The International Federation of Journalists today called for industry-wide action to counter the rising toll of media staff killed in the exercise of their work. The IFJ's report into journalists and media workers killed during 2001 records exactly 100 confirmed killings and deaths under investigation - the highest for six years. Many of the victims died in war zones, others have been targeted by brutal assassins, others have been in the wrong place at the wrong time when a story is breaking.
"The roll of media casualties provides a tragic reminder of the price we pay for press freedom and democracy," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "It is time for media companies to work together on new initiatives to reduce the risks facing their staff. We need more training, better equipment and provision of insurance for all, including freelance journalists."
The IFJ says that large media groups - such as CNN, the BBC and Reuters and Associated Press - have shown leadership by defining a code of practice to improve safety for journalists. "But this is only the start. We need an industry-wide response that gives all players - small media and freelance workers included - access to the benefits of risk-awareness training," said White.
This year journalists have been living in "the shadow of terrorism and war" says the IFJ. Eight journalists have been killed in Afghanistan while another seven media staff were among the 4,000 victims who perished in New York on September 11.
The IFJ says that journalism in every region of the world has been touched by the worsening problems of safety. The report covers killings in 38 countries.
The IFJ has highlighted the cases of journalists assassinated by political gangsters or terrorists including Martin O'Hagan, an investigative reporter for the Dublin-based Sunday World, who was gunned down in September becoming the first journalist to be killed by terrorists after 30 years of violence in Northern Ireland. Another targeted victim was Mario Coelho, a campaigning Editor who had exposed corruption among local politicians in Mage, Brazil, and who was shot dead by a contract killer a day before he was due to testify in a criminal defamation suit.
Some journalists were killed in tragic air accidents, but the eight who died over a 14-day period in Afghanistan provide a range of example of how journalists are always at risk in a fast-moving and uncontrolled conflict, says the IFJ. Three journalists also died in Palestine.
"The shocking and brutal killings of colleagues in Afghanistan and Palestine bring it home to all of us that we need to do more to minimise risks," said White. "The onus is now on media companies themselves to work together to put safety and security of news staff to the top of the news agenda.
The IFJ report includes journalists and all who work with them. We do not discriminate between members of the news team when it comes to casualties. Journalists lead the way, but their work so often depends upon the support of translators, drivers, technical staff and others. They must be counted too.