Human Cost of Conflict Story "Too High" Says IFJ as 2002 Media Death Toll Tops 50

New Killings in Palestine, Colombia and Chechnya
New Appeal for Action on Safety

The killing of three journalists covering conflicts in the world's most dangerous places in the past two weeks has brought the death toll among media staff this year to more than 50, said the International Federation of Journalists today.

"It is another bad and blood-stained year for press freedom," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ, which is calling for urgent action by media employers to support safety programmes to reduce the risks to their staff working in dangerous zones.

"The human cost of covering the conflict story is already too high," said White, "This is one area where the authorities, media organisations and journalists' groups need urgently to work together."

The IFJ, the world's largest journalists' group, has been carrying out urgent safety training work for journalists and media staff in war-torn regions this year and the latest killings give a new sense of urgency to the Federation's campaign for industry-wide actions to confront the safety crisis. All of the deaths took place in the world's current news hot-spots:

Roddy Scott, a freelance film-maker and journalist, was believed killed in the crossfire of fighting between Chechen insurgents and Russian forces in Ingushetia, a region bordering Chechnya. He was an experienced reporter covering conflict zones and worked for Frontline Television News, a British company that provides free-lance TV crews to international broadcasters.

Issam Tilawi, a Palestinian journalist, was killed on September 22 , allegedly shot by an Israeli army sniper. He was a journalist for Voice of Palestine Radio and was killed while covering a demonstration in the centre of Ramallah. Israeli military spokesmen claim he was among Palestinians who were rioting, but witnesses deny this, saying he was clearly wearing a vest marked "Press".

Americo Viafara Valencia, an independent producer for the regional station Telepacifico in Colombia, was shot and killed by gunmen on a motorcycle along with a lawyer as they drove in the southwestern city of Cali. He is the latest victim in a relentless assault on journalism in Colombia which has claimed more than 140 reporters' lives since 1977 according to Colombia's human rights ombudsman.

"These colleagues died in newsworthy, but dangerous places where many have already been killed and where more casualties can be expected unless we do more to reduce the risks," said Aidan White.

The IFJ says governments must respect international laws that provide protection for journalists reporting on conflicts. They must also act to stop targeting of journalists by the military. The IFJ wants media organisations to do more to provide safety training, insurance and equipment to journalists, particularly to freelance journalists who are among the most vulnerable of media staff. At the same time the IFJ says that journalists themselves must be aware of the risks they take and they need to be well informed before travelling in dangerous regions.

The safety issue has already been taken up by a number of high-profile international media companies and the IFJ says it will figure in European-wide talks between broadcasters and media unions in the coming months. "Some action is being taken, but we need to spread the word and bring all media, big and small, into the picture on this issue, "says the IFJ.