IFJ Call for United Nations Probe Over Indonesia Killing As Surge of Media Deaths Adds to 2003 Toll

The International Federation of Journalists today called on United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to support an independent inquiry into the killing of kidnapped Indonesian reporter Ersa Siregar in the war-torn Aceh province of Indonesia.

On 29 December, Siregar, a senior reporter for Jakarta-based RCTI private television network, was allegedly killed during a clash between rebels of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and state troops in the east Aceh district of Sumatra. "His death is shocking after months of painstaking negotiations to secure his release," said IFJ President Christopher Warren in a letter to Kofi Annan today. "We need clear answers as to how and why he died and these can only be delivered after an independent and searching inquiry."

The IFJ and its Indonesian affiliate, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) is also seeking urgent clarification over the whereabouts of Siregar´s RCTI colleague cameraman Fery Santoro. Both men were seized by GAM rebels six months ago and had been the subject of an IFJ campaign for their release.

The IFJ said Siregar´s death was one in a surge of killings at the year’s end making 2003 one of the worst years on record with 91 journalists and media staff killed – 18 of them in Iraq.

On December 23 Costa Rica was shaken by the murder of a journalist allegedly by paid killers. Reporter Ivannia Mora, 32, was shot dead in the town of Curridabat, 10 kms east of the capital, by two individuals on a motorcycle who intercepted her vehicle.

In another tragedy a group of six Nigerian journalists were killed while on assignment prompting official calls for new insurance arrangements for reporters travelling with state governors. The IFJ sent a message of condolence to the National Union of Journalists in Nigeria over the deaths of Doyin Sokoya, Deji Onajobi, Sola Bakare, Semiu Oyetunji, Wole Adebari and Adesina Durosomo who all died in a car crash while on active duty.

"These deaths – whether as a result of conflict, or criminal gangs or simply while covering an everyday assignment - illustrate just how important it is to provide journalists with more protection and insurance cover," said Aidan White IFJ General Secretary. "2003 was already a bad year, now it has taken on even more tragic dimensions."

The IFJ´s appeal for UN action over the Indonesia death adds to calls earlier in the year for an independent process of international investigation over unexplained killings of journalists. The deaths of seven media staff in the Iraq conflict have never been satisfactorily explained and the IFJ has called for changes in international law to give added protection to media staff.

The appeal for UN action has also been sent to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which had been involved in discussions with the Indonesian government and GAM officials to secure the release of Siregar and Santoro and to the Director General of UNESCO, which leads the press freedom work of the UN. "Journalism is the cornerstone of press freedom and we must ensure that there is a proper investigation every time one of our colleagues dies – justice and democracy demand it," said Warren.

This press statement updates the following IFJ Report - Journalists and Media Staff Killed in 2003

Further information: + 32 2 235 22 00
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries