A story of embattled media: 28 journalists killed in 19 countries

May 21, 2009

At least 28 journalists have been killed while covering the news in 19 countries as we approach the mid-point of 2009. INSI (International News Safety Institute) counts an additional 13 deaths in 10 countries where it is not yet clear whether the victim died as a result of their work as a journalist.
The worst countries are Pakistan (first with 3 deaths and equal first with Russia and Palestine in cases still under investigation), and Somalia, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Libya and Iraq with 2 deaths each.
There has been a welcome drop in casualties in Iraq, due to the general reduction of violence there. Iraq had been the worst killing ground in the world for journalists and support staff every year since 2003.
Reporters are fleeing fighting in Pakistan’s Swat valley. “Journalists love the thrill of working in conflict zones where they can cover events which change the course of history,” says Mazhar Abbas, the former Secretary General of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ).
“Sadly, this no longer holds true for Pakistani journalists required to cover the war in the Swat valley where they face dire security threats. Every other day, there is news of journalists being killed or kidnapped, or threats to their families in the war-torn areas.” His words succinctly sum up the state of war coverage in Pakistan.
Getting the story in Pakistan and Afghanistan, especially for female journalists, can be more like a mission. According to a March report on press freedom in Afghanistan, the number of women training to be journalists there has sharply declined during the seven-year tenure of President Hamid Karzai. The report, issued by Reporters Without
Borders (RSF), says that in the past few years, the percentage of female journalism students in Herat, Afghanistan, has dropped from 70 percent to 30 percent.
INSI and partners have provided free safety training for 50 journalists and camera operators in Pakistan, but much more is needed. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) and INSI jointly have called on Pakistan’s media owners to take immediate and serious action to ensure their staff and freelance personnel are adequately prepared for reporting on civil unrest and conflict zones.
INSI marked World Press Freedom Day with practical action to help embattled news media in Zimbabwe. Eighty Zimbabwean journalists and other news professionals were provided with free safety training in two courses, beginning in Zimbabwe in early April and ending last week in neighbouring Zambia.
As soon as H1N1 flu struck, INSI launched a Swine Flu Outbreak safety update and precautions on our website. This is aimed at providing the news media with a running update during the crisis.
Information comes from news reports, medical experts and practitioners. The latest element advises on how to keep Swing Flu out of the newsroom. Any news organisation or individual with useful information to add should email
INSI Director Rodney Pinder or Deputy Director Sarah de Jong.
Since 2004, INSI has provided basic safety training free of charge to 1,223 news media personnel in Pakistan and 19 other countries including Afghanistan, Somalia, Colombia, Iraq, Russia and Gaza. We are going to Sudan soon and plan to return to Afghanistan and Pakistan when we can muster the resources.
Trainees are all journalists and other members of the news team who otherwise would have received no professional guidance on how to survive the story. Training consists of two-day tailor-made packages designed to meet the needs of local and regional journalists, addressing their specific requirements.
INSI has laid out a programme of action for governments to help stop the killing of journalists. Director Rodney Pinder says too many journalists continue to die trying to provide the world with the news that sustains free societies everywhere. “The time for more words has long since passed.We hear daily the cries for help and we need to respond with effective action,” he told a meeting entitled Dangerous Truth: Safeguarding Journalism and Media Workers at the US Congress.
Journalists cannot wait for international action. Lives are at risk now. INSI is the only organisation in the world completely and solely devoted to helping journalists and support staffs survive the story.
Yet we struggle to respond to the calls for help from friends and colleagues working in daily danger. As a non-profit NGO, INSI must constantly attract money for its life-saving work. Every cent we raise goes on improving our safety service. Journalists and sympathisers –and those concerned with maintaining press freedom everywhere — can contribute to our fight by making a donation or becoming a member. Help save lives!

Courtesy of The New Nation

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