The International Federation of Journalists has marked May 3rd – World Press Freedom Day – with a call for justice, safety and solidarity and, in particular, international action to investigate the unexplained killings of journalists in Iraq.
“The shadow of injustice and question marks over the killing of 11 journalists and media staff in the Iraq conflict hangs over the world of journalism today,” says the IFJ in a statement issued to mark the annual celebrations led by the United Nations cultural agency UNESCO.
“The grotesque term friendly fire cannot hide the reality that media staff have been cut down and no credible, independent investigations have taken place. It is an affront to democracy.”
The IFJ has issued a report – Justice Denied on the Road to Baghdad – about seven killings, most at the hands of American troops during and immediately after the Iraq war. A further four media killings, again by US soldiers, have taken place in recent weeks.
“All of these deaths must be properly and independently investigated,” says the IFJ. “If not, the suspicion of gross negligence or, worse, targeting of media staff will remain.”
Safety and Solidarity as well as Justice are the IFJ’s key themes for World Press Freedom Day 2004. “As well as justice for those who have died, we believe journalists and media companies can do more to reduce the risks they face by supporting the International News Safety Institute,” says the IFJ.
The Institute, launched on World Press Freedom Day last year, is a coalition of journalists’ unions, press freedom groups and employers that is campaigning vigorously for a new culture of safety in journalism. The Institute has carried out safety training in some of the world’s most dangerous hot-spots – including Iraq – and plans to expand its work into all regions of the world.
“Media and journalists groups are waking up to the need for sensible and professional safety policies,” says the IFJ. “The INSI provides unprecedented opportunities to make safer journalism a reality – even in the most dangerous areas.”
Finally, the IFJ says that solidarity among journalists is just as important as campaigns for justice and better safety at work. “Hundreds of journalists and media staff are victims each year, and many of these cases are not taken up because resources are not made available – that’s why the IFJ international safety fund has a key role to play in helping to alleviate the distress of our colleagues who are the victims of violence and injustice.
The IFJ has launched a special call to boost the IFJ Safety Fund, which is cash collected from journalists to help other journalists in need, in advance of next month’s IFJ world congress, which is being held in Athens. “The IFJ Safety Fund is a unique source of support and solidarity. We call on all colleagues to donate to the cause in the certain knowledge that every contribution will go directly to those who need it.”