New Killings And Targeting Spark Fury Among Journalists at World Congress

Three killings of journalists and media staff in 24 hours brought renewed anger and demands for international action from journalists’ leaders meeting in Athens today.

The world Congress of the IFJ condemned the killing of two freelance Japanese journalists in a horrifying grenade attack near Baghdad and expressed outrage over the targeted assassination of an editor in Montenegro.

“The world cannot stand by as journalists and media staff are targeted and brutally murdered in the crossfire of a conflict that the world has a right to know about,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “It is time for the international community to stand up for our right to report safely. The United Nations should issue a clear and unambiguous statement demanding that member states respect international rules to protect journalists and media staff.”

Delegates to the Congress, the world’s largest gathering of journalists’ leaders stood for a minutes silence after President Christopher Warren announced the news of the three deaths. “We mourn our colleagues’ deaths and all journalists who have been killed in the last years,” he said.

Two Japanese freelance journalists were killed in Iraq died after a rocket-propelled grenade attack on their vehicle south of Baghdad. Japan’s foreign ministry, said Shinsuke Hashida, a well-known 61-year-old freelance journalist, and his nephew, 33-year-old Kotaro Ogawa died as they were returning from Japan’s military base in the southern town of Samawa when they were attacked near the town of Mahmudiya, about 30 km south of Baghdad.

Three weeks ago a Polish and Algerian journalist were killed in a drive-by shooting on the same road. A CNN crew was attacked in the same area earlier this year, leaving two dead. The deaths bring to 45 the number of journalists and media staff killed since the Iraq war began in March last year.

In a separate incident late last night, Dusko Jovanovic, owner and editor-in-chief of the Podgorica-based Dan daily, was assassinated as he entered his car in front of the paper’s head offices. Jovanovic had published articles critical of the ruling coalition headed by Montenegro’s Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, had received numerous death threats.

Jovanovic was a highly controversial journalist whose newspaper Dan is known to be tied to the Socialist People's Party, which was an ally of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. Also last year, Mr. Jovanovic was charged with contempt of court by the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague after his paper revealed the identity of a witness whose identity was being protected. The U.N. charges were withdrawn after Mr. Jovanovic apologized to the court.

“Our Congress is outraged that this killing comes after the unexplained deaths of two other journalists in the last five years in Serbia and Montenegro,” said White.

In 2001, Milan Pantic was killed and in 1999 Slavko Curuvija, owner of Dnevni Telegraf and Evroplijanin dailies was also murdered. Both crimes have not been properly investigated and no-one has been brought to justice. The IFJ supports the demands of its affiliates in Serbia and Montenegro who are challenging a culture of impunity in the country.

For more information contact Robert Shaw at +32 473 863 660

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries