Corruption, incompetence and lack of political worsen crisis of killed journalists

May. 28, 2007

MOSCOW — The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), today, launched its global campaign against impunity in the killing of journalists and media staff at a special session of the IFJs World Congress in Moscow, attended by more than 500 representatives of the worlds journalists community.

Vsevelod Bogdanov, President of the Russian Union of Journalists, welcoming delegates paid tribute to the 215 Russian journalists that have been killed since 1990. He called on the Russian government to end the crisis of impunity facing Russian media.

More than 1000 journalists have been killed in the past ten years around the world. Of those 1000 journalists only 27 cases have resulted in the successful prosecution of the murderers, according to the report Killing the Messenger issued by the International News Safety Institute (INSI) in March 2007.

These deaths are more than just statistics, they are our friends and colleagues who have dedicated their lives to and paid the ultimate price for this great career of journalism, said Christopher Warren, IFJ President. But the IFJ is not only here to pay respect to fallen colleagues. It is here to lead the fight for justice.

Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, chairing the conference said the failure to identify and prosecute the killers of journalists is partly caused by corruption and incompetence. The most important cause, however, is the lack of political will shown by governments to protect journalists and freedom of speech.

Miklos Haraszti, Representative of Media Freedom for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) identified government indifference and the link between murdered journalists and the criminalisation of journalism as key causes for the deaths in his key note address.

There is only one thing worse than intimidation, violence and murdering of journalists, said Haraszti, and that is government tolerance of intimidation, violence and murdering of journalists. Haraszti said that violence against journalists and the laws drawn up against them publishing are intricately linked. Hrant Dink, Anna Politkovskaya and Ali Husenov had all been subject to criminal prosecution prior to their subsequent murders.

Haraszti called for the establishment of a dedicated international body for investigating murdered journalists. He called on governments to leave journalism to journalists and to decriminalise the profession by removing all libel, insult and defamation cases from the criminal code and directing these cases to the civil courts. He also called for the criminalisation of public calls for attacks against journalists.

Aidan White announced that following the brutal murder of Anna Politkovskaya in October 2006 an unprecedented coalition of journalists unions, press freedom NGOs and professional groups had been formed to create an international commission of inquiry into the deaths of journalists in Russia. The commission will investigate the causes behind failed investigations and make recommendations for action.

We should send a message of indignation and intolerance of violence in all its forms, added White. Here in Russia the community of journalists has reached a stage where they are ready to say that enough is enough.

The IFJ represents more than 500.000 journalists around the world.
For interviews please call Rachel Cohen on +7 89 16 58 22 599 or Aidan White +32 478 258 669

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