Murder of journalists condemned

Fran Singh and Chris Gaynor

At least 65 journalists were killed worldwide while doing their job last year, according to figures just released. Six more have died in the last two months and the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) said that for every 10 deaths an alarming seven were classified as murder.

An independent annual study for the CPJ shows the death toll to be the highest in 13 years, with a rise of 10 deaths from last year.

Pakistan, Iraq and Colombia have proved to be the most deadly places from which to report for journalists this year.

CNN reporter Christiane Amanpour said: "Murder is the ultimate form of censorship," adding about 85 percent of the killings went unpunished. The previous highest toll was in 1994 with 66 deaths, partly a result of the Rwandan genocide. Other organisations such as Reporters Without Borders contest the figure as 86. The CPJ however are still questioning 23 more reports of deaths.

The report for 2007 said the increase is likely a result of the Iraq War which it regards "the deadliest conflict for journalists in recent history," having resulted in the deaths of 125 journalists since March 2003. The second deadliest country was Somalia, with seven deaths followed by five in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, two in Afghanistan and Eritrea. The report found that for the first time in several years there were no deaths of media personnel in the Philippines or Colombia.

Two journalists were murdered in Pakistan, Iraq and Colombia at the weekend. According to the Pakistani Federal Union of Journalists and local news reports, Chishti Mujahid, 52, a columnist for weekly magazine Akbar-e-Jehan was the victim of a targeted attack outside his home in Quetta, the capital of the Baluchistan province, in south western Pakistan

The Baluch Liberation Army, claimed responsibility for the murder saying Mujahid was 'against' the Baluch cause. Mujahid, who was shot in the head and chest, had received several threats after writing about the death of the Baluch leader last November and is the first journalist to be killed in Pakistan this year.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Executive Director Joel Simon said: "We call on the authorities to thoroughly investigate the murder and bring those responsible to justice in order to demonstrate that journalists cannot be assassinated with impunity."

In Iraq the tortured body of missing reporter Hisha Mijawet Hamdan, 27, board member of the Young Journalists Association, was discovered after disappearing from a market in Baghdad on Sunday. Haidare Hasoun head and founder of the association said he head been shot in the chest and head and exhibited 'signs of torture.'

Hamdan's family lost contact with him on Sunday morning when he went to buy stationery supplies from a Baghdad market. His body was yesterday taken to Al-Tib al-Adli morgue in Baghdad. Hamdan worked as a political reporter for the bimonthly paper Al-Siyassa wal-Karar, published by the Young Journalists Association. He is the 178th media worker to die in Iraq since the American invasion five years ago.

Simon said. "This tragic death comes on the heel of the disappearance of two CBS News journalists and underscores the grave daily dangers the press faces in covering the news in Iraq." CBS have revealed no more information but today efforts continued to find the pair who went missing whilst working in the southern city of Basra.

The UK's National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and other sister organisations around the world, have condemned the brutal killing of a Colombian Manuel Arturo Macias Cerrera who died on Colombia's celebratory Day of the Journalist.

The 38-year-old was brutally shot in the head in Algecerias, central Colombia last week, and died in hospital.
NUJ leaders have strong ties with the Colombian Federation of Journalists and they were instrumental in assisting with its formation last year.

Eduardo Márquez, the federation's president, said on the International Federation of Journalists website:  "The cowards who shot our colleague were sending us a death message when we were celebrating Colombia's Day of the Journalist.

We got the message. We will double our efforts to ensure our safety throughout the country, but also be increasingly alert in keeping an eye on the intolerant, be they corrupt politicians, paramilitary groups, guerrillas, corrupt state agents or organised crime groups."

Cerreras was a radio journalist and founding member of the Journalists' Association of Huila, part of the CFJ. He had also recently been elected as a town councillor and was the only opposition local politician in Algeciras.

The NUJ General Secretary, Jeremy Dear, said:  "Colombia is one of the most dangerous places in the world to work as a journalist and we all need to support the journalists there to be able to carry out their jobs in safety. "

He added:  "The federation in Colombia is still in its infancy and this latest attack shows just how vital it is for journalists to be protected. The NUJ has strong ties with journalists in Colombia and we stand with them in support of their Day of the Journalist and in the face of these attacks."

The assassins melted into the crowds gathered for a fireworks display celebrating the Feast of the Virgin of Lourdes.

As well as directing the Gente Nueva programme, broadcast daily by Sur radio station, which is based in Neiva, the capital of Huila department, Macías Carrera was a founding member of Asociación de Periodistas del Huila (ASPEHU), the Journalists' Association of Huila, an affiliate of the Colombian Federation of Journalists (Federación Colombiana de Periodistas (FECOLPER).

He had begun his career as a journalist working for Radio Futuro station as a football commentator and news announcer and later became director of Alfa Televisión television station.

Macías Carrera had also been a press chief for the town hall, and communications advisor for Huila department's Peace Advisory Office. He was close to former governor Jaime Losada, himself assassinated, and a cousin of former Algeciras mayor Álvaro Macías.

Speaking on the International Federation of Journalists website, ASPEHU said in a press statement they condemned the murder, saying it was an affront to the free exercise of journalism in the region and the entire country. ASPEHU called on the regional and national authorities to investigate the murder and bring those responsible to justice.