Justice Denied and Media Killings That Haunt the Democratic World

© IFJ - International Press Freedom Groups Protest over Impunity in the Killing of Media Staff in February in Brussels

International Press Freedom Groups Protest over Impunity in the Killing of Media Staff in February in Brussels

The International Federation of Journalists today called on the United Nations and the United States government in particular to lead a new campaign against impunity in the killing of journalists and media staff. IFJ unions around the world have joined co-ordinated protests to mark April 8th, the international day of protest over impunity and hundreds of cases of murder and assassination of media staff that have gone unpunished.

In particular, IFJ unions are protesting over the continued speculation that there have been targeted killings of journalists in Iraq, where there have been more around 20 media deaths at the hands of US soldiers which have still not been properly explained.

“Three years after the war in Iraq began more than 100 journalists and media staff have lost their lives,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “And in many of these cases we still do not have concrete answers to hard questions about who is responsible and what happened.”

The IFJ and its affiliates have sent letters of protest to national governments and to the United States governments calling on the US to carry out exhaustive investigation into all cases where journalists have been killed at the hands of US troops.

April 8th marks the third anniversary of the United States attack on Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel, which at the time contained scores of reporters and media people reporting on the US invasion. Two journalists were killed and others wounded. On the same morning, a journalist was killed when the Baghdad offices of the Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera was attacked by US fighter planes. The IFJ accuses the US of carrying out “whitewash” reports of media killings and says in some cases there have been no reports at all.

This year the IFJ has also drawn attention to the crisis of impunity elsewhere including the case of Georgy Gongadze in the Ukraine, an investigative reporter who was beheaded by killers who are thought to be linked to the government of former President Leonid Kuchma, in Latin America where, says the IFJ, only a handful of some 300 murders of media staff in recent years have ever been properly investigated, and in the Philippines which, after Iraq, has been the most dangerous country in the world for journalists.

“In all of these cases the ordeal of family, friends and colleagues of media victims continues as they wait for justice from the authorities about how and why their loved ones died,” said White.

The IFJ says that the April 8th has come to symbolise for many the crisis of impunity which sees scores of journalists killed in targeted assassinations each year, but few are the subject of serious investigation and only a handful ever lead to prosecution of those responsible. Last year the IFJ recorded 150 media deaths – 89 of them killed in the exercise of their professional work.

“The IFJ recognises that most targeted journalists are the victims of cruel extremists with whom it is impossible to make a moral compact and we condemn unreservedly those attacks and the people behind the current wave of hostage taking in Iraq which saw the kidnapping of our colleague Jill Carroll of the Christian Science Monitor, and the two Iraqi journalists Rim Zeid and Marwan Khazaal of Sumariya TV. We are pleased that Jill has been freed. Now we will campaign vigorously for the release of colleagues still held and for the isolation, arrest and trial of all those responsible for murder and kidnapping of journalists,” said White.

But at the same time, the IFJ says the international community must defend traditions of liberty and justice by addressing the concerns of journalists around the world.

“We need a prompt and convincing response to the questions raised over every case of impunity in the killing of media staff, “said White. “The United Nations must do more to end targeting of journalists and media and make sure that all governments meet their obligations to protect media staff when they are carrying out legitimate professional activity.”