By: William J. Kole, Associated Press Writer
(AP) Governments must do more to bring to justice those who prey on the world’s journalists, the International Press Institute said Friday, expressing alarm over the slayings of 53 journalists so far this year.
Ten journalists were killed in Colombia, eight in Afghanistan, and three each in Palestinian-held areas and in the Philippines, the Vienna-based watchdog organization said. Journalists were killed in 23 other countries, IPI said, noting that this year’s death toll is rapidly approaching last year’s 56 slayings.
IPI director Johann P. Fritz said the recent killings in Afghanistan were prompting more news organizations to pool information on potentially dangerous assignments and adopt common safety guidelines in an effort to reduce the risks.
Governments must be held accountable to make sure intentional slayings are thoroughly investigated and the killers brought to justice, he said.
“There is always the danger of accidental death or of being caught in the cross fire when covering conflict,” Fritz said. “But even well-trained and experienced journalists will continue to die as long as soldiers, paramilitaries, terrorists, bandits and other groups believe they can kill journalists with impunity.”
Central and South America remain the most dangerous regions for journalists to work, the IPI said, citing the deaths of at least 20 reporters or photographers since Jan. 1.
The 10 journalists slain in Colombia were killed by leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitary groups, and drug traffickers. Two journalists were killed in Mexico near the U.S. border, where traffickers continue to pose a serious threat to reporters covering corruption and crime, IPI said.
“Alarmingly, the murder of journalists has become the preferred method of censorship for extremists, organized criminals and corrupt officials who seek to prevent the media from exposing their activities,” Fritz said.
IPI listed two American journalists in its 2001 death toll: William Biggart, a free-lance news photographer killed covering the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York, and Robert Stevens, a photo editor for the Sun tabloid who died Oct. 5 after inhaling anthrax contained in a letter mailed to the newspaper’s Florida offices.
Fifteen journalists were slain in Asia, including the eight killed in Afghanistan and the three murdered in the Philippines; two were killed in Bangladesh and one each in Indonesia and China.
In Europe, 11 journalists have been killed so far this year, including Kerem Lawton, an Associated Press Television News producer killed in Kosovo in March when a shell slammed into his vehicle as he was covering border fighting between ethnic Albanian rebels and Macedonian government forces.
The European victims also include a newspaper executive gunned down in Spain, an investigative reporter shot in Northern Ireland, and a French journalist slain in Corsica.
In the Middle East, four journalists have been killed, three from the Palestinian territories and the other in Kuwait as she sat in her car at a traffic light.
Africa’s death toll, meanwhile, dropped significantly this year to three — down from nine journalist deaths last year and 19 in 1999. Two of the three killed this year were covering a pro-democracy march in Algeria.