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Eight Journalists Killed In 2013 Broke All Records In India – RSF

(Pic courtesy The Guardian)


India ranks first among democracies and third in the world, in the number of journalists killed in the line of duty this year. 

According to figures just published by Reporters without Borders (RSF), 71 journalists killed in 2013 overall, which is a slight decrease from the 88 killed in 2012. However, abduction of journalists in 2013 has risen alarmingly: from 38 last year to 87 in 2013.
As these statistics were published, RSF’s Secretary General Christophe Deloire called for an amendment of the statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to define the “deliberate attacks on journalists, media workers and associated personnel” as war crimes. He was speaking on Friday at a special UN Security Council meeting in New York on protecting journalists where RSF presented a series of recommendations on improving legislation to protect journalists better.
Three countries – Syria (10 journalists and 35 citizen journalists), Somalia (7 journalists) and Pakistan (8 journalists) retained places among the top five ‘deadliest countries for journalists’ from last year. India, with eight journalists killed, assumed third position – behind Syria and Somalia and one place ahead of its South Asian neighbour. The Philippines occupies position five, also with eight deaths. Regionally Asia accounts for the highest number of journalists killed.
“The toll of eight journalists killed in connection with their work in 2013 broke all records in India. Criminal gangs, demonstrators and political party supporters were to blame in some cases. But local police and security forces were also guilty of rarely-punished violence and threats against reporters, forcing them to censor themselves,” said RSF.
India and the Philippines replaced Brazil and Mexico, which were among the top five deadliest countries for journalists in 2012. RSF reports however that five journalists were killed in Brazil in 2013 (same as in 2012), while in Mexico two journalists were killed while three were abducted this year.
Among the 87 journalists abducted in 2013, 49 were kidnapped in Syria and 14 in Libya. As of December 18, 22 Syrian news providers and 18 foreign journalists are missing. “Foreign journalists were increasingly targeted by the government and by Islamists groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and Jabhat Al-Nosra, but their Syrian colleagues were the most exposed,” RSF said.
This year ranks more poorly compared 2012 in the number of physical attacks and threats to journalists. “Journalists were systematically targeted by the security forces in Turkey, in connection with the Gezi Park protests, and to a lesser extent in Ukraine in connection with the Independence Square (Maidan) protests,” said RSF. There were also more than 100 cases of violence and harassment of journalists from Mexico, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.
Violence and threat has also forced journalists to flee into exile. Syria leads the numbers with 31 professional and citizen journalists many of whom RSF says “are now in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon or Egypt, destitute and vulnerable.” Syria is followed by Iran (12), Eretria (five) and Somalia.
“Victims of xenophobia and accused of being Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt, interrogated and threatened by the security services in Jordan, and threatened by pro-Assad militias in Lebanon, their situation often continues to be extremely precarious,” says RSF describing the life of exiled journalists.
In view of their situation Deloire speaking at the UN proposed, “[t]here is still no appropriate mechanism for protecting news providers and human rights defenders who are forced to flee their country. [RSF], which supports hundreds of exile journalists every year, is therefore urging the UN and member states to promote procedures for protecting and resettling news providers and human rights defenders who are in danger in transit countries.”
(Tomorrow: journalists in detention)

Exasperated Media and Rights Organisations Appeal to Syrian Abductors


Bourgeoning violence in Syria saw two appeals with multiple signatories being addressed to the warring groups in that country. One letter asks the leadership of the armed opposition in Syria to desist from kidnapping journalists, while the other addressed to the abductors of four well-known human rights activists working near Damascus, demands their release.

Sixteen human rights organisations have asked that four human rights defenders – award-winning Razan Zaitouneh, her husband, Wa’el Hamada and colleagues Nazem Hamadi and Samira Khalil – be released “immediately and unconditionally,” said the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF).
They were kidnapped on December 9, from the joint offices of Violations Documentation Centre (VDC) and Local Development and Small Projects Support (LDSPS).
RSF says they were abducted in “Douma, part of Eastern Ghouta, an area under the control of a number of armed opposition groups that is being besieged by government forces.”
Zaitouneh received the International Woman of Courage Award in 2013 among other prizes for her outstanding work as a human rights defender and writer.
“All parties to the conflict should adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law, which prohibits the abduction of civilians, hostage-taking and torture,” says the RSF release.
Similar concerns – security of their staffs covering the war in Syria – have prompted 13 news media organisations to also write to the abductors of journalists: the leadership of the armed opposition in Syria. The letter addresses kidnapping of journalists and asks the abductors that they give an assurance that journalists could work in the future without fear of kidnapping and that the armed leadership assists in identifying those groups holding journalists hostage and in securing their release.
“We understand that as in any war zone, reporters face great risk of injury and death and accept those risks, but the risk of kidnapping is unacceptable, and the leadership is in a position to reduce and eliminate that risk,” concludes the letter.
“This unprecedented step comes in response to an unprecedented danger, with approximately 30 journalists currently missing in Syria. Even the Iraq War, the deadliest conflict for journalists since CPJ’s founding, did not reach such chilling numbers. And yet the numbers continue to grow, with at least seven abductions in the past two months,” writes Jason Stern, researcher for the Middle East and North Africa for the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).