CPJ Remembers 36 Journos Killed in ’03

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By: Joe Strupp

The number of journalists killed around the world nearly doubled in 2003, according to the annual survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which indicated more than a third of those who lost their lives did so in coverage of the Iraq war.

CPJ, a non-profit organization that monitors violence against reporters and editors around the globe, released its yearly count during a press conference today at the National Press Club in Washington.

The survey said that 36 journalists were killed doing their jobs in 2003, an increase from the 19 who lost their lives during 2002. Of those who died in 2003, 13 were killed as a result of hostile action in Iraq.

The remaining deaths included five in the Philippines, four in Colombia, two each in Brazil and Israel and its occupied territories, and one each in Russia, India, Indonesia, Iran, Cambodia, Nepal, Somalia, Pakistan, Ivory Coast, and Guatemala.

“The journalists who died in Iraq offered terrible reminders of the great risks faced by war correspondents. But, as in previous years, the majority of the 36 journalists killed in 2003 were murdered far from battlefields,” Ann Cooper, CPJ executive director, stated in a passage from the survey, which is also released as a book chronicling each incident. “Five were killed in the Philippines for their coverage of local corruption or criticism of public officials. Four more died in Colombia, three of them murdered for their reporting. And in Russia, the editor-in-chief of a hard-hitting provincial newspaper was stabbed to death outside his home — the paper’s second editor-in-chief to be murdered for his work in 18 months.”

For the second year in a row, 136 journalists were imprisoned worldwide for their work, the group reported. China was the world’s leading jailer of journalists for the fifth straight year, with 39 behind bars there, followed by Cuba, where a massive crackdown on the independent press led to the arrest and imprisonment of 29 journalists.

Gwen Ifill, a CPJ board member who moderates “Washington Week” and is a senior correspondent for the “Newshour with Jim Lehrer” showed concern for the rising death total. “Sitting here in Washington, covering the world’s conflict from a safe distance, it can be too easy to lose sight of the fact that reporters are putting their lives on the line for every word they write, for every descriptive phrase they utter, and for every story they tell.”

“Attacks on the Press in 2003” documents instances of media repression in 95 countries, including assassination, assault, imprisonment, censorship, and legal harassment.

Copies of the book are available from The Brookings Institution Press. The entire text of the book, which includes elements printed in Spanish, Chinese, and Russian, is available on CPJ’s Web site.

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