2006: a bloody year for journalists
ISLAMABAD: Four international media organizations in separate reports declared the year 2006 as one of the bloodiest years for journalists around the world with Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines the three most dangerous countries for media-persons.According to the reports released by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF), a near record number of journalists were killed last year, says a message posted on the website of Toronto-based International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX).
The IFJ recorded at least 155 murders, assassinations and unexplained deaths in 2006. The conflict in Iraq accounted for 68 of the deaths. Violence in Latin America, particularly in Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela, claimed the lives of 37 media staff, while in Asia, attacks in the Philippines and Sri Lanka pushed the death toll to 34. The IFJ’s statistics include media staff — fixers, drivers, technicians, security staff and translators. The CPJ recorded 55 journalists killed in 2006, two short of its record high of 57 in 2004. It also recorded 27 deaths in which it has not been confirmed whether they were work-related.
The CPJ only counts journalists killed in direct reprisal for their work, in crossfire, or while carrying out a dangerous assignment. Iraq, Afghanistan and the Philippines were the three most dangerous countries for journalists, according to the CPJ. In 2006, 32 journalists died in the line of duty in Iraq, making it the deadliest year for journalists in a single country that the CPJ has ever recorded. The RSF, which like CPJ includes only individuals killed in direct relation to their work, counted 81 journalists slain in 2006, its highest total in 22 years. It also recorded 32 media staff killed. The high number of killings was not the only significant statistic noted by the RSF. It counted more than 1,400 physical attacks or threats against journalists in 2006, a record.
For the first time, the RSF kept statistics on journalists kidnapped around the world. It found that at least 56 were kidnapped in 2006 in a dozen countries. The riskiest places were Iraq, where 17 were seized, and the Gaza Strip, where six were kidnapped. The CJFE counted at least 82 journalists killed last year. However, it also saw signs of hope for press freedom. In Nepal, the media played a crucial role in ensuring the restoration of democracy in May, despite facing great persecution and repression, the group noted. In the Middle East and North Africa, the most censored region in the world, a growing number of free expression organizations and independent news media are challenging government restrictions.
And in Latin America and Asia, governments are taking steps towards abolishing criminal defamation laws, it said. Pakistan was no exception to the trend of an increase in violence against journalists, and according to a report of Intermedia Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation, the total number of recorded incidents of attacks and harassment against journalists in Pakistan had already crossed the 100 mark by the end of November last year. In the last year, four journalists — Munir Ahmed Sangi (Kawish), Hayatullah Khan (BBC), Maqbool Sial (Online) and Mohammad Ismail (PPI) were killed in different incidents in Pakistan.
According to the report, various government agencies, militant groups and political parties were reportedly found involved in these incidents against media. The IFJ in a statement on Dec 15 stated that it was concerned over the reports that the government was about to establish a new body called the Press and Publication Regulatory Authority. “Such a move by the government would be another blow to press freedom in a year which has been the worst for journalists’ rights in Pakistan’s 59 year history,” IFJ chief Christopher Warren said, adding that “the IFJ calls on the government of Pakistan to respond to the reports and come clean about its intentions, which are being closely watched by international observers”.