Pakistan, Mexican journalists join memorial wall in Washington
WASHINGTON: Seventy-two journalists from around the world who died covering some of the worst conflicts in 2011 were honoured Monday in Washington as their names were added to a memorial wall.
Among them were seven journalists killed in Pakistan and another seven killed in Iraq – the two countries with the highest death tolls last year.
The annual sombre event at the Newseum, on Washington’s mall, drew about 70 journalists and family members who listened as each name was read, followed by the sounding of a gong.
A moment of silence after all the names were read signalled their final entry into journalism history.
Alejandro Junco, the Mexican journalist who heads Grupo Reforma, was the keynote speaker, talking from his country’s own tragic experiences.
Covering the violence in Mexico cost four journalists their lives in 2011.
“The price of speaking the truth remains unforgivably high,” Junco said.
The Pakistani journalists who were killed last year included Syed Saleem Shahzad, 40, who worked for the Italian news agency ADNKronos and the Asian Times Online; Nasrullah Khan Afridi, 38, of Pakistan Television Corporation; and Wali Khan Babar, 29, of Geo TV.
Shahzad’s story stands out for the brutality of his killing by torture – his rib cage was broken and internal organs crushed – and for his high profile in the Pakistan media.
After Shahzad’s badly mauled body was found floating in a dam system, journalists and human rights activists pointed their fingers at ISI, which denied it had anything to do with Shahzad’s murder.
Shahzad’s name is now among the 2,156 names engraved on the Newseum’s two-storey glass panel that soars in a remote corner of the otherwise busy museum.
After Monday’s ceremony, family and friends laid a helmet and a reporter’s notebook at the base of the wall that had belonged to two American photojournalists killed in Libya – Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington.