’t pay ransom but actually do, and others that say they don’t pay ransom, and don’t” — like the US, Canada or the UK.

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