Media Death Toll Breaks 100 as IFJ Condemns Spate of Killings of Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists warned that 2004 may turn out to be the worst year on record for killings of journalists and media staff as news of the deaths of reporters in the Philippines, Nicaragua and the Ivory Coast shocked the world of journalism.

Three killings of journalists in separate instances on three continents has brought the death toll of media employees in 2004 to more than 100 – already higher than for last year and more than 30 more than 2002.

“2004 is turning out to be one of the most bloody years on record,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “The crisis of news safety has reached an intolerable level and must be addressed urgently.”

In the Philippines, Gene Boyd Lumawag, a photojournalist was shot dead late on Friday while working on a story in the Islamic militant stronghold of Jolo island in the southern Philippines, according to military sources. He was employed by the local news service Mindanews. Lumawag is the 58th journalist to be killed in the Philippines since 1986 and the ninth to be killed this year.

According to reports he was attacked by an unidentified lone gunman. The attacker escaped. Colleagues said Lumawag was working on an unspecified news assignment in Jolo with another Mindanao journalist, who was unhurt in the attack.

On November 9, a journalist was shot and killed in a fight between rival political factions during vote counting in municipal elections in Nicaragua. Maria Jose Bravo, 26, a correspondent for La Prensa daily, was shot in the chest at a vote count centre in the north-eastern city of Juigalpa. The shooting took place during a fight between members of President Enrique Bolanos' Alliance for the Republic party and the Constitutionalist Liberal Party of former president Arnoldo Aleman.

In the Ivory Coast a local correspondent for Le Courrier d'Abidjan, a daily supporting President Laurent Gbagbo, was killed on November 7 during clashes between the Ivorian army, demonstrators and French peacekeepers. The reporter, Antoine Massé, who also worked as a teacher, was shot as he was covering a demonstration aimed at blocking the eastward advance of the French troops towards Abidjan.

The IFJ has called for a full investigation into the incident. “We need to have frank answers to hard questions about why this incident occurred,” said White.

The IFJ said that journalists around the world, already shocked by the rising death toll in the Iraq conflict, have seen journalists among the victims in conflicts across the globe. These latest killings bring the total number of journalists and media staff killed this year to 101. This brings the number killed in Iraq since the invasion in March last year to 62.

“All of these deaths are shocking reminders of the price journalists and media staff pay every day for press freedom and democracy,” said White. “We must renew our efforts to end this cycle of violence.”

The rising death toll of journalists and media staff – the IFJ includes in its list all journalists, immediate support staff and media employees – will figure high on the agenda at the annual meeting of the International News Safety Institute, a newly-created industry safety body which holds its annual meeting in Portugal next week.

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