Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pakistan Was Deadliest for Reporters Last Year – NYT

Pakistan Was Deadliest for Reporters Last Year – NYT

Pakistan Was Deadliest for Reporters Last Year


Of the 44 journalists who were killed worldwide while working in 2010, 8 died in Pakistan, making it for the first time the deadliest country for reporters, according to a study released Tuesday by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In 2009, four were killed covering events in Pakistan.

For years, the conflict in Iraq made that country the most dangerous for correspondents. But as that war has wound down and news organizations have shifted personnel to other global hot spots, the number of deaths there has decreased — to 5 last year, down from more than 30 a year in 2006 and 2007.

At the same time, political turmoil and terrorism have focused attention on Pakistan, especially around its restive northwestern frontier with Afghanistan, where the Pakistani Army has pressed its fight against Al Qaeda and Taliban insurgents.

Many fewer journalists lost their lives on the job last year than in 2009, when 32 journalists and media workers in the Philippines were massacred along with 25 supporters and relatives of a gubernatorial candidate before local elections. It was the single deadliest day for reporters since the committee began keeping reliable statistics in 1992.

While intentional killings remained the leading cause of work-related deaths for journalists around the world, deaths from combat cross-fire, street protests and other dangerous assignments accounted for about 40 percent of the reporters killed in 2010, the committee found.

In Pakistan, most of those killed were television reporters caught up in suicide bombs or cross-fire, said Bob Dietz, the committee’s Asia program director. “It’s something we used to see in Beirut, and it exists in other places: a one-two strike, and journalists are in the middle of that,” Mr. Dietz said.

In one case, Ejazul Haq, 42, was reporting live for a local television station when he was killed by stray gunfire as the police and military groups fought gunmen and suicide bombers who were attacking a mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, in May, the committee said.

The committee, an independent group that promotes press freedom, found that Honduras, Mexico and Indonesia were also dangerous places to work in 2010, with three killings each. The committee’s report also tallied the deaths of four media assistants, like interpreters or local guides, who were killed in 2010 while working, and said the deaths of 31 reporters would require further investigation to determine the circumstances.

About 90 percent of journalists killed in the world each year are local journalists covering local stories, said Mr. Dietz, and in the case of murders, the perpetrators are rarely brought to justice. “There’s an incredibly high level of impunity for those crimes,” he said. “That’s anywhere, but especially in Pakistan.”

A growing number of journalists are being kidnapped worldwide, often for use as bargaining chips by local groups that no longer view them as neutral observers, Reporters Without Borders wrote in its own annual report on journalists’ safety. In 2010, 51 reporters were kidnapped, it said, up from around 30 the previous two years.

“It has become difficult for journalists to remain objective in the eyes of insurgent groups,” Tala Dowlatshahi, a senior adviser at Reporters Without Borders, said in an e-mail. “If they represent foreign press, they are often seen as representing the Western or American agenda; if they are local, then they are attacked for trying to expose hidden government/opposition group secrets.”

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