IFJ World Congress Backs Media Victims Support Committee

The International Federation of Journalists called for the launch of a committee of media victims during the special session of the IFJ World Congress in Moscow. The committee, made up of family members of journalists killed for their work, would lobby vigorously for justice in the increasing number of cases of impunity involving targeted media staff.

“Behind every tragedy there is a human cost that is all too easily forgotten,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “This group will provide support to those most directly affected by the tragic deaths of journalists and it will help people seek and achieve justice where it is denied.”

Myroslava Gongadze, who is still seeking justice for the murder of her husband the Ukrainian investigative journalist, Georgy Gongadze, called on all those who have lost their loved ones to be brave and determined in their fight for justice. “They are the only ones who really care to find the truth. It is not possible to resolve the crime without their struggle and determination,” said Gongadze.

Dima Tahboub who has been fighting for justice for four years since she lost her husband, Tareq Ayyoub, when the Al Jazeera offices in Baghdad were destroyed by US aircraft in April 2003 also expressed support for the initiative. In a video statement made for the congress she went on to quote Archbishop Desmond Tutu “If you are neutral in times of injustice then you have sided with the oppressor.”

In addition to providing support to each other the commission would advise journalism support groups on the needs of families of victims, campaign for justice in individual cases and lobby governments to take action against impunity.

“It is hard to fight the system when you are alone. Much better to know someone who went through the same hell,” added Myroslava Gongadze.

Giuliana Sgrena, spoke earlier in the day on the campaign to try the US military personnel who had shot her and killed the Italian serviceman on the road to Baghdad airport. She accused the US military of attempting to make Iraq a no go area for journalists. “We have to be honest as journalists to our public and say that embedded journalism and hotel journalism is not honest journalism. Journalists need to travel freely to report the truth and the US military do not want that.”

Jose Jr Torres, President of the National Union of Journalists of Philippines accused the police, government and president of negligence in their investigations of journalists’ murders. 52 journalists have been killed in the Philippines since 2001 and the official statistics claim an 82% solution rate for media victims. “In reality, however, this means only that the police have identified a suspect, it does not even mean that anyone has been arrested, let alone successfully prosecuted,” he said.

Naim Tobassi, President of the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate, said they were doing their best to help secure the release of Alan Johntson, the BBC journalists kidnapped in Gaza on March 12. The conference by acclamation, called for Johntson’s immediate release.

The IFJ represents more than 500.000 journalists around the world.
For interviews please call Rachel Cohen on 89 16 58 22 599 or Aidan White +32 478 258 669