Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December 20, 2011, 5:30 PM
Information’s Deadly Price: A Dangerous Year for Journalists

Rizwan Tabassum/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The funeral for the investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad in Karachi, Pakistan, on June 1. Seven journalists were killed in Pakistan, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
This is the time of year when you will read a lot of roundups of media news, but one thing that usually doesn’t make those lists is the high price of getting some of the toughest stories.

The Committee to Protect Journalists on Tuesday issued its annual report on journalists killed in the line of duty and the numbers were grim.

At least 43 journalists were killed around the world in direct relation to their work in 2011, with the seven deaths in Pakistan marking the heaviest losses in a single nation. Libya and Iraq, each with five fatalities, and Mexico, with three deaths, also ranked high worldwide for journalism-related fatalities. The global tally is consistent with the toll recorded in 2010, when 44 journalists died in connection with their work. C.P.J. is investigating another 35 deaths in 2011 to determine whether they were work-related.
The committee said that while murders where journalists were the specific targets, like those that have taken place in Russia, decreased in 2011, the number of deaths that have occurred during violent street protests like the ones in Egypt has gone up considerably. During a time of significant international foment, the streets are a dangerous place for everyone, but a press badge is just as often a mark on a target as a sign of the reporter’s status as an observer.

And covering a shooting war will always be dangerous, especially for those who carry a camera.

Eight journalists died in combat situations in 2011, most of them during the Libyan revolution. The victims included the internationally acclaimed photojournalists Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington, who were killed by a mortar round in the western city of Misurata, and Ali Hassan al-Jaber, a cameraman for Al-Jazeera who was shot outside Benghazi by forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi. The Libyan conflict was “one of the truly televised revolutions,” said James Foley, an American video journalist for Global Post who was detained there in April. “Everyone was using a camera — and a camera is much more recognizable.”
The information and images gathered by these women and men will live on, but this past year, the world lost far too many of a rare breed: those who go toward conflict to bring back truth.

The Lens photography blog produced tributes to Mr. Hondros and Mr. Hethertington in April.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

For journalists, coverage of political unrest proves deadly

Special Reports

For journalists, coverage of political unrest proves deadly

Journalists die at high rates while covering protests in the Arab world and elsewhere. Photographers and freelancers appear vulnerable. Pakistan is again the deadliest nation. A CPJ special report

In Egypt, protesters demanding democratic change gather in Tahrir Square. (AFP)
In Egypt, protesters demanding democratic change gather in Tahrir Square. (AFP)

Published December 20, 2011

Pakistan remained the deadliest country for the press for a second year, while across the world coverage of political unrest proved unusually dangerous in 2011, the Committee to Protect Journalists found in its year-end survey of journalist fatalities. CPJ’s analysis found notable shifts from historical data: Targeted murders declined while deaths during dangerous assignments such as the coverage of street protests reached their highest level on record. Photographers and camera operators, often the most vulnerable during violent unrest, died at rates more than twice the historical average.

At least 43 journalists were killed around the world in direct relation to their work in 2011, with the seven deaths in Pakistan marking the heaviest losses in a single nation.Libya and Iraq, each with five fatalities, and Mexico, with three deaths, also ranked high worldwide for journalism-related fatalities. The global tally is consistent with the toll recorded in 2010, when 44 journalists died in connection with their work. CPJ is investigating another 35 deaths in 2011 to determine whether they were work-related.

Database of journalists
killed in 2011

CPJ Blog:
Inside the numbers

Download the pdf
Video: Fighting impunity
Slideshow: Chris Hondros

CPJ’s survey identified significant changes in the nature of journalist fatalities. Sixteen journalists died while on dangerous assignments, many of them while covering the chaotic and violent confrontations between authorities and protesters during the uprisings that swept the Arab world. The victims included Hassan al-Wadhaf, a Yemeni cameraman shot by a sniper while covering antigovernment protests in Sana'a, and Ahmad Mohamed Mahmoud, an Egyptian reporter gunned down while filming a protest in Cairo. “Journalists working in this environment are in no less danger than war correspondents covering an armed conflict,” said Ahmed Tarek, a reporter for the Middle East News Agency who was assaulted by police while covering protests in Alexandria, Egypt. “The greatest danger journalists are facing today in post-revolution Arab countries is the targeting of journalists by political forces hostile to anyone who exposes them.”

The 19 murders recorded in 2011 were the lowest total since 2002. Targeted murders—which historically account for nearly three-quarters of journalist deaths—constituted less than half of the 2011 toll. But murders were reported in both Russia and the Philippines, two countries long plagued by deadly, anti-press violence. In the southern Russian republic of Dagestan, an assassin waited outside the offices of the critical independent newspaper Chernovik and gunned down its founder, Gadzhimurad Kamalov. In the Philippines, CPJ documented the work-related murders of two radio commentators. One of them, Romeo Olea, was shot in the back while riding his motorcycle to work. CPJ is waging a Global Campaign Against Impunity that focuses particularly on these two countries.

Photojournalist Tim Hetherington was killed by a mortar round in Libya this year. (Reuters)
Photojournalist Tim Hetherington was killed by a mortar round in Libya this year. (Reuters)

Eight journalists died in combat situations in 2011, most of them during the Libyan revolution. The victims included the internationally acclaimed photojournalists Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington, who were killed by a mortar round in the western city of Misurata, and Ali Hassan al-Jaber, a cameraman for Al-Jazeera who was shot outside Benghazi by forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi. The Libyan conflict was “one of the truly televised revolutions,” said James Foley, an American video journalist for Global Post who was detained there in April. “Everyone was using a camera—and a camera is much more recognizable.”

Photojournalists suffered particularly heavy losses in 2011. Photographers and camera operators constituted about 40 percent of the overall death toll, about double the proportion CPJ has documented since it began keeping detailed fatality records in 1992. Among those killed was Lucas Mebrouk Dolega, a photographer for European Pressphoto Agency who was struck by a tear gas canister fired by security forces trying to quell a massive January protest that led to the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Eight online journalists were killed for their work during the year. Among the victims was Mexican reporter Maria Elizabeth Macías Castro, whose decapitated body was found near the city of Nuevo Laredo, along with a note saying she had been killed for reporting news on social media websites. Her murder was the first documented by CPJ worldwide that came in direct relation to journalism published on social media. The online death toll also includes Mohammed al-Nabbous, founder of the website Libya Al-Hurra TV, who was killed while covering a battle in Benghazi. Al-Nabbous had been streaming live audio from the scene of the battle when his feed was suddenly interrupted by gunfire.

Internet journalists rarely appeared on CPJ’s death toll before 2008. But since that time, as online journalists constitute an ever-greater proportion of the front-line reporting corps, the number of victims who worked online has increased steadily.

CPJ’s analysis also found a high proportion of freelancers among the 2011 victims. Nearly one-third of the toll was composed of freelance journalists, more than twice the proportion that freelancers have constituted over time. Azerbaijani freelance reporterRafiq Tagi died in November after being stabbed on a Baku street. He had been threatened over his critical coverage of both Islamist politics and government policies.

Journalists protest the murder of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad. (AP)
Journalists protest the murder of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad. (AP)

Anti-press violence continued at high levels in Pakistan, where 29 journalists have died in direct relation to their work in the past five years. The 2011 victims included Saleem Shahzad, a reporter for Asia Times Online, who was murdered after exposing links between Al-Qaeda and Pakistan's navy. Five of the seven fatalities in Pakistan were targeted murders, and all are unsolved. Long-term CPJ research shows Pakistan to be among the worst countries in the world in bringing the killers of journalists to justice. “The solution is simple and very difficult at the same time,” said Pakistani reporter Umar Cheema, who was himself abducted and brutally assaulted in 2010. “The government should be taking it seriously and realize it is their duty to protect journalists. If a journalist is threatened, the culprit should be brought to justice. Even if in one case the culprits were brought to justice, that would be a clear message that the crime will not go unpunished.”

The death toll in Libya, while high, was unsurprising given the armed revolt and overall level of violence. That Iraq, with five deaths, matched Libya’s fatality rate illustrates the entrenched level of violence in that country. After record death tolls in the middle part of the last decade, fatalities in Iraq began dropping in 2008. But deaths have levelled out in recent years as journalists continue to die in both targeted murders and insurgent attacks such as the March assault on a provincial government building in Tikrit that took the lives of reporters Sabah al-Bazi and Muammar Khadir Abdelwahad.

In Mexico, CPJ documented three deaths in direct relation to journalism and is investigating the killings of four other journalists. Mexican authorities appear paralyzed in their efforts to combat pervasive anti-press violence; Congress continued to debate legislation in late year that would federalize crimes against free expression, taking the cases out of the hands of local officials who have been corrupted and cowed by criminal gangs. Mexican journalists continue to face a dark choice: Censor their own work or be at risk. Noel López Olguín, whose newspaper column “With a Lead Pen” took on drug trafficking and official corruption, was found in a clandestine grave in Veracruz state in May, two months after gunmen had abducted him.

Afghanistan and Somalia, two conflict-ridden countries with persistent levels of anti-press violence, each recorded fatalities in 2011. CPJ documented the deaths of one journalist and one media worker in Somalia, along with the killings of two journalists in Afghanistan.

The deaths, though a continent apart, bore similarities that illustrate the extreme danger of covering conflict. In Somalia, African Union troops fired on a humanitarian aid convoy, killing Malaysian cameraman Noramfaizul Mohd. The AU called the shooting accidental but released no details. In Afghanistan, a U.S. soldier shot Ahmad Omaid Khpalwak, a correspondent for Pajhwok Afghan News and the BBC, during an insurgent attack in Tarin Kot. The International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan concluded that the soldier mistook Khpalwak’s press card for a bomb trigger.

Two journalists died in Bahraini government custody. Karim Fakhrawi, a founder of the independent newspaper Al-Wasat, and Zakariya Rashid Hassan al-Ashiri, editor of a local news website in the village of Al-Dair, died within a week of each other in April. Although the government claimed the two died of natural causes, there are widespread allegations that abusive treatment led to their deaths. Al-Wasat co-founder Mansoor al-Jamri said the death of Fakhrawi was a message from the government to its critics: “This could happen to you, and no one will protect you, and no one can do anything for you.”

Here are other trends and details that emerged in CPJ’s analysis:

  • The heaviest losses occurred in nations across the Middle East and North Africa, where CPJ documented 18 work-related fatalities in all. Thirteen work-related deaths were documented in Asia, seven in the Americas, three in Africa, and two in Europe and Central Asia.
  • In two countries, Tunisia and Syria, CPJ recorded the first work-related deaths since it began compiling detailed data two decades ago. In Syria, freelance cameraman Ferzat Jarban was tortured and slain in Homs province after he had covered antigovernment demonstrations. “The work of a reporter in Syria before and after the protests is much like working in a minefield,” said Karim al-Afnan, a freelance journalist who was forced into exile in 2011. “The state views a journalist as a rival and their battle with journalists is one for survival.”
  • Five media support workers were killed worldwide. They include the Ivorian Marcel Legré, a printing press employee who was killed by supporters of Alassane Ouattara who at the time was locked in a presidential election dispute with incumbent Laurent Gbagbo. Legré’s newspaper was seen as pro-Gbagbo.
  • At least two journalists were reported missing during the year, both in Mexico. At least 11 journalists have been reported missing in Mexico over the past decade, by far the highest number worldwide. All are feared dead.
  • Among murder victims, more than 70 percent had reported receiving threats in the weeks before they died. Long-term CPJ research shows that physical attacks are often preceded by phone or electronic threats.
  • Other places with confirmed, work-related fatalities were Brazil, Nigeria, Thailand,Peru, Dominican Republic, and Vietnam.
  • Of the 35 deaths in which CPJ has yet to confirm a work-related motive, a large number, 20, are in the Americas. In much of the Americas, the web of crime and official corruption, combined with a lack of effective law enforcement, makes the determination of a motive exceedingly difficult.

CPJ began compiling detailed records on all journalist deaths in 1992. CPJ staff members independently investigate and verify the circumstances behind each death. CPJ considers a case work-related only when its staff is reasonably certain that a journalist was killed in direct reprisal for his or her work; in crossfire; or while carrying out a dangerous assignment.

If the motives in a killing are unclear, but it is possible that a journalist died in relation to his or her work, CPJ classifies the case as “unconfirmed” and continues to investigate. CPJ’s list does not include journalists who died from illness or were killed in accidents—such as car or plane crashes—unless the crash was caused by hostile action. Other press organizations using different criteria cite higher numbers of deaths than CPJ.

CPJ’s database of journalists killed for their work in 2011 includes capsule reports on each victim and a statistical analysis. CPJ also maintains a database of all journalists killed since 1992. A final list of journalists killed in 2011 will be released in early January.

This report was compiled by CPJ staff with additional reporting by Kristin Jones and Dahlia El-Zein.

Journalists killed: Inside the numbers

Journalists killed: Inside the numbers

CPJ today released its annual tally of the journalists killed around the world. This is always a somber occasion for us as we chronicle the grim toll, remember friends who have been lost, and recommit ourselves to justice. It's also a time when we are asked questions about our research and why our numbers are different - invariably lower - than other organizations.

CPJ's mission - grounded in international law - is to fight for the rights of all journalists to report the news freely, without fear of reprisal. Our list of journalists killed is a key advocacy tool in this struggle. We routinely use it to confront governments with their own record of indifference or ineptitude, as we've done recently in Pakistan, Mexico, and Russia.

For this reason, we are meticulous in making a determination that every journalist included on our list was killed because of his or her work. To be sure, this is a judgment, but it is a highly informed one, based on detailed investigations carried out by our staff in New York and our correspondents around the world. In the interest of transparency, we provide detailed case capsules on each journalist killed, describing the circumstances and ascribing the motive.

We also keep a second tally, our "unconfirmed list." These are cases in which, after careful research, we are unable to determine the precise motive for the killing but cannot rule out that it is work-related. These cases remain under active investigation. On occasion, when new information becomes available, we reclassify them.

This year we have an unusually high number of unconfirmed cases, primarily because of the very murky situation in several Latin American countries, where the combination of crime, corruption, and utter lack of official investigation makes it extremely difficult to determine the motive. We continue to call for justice and pressure governments to investigate all of these cases.

Our list differs from other organizations primarily because of this methodology. Our colleagues at Reporters Without Borders, for example, maintain one list of journalists killed. The International Federation of Journalists and International News Safety Institute also include on their list journalists who are killed in car or plane accidents or contract illnesses while on assignment. This is perfectly consistent with their mission, which is not only to advocate for justice but also to improve safety standards within the industry.

Within the press freedom community, we recognize that different groups carrying out independent research and using different methodologies will arrive at different numbers. We also agree on our shared goal -- to highlight the price that journalists pay to bring us the news and to advocate for justice when journalists are harmed because of their work

Monday, December 19, 2011

106 journalists killed in 2011

GENEVA, Dec 19 – At least 106 journalists were killed in 2011, among them 20 who reported on the Arab spring uprisings, a campaign group said on Monday.

More than 100 others were were attacked, intimidated, arrested and wounded in countries including Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen, the Geneva-based Press Emblem Campaign said.

Mexico and Pakistan were the most dangerous countries to work in however.

The PEC said 12 journalists died in Mexico, likely victims of the ongoing conflict between the military and drug cartels in the north of the country.

“The casualties could be higher if figures were known for journalists who were victims of enforced disappearances,” the group said in a statement.

Pakistan came second with 11 journalists killed, the majority of whom died on the border with Afghanistan, followed by Iraq, Libya and the Philippines.

Seven journalists were killed in the conflict which saw the toppling of strongman Colonel Moamer Kadhafi earlier this year.

Two thirds of the journalists killed were intentionally targeted, the PEC said, particularly in Latin America where the body said press freedom was threatened.

Others were accidentally killed during demonstrations, in fights, in suicide bombings or in mine explosions.

“There are half a dozen cases worldwide where the causes leading to the death of journalists are still unclear,” said secretary General Blaise Lempen.

The toll was down one on 2010 when 105 journalists were killed.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

SAFMA views Balochistan journalists standing in Cross Fire

SAFMA views Balochistan journalists standing in Cross Fire

QUETTA, Dec 16 (APP): The leadership of South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) Pakistan has viewed that journalists in Balochistan were standing in cross fire situation.This was said in a conference “Attacks on Journalists and Media Freedom” organized by South Asian Media Commission (SAMC) Pakistan and SAFMA at Quetta Press Club on Friday.Speaking on the occasion, Imtiaz Aalam, the Central General Secretary of SAFMA said that situation in Balochistan is very serious for journalist community as 20 media persons had been killed in incidents of target killing, firing or bomb blasts during performing their duties while many others have been facing threats from extremists.

He said it was duty of the government to provide security and protection to citizens adding that, however, journalists in Balochistan had complaints against some law enforcement agencies. He said that many areas in Balochistan had become “No Go Areas” even journalists of the areas were forced to leave them.
He urged the Balochistan government to make allocations in its annual budget for capacity building of press clubs. He underlined the need to set up a cell to deal with threats being hurled to media persons in Balochistan.
He viewed it was need of the hour to initiate serious dialogues with Baloch and Pashtoon leadership to resolve Balochistan issue.
Speaker Balochistan Assembly Muhammad Aslam Bhootani who was invited said that no country could get goals of progress and prosperity where media was not free.
He said that smooth flourishing of democracy linked with freedom of media. He regretted that a lot of reporter had sacrificed their lives during coverage of different incidents. He observed that media played vital role in reinstatement of deposed judiciary, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
He said that journalists had been facing pressure from both government institutions and militants. He assured that he would take up the issue with Balochistan Finance Minister to release funds for the capacity building of press clubs.
He, however, viewed that some private TV channels mistakenly damage their own credibility when they air news without confirmation which later proved untrue. He emphasized the need that like other institutions, self- accountability were also needed for media institutions.
Vice President SAFMA Balochistan chapter Shehzada Zulfiqar said that about 98 journalists had been killed across the world in incidents of target killing, bomb explosions and cross fire, adding that out of them 76 belonged to Pakistan including 20 from Balochistan province. He said that media persons of Balochistan were facing threats and they were working in life risk environment.

Tant: Journalist's death takes away piece of history

Tant: Journalist's death takes away piece of history

Newspapers have been called the first rough draft of history. A newspaperman who saw history as it happened died last month at his home in Vermont. Tom Wicker will be forever a part of American history as the reporter who was on the scene in Dallas when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in that Texas city on Nov. 22, 1963. Wicker’s hastily cobbled report of the crime was the lead story in the next morning’s edition of The New York Times.

Following in a press bus behind Kennedy’s limousine, Wicker was there when, as he later wrote, “The shots ringing out in Dealey Plaza marked the beginning of the end of innocence.”

An old-school scribe in the days before cellphones and personal computers, Wicker ran to a phone booth and dictated his story from notes he had scrawled on a White House schedule sheet. What was to have been just another presidential campaign trip before the 1964 election instead turned into a tragedy that catapulted the 37-year-old reporter into the top rungs of American journalism.

Wicker’s account of the assassination crackles with the confusion and mystery of the moment that has been seared into the minds of millions across America and around the globe. As the only New York Times reporter covering what was to have been a routine political trip by the president, Wicker was thrust into the unique position of writing history as it happened for readers of America’s newspaper of record.

Datelined “Dallas,” Wicker’s historic news story began with the bare-boned sentence, “President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot and killed by an assassin today.” Those 12 matter-of-fact words were followed by Wicker’s lengthy story that covered much of the front page and all of the second page of his paper, the Times. Wicker quoted a Dallas TV newsman who said he saw “a rifle extended and then withdrawn from a window” of the Texas School Book Depository at the scene of the shooting.

Writing for his readers at the time and for history ever after, Wicker described a distraught first lady Jackie Kennedy with her dress spattered with the president’s blood. He quoted doctors, priests, policemen, politicians and ordinary citizens who were witnesses to the assassination and its aftermath.

Ending his story with the observation that in the Dallas of 1963, “right-wing conservatism is the rule rather than the exception,” Wicker quoted from an advance copy of the speech that Kennedy was to have given in the city. In words that still ring true today, Kennedy was to have blasted politicians who believed “that vituperation is as good as victory and that peace is a sign of weakness.”

In 1971, Wicker was again on hand for history as it happened. Reporting from the Attica prison in upstate New York, Wicker covered the revolt of prisoners there and the massacre of convicts and their prison guard hostages by authorities who quelled the rebellion with gas and gunfire. Wicker had the courage and commitment to go inside the prison as an observer and negotiator during the takeover by inmates. He wrote about the experience in his 1975 book, “A Time to Die.”

A native of North Carolina, Wicker was a Southern liberal journalist in the mold of Atlanta’s crusading editor and writer Ralph McGill. In a career that spanned more than half a century, Wicker skewered presidents, press pundits and politicians of both the Democratic and Republican parties. Wicker was a powerful and prolific journalistic voice who warned readers and news executives, “What the press in America needs is less inhibition, not more restraint.”

• Ed Tant has been an Athens columnist since 1974. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Progressive and other publications. For more, see his website,