'2009 may be deadliest year yet for journalists'

Int'l Federation of Journalists seeks probe of Israel's alleged targeting of media in Gaza.

Aidan White 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Aidan White 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on Wednesday issued its report on the killings of journalists in 2008 with a warning that this year could be the deadliest yet for the profession. A wave of killings in the first days of the year has undermined hopes that the lower death toll recorded in 2008 signalled a change in the pattern of killings, which have risen dramatically in recent years. "The welcome relief brought about by the decline in the killings of journalists in 2008 has been short-lived;" said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary at a press conference in Brussels to launch the report entitled "Perilous Assignments: Journalists and media personnel killed in 2008." "Ten colleagues died in January alone and from all regions of the world either in targeted killings or as a direct result of their work," it said. To view the report go to www.ifj.org/en. The IFJ recorded 109 deaths of journalists and media staff in 2008, marking a decrease from the 2007 record of 175 deaths. The IFJ said the international community still needed to confront the challenge of apathy regarding the killings. "We often see politicians, even in democratic countries, showing callous indifference to the threats posed by attacks on journalists and media. That must end," said White. According to the report, Iraq remained the most dangerous country, despite a substantial drop of media fatalities from 65 in 2007 to 16 last year. The other dangerous zones were Mexico and India, with 10 deaths each. The IFJ said the culture of impunity for crimes against journalists and the systematic failure to respect their rights deny them the protection they were entitled to in their work, especially during armed conflict. "The recent conflict in Gaza provides a powerful example of the dangers facing journalists," added White. "Media personnel and installations were targeted by the Israeli military, causing casualties, including two fatalities and extensive damage to property." The IFJ was the first press freedom advocacy group to call for an investigation into what they called the Israeli targeting of the media during the conflict in Gaza and is gathering information for a report on these attacks that will contribute to the investigation. "Israel must be held accountable for the violations of international law, and the international community, including the European Union, must enforce effectively provisions for the protection of journalists and media staff, especially Resolution 1738," White said. White failed to mention that there was documented evidence that Hamas fired rockets at Israeli targets from very near the media center in Gaza City, and that IDF fire was directed at the source. On January 19 Al-Arabiya reporter Hannan al-Masri was seen live on the air in Gaza when she was told that Hamas had just fired rockets from inside the Al-Arabiya studio building. The IFJ report also indicated that the organization's Safety Fund contributed over €100,000 in 2008 in humanitarian assistance grants to more than two dozen families of killed journalists and journalists in need. "The fund is also contributing to humanitarian efforts to help journalists as part of the IFJ Solidarity campaign launched in the wake of the Israeli attack on Gaza," a statement from the organization said.