May 2, 2013 · Posted in: 2013 Elections, Access to Information, Civil Society, Cross Border, Free Expression - Asia, Freedom of Information, General, Governance, Human Rights, Journalist Killings, Media, Noynoy Watch, The Judiciary
TOMORROW, MAY 3, is World Press Freedom Day.
Yet instead of joyful celebration, solemn tribute through action on the cases of journalists who had been killed, and whose killers remain at large, should mark the day, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
The CPJ launched today, May 2, its 2013 Impunity Index (“Getting Away With Murder”), which details the cases of “unpunished violence against the press” as a percentage of each country’s population.
The Impunity Index, published annually, “identifies countries where journalists are murdered regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes.”
The latest index covers murders that occurred from January 1, 2003, through December 31, 2012, and remain unsolved. Only nations with five or more unsolved cases are listed. The Index’s methodology considers cases unsolved “when no convictions have been won.”
Twelve countries that are the deadliest places in the world for journalists made it to the 2013 Impunity Index.
The Philippines landed in third slot after Iraq and Somalia.
Highlights of the CPJ’s 2013 Impunity Index follow:
1. IRAQ: “Iraq has the world’s worst record on impunity. No convictions have been obtained in 93 journalist slayings in the past decade. The vast majority of the victims, 95 percent, were local journalists. They include freelance cameraman Tahrir Kadhim Jawad, who was killed on assignment outside Baghdad in 2010 when a bomb attached to his car exploded. Jawad was a ‘courageous cameraman’ known for getting footage ‘where others had failed,’ Mohammad al-Jamili, Baghdad bureau chief for the U.S. government-funded outlet Al-Hurra, said at the time. Police opened an investigation but made no arrests.”
Impunity Index Rating: 2.818 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants last year: Ranked 1st with a rating of 2.906
2. SOMALIA: “In a country with a long history of media killings, 2012 was the deadliest year on record for the press. Twelve journalists were murdered in reprisal for their work in 2012 despite relative calm in the capital, Mogadishu. Given the ouster of Al-Shabaab insurgents from Mogadishu in 2011, the killings raised concern that reporters were being targeted by a widening field of politically motivated antagonists. Journalists with the aggressive Shabelle Media Network paid a high price: Four were slain in 2012 and three in the preceding years. The 2012 victims included Hassan Osman Abdi, known by the nickname ‘Fantastic,’ the network’s director and the producer of news programs. Nationwide, 23 journalist murders over the past decade have gone unsolved.”
Impunity Index Rating: 2.396 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants last year: Ranked 2nd with a rating of 1.183
3. PHILIPPINES: “Despite President Benigno Aquino III’s vow to reverse impunity in journalist murders, the Philippines ranked third worst worldwide for the fourth consecutive year. Fifty-five journalist murders have gone unsolved in the past decade. The 2011 Ortega murder reflects the politically inspired nature of the large majority of Philippine killings, along with the general breakdown in the rule of law that has allowed the killings to continue. Ortega, a radio talk show host who exposed corruption, was shot in the back of the head while shopping in a Puerto Princesa City clothing store. Police soon made arrests and traced the murder weapon to a provincial governor’s aide. But the case suffered a severe blow in 2013 when an alleged conspirator who had turned state witness was killed in prison.”
Impunity Index Rating: 0.580 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants last year: Ranked 3rd with a rating of 0.589
4. SRI LANKA: “Sri Lanka’s impunity rating was unchanged from 2012. But four years after the end of the nation’s long civil war, President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s administration has shown no interest in pursuing the perpetrators in nine journalist murders over the past decade. All of the victims had reported on politically sensitive issues in ways that were critical of the Rajapaksa government. The cases include the fatal 2009 beating of prominent newspaper editor Lasantha Wickramatunga. ‘If there are really independent investigations, many murders and attacks may be traced back to highest-level government politicians and military officials,’ said Ruki Fernando, a human rights defender with the Law and Society Trust.”
Impunity Index Rating: 0.431 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants last year: Ranked 4th with a rating of 0.431
5. COLOMBIA: “Colombia’s rating showed little change from 2012, but the nation, once one of the world’s deadliest for the press, has made steady progress over time. No journalists have been murdered for their work in Colombia since 2010. Improvements in the overall security climate have generally outpaced judicial gains, said Carlos Cortez, one of the founders of the Colombian press freedom group Foundation for a Free Press. The government provides security directly to journalists under threat. Among the eight unsolved murders over the past decade is the 2003 shooting of Jaime Rengifo Revero, a radio host who had criticized government security efforts in the north. Two former right-wing paramilitary members face charges in the killing.”
Impunity Index Rating: 0.171 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants last year: Ranked 5th with a rating of 0.173
6. AFGHANISTAN: “No journalists have been murdered in Afghanistan since 2008, but authorities have shown no progress in pursuing suspects in the five unsolved cases over the past decade. The most recent victim was Abdul Samad Rohani, Helmand correspondent for the BBC’s Pashto service and a contributor to the Pajhwok Afghan News agency. Rohani, abducted and shot in 2008, had recently reported on drug trafficking and its links to government officials. The planned 2014 withdrawal of NATO troops has raised new concerns about the overall security climate and, with it, the news media’s safety.”
Impunity Index Rating: 0.142 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants last year: Ranked 7th with a rating of 0.145
7. MEXICO: “President Enrique Pena Nieto has inherited a 90 percent impunity rate in journalist murders. Fifteen slayings have gone unsolved over the past decade, with most of the killings attributed to criminals affiliated with the country’s powerful cartels or to corrupt police and government officials. Journalist murders have declined slightly over the past three years, but CPJ research has concluded that the drop is due in part to the self-censorship that has taken hold in virtually every corner of the nation outside the capital. In May 2012, a Nuevo Laredo newspaper officially announced that it would no longer cover anything related to criminal groups. Congress and the states federalized crimes against free expression last year in a series of promising moves designed to move cases out of corrupt local jurisdictions.”
Impunity Index Rating: 0.131 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants last year: Ranked 8th with a rating of 0.132
8. PAKISTAN: “Pakistan’s failure to prosecute a single suspect in the 23 journalist murders over the past decade has pushed it up two spots on the index. A new onslaught of violence came in 2012, with five murders. One of the few cases to progress from investigation to trial was derailed last year when an eyewitness to the 2011 murder of Geo TV reporter Babar was gunned down two days before he was due to testify. Pakistani news media are vibrant and unified in speaking out against impunity; in March, representatives of dozens of outlets and groups began crafting a plan to improve journalist safety as part of the U.N. effort. But any optimism is tempered by a stark reality: CPJ research shows that journalists face an astonishing array of threats, not only from militants and warlords but from military, security, and government officials.:
Impunity Index Rating: 0.130 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants last year: Ranked 10th with a rating of 0.109
9. RUSSIA: “With 14 unsolved murder cases since 2003, Russia is the ninth worst country on the index. Journalists in the North Caucuses have been the most vulnerable in recent years; the most recent victim is Kazbek Gekkiyev, a state television anchor working in the region, who was shot three times in December 2012 on his way home from work. Russia’s historically poor record in prosecuting journalist killers prompted human rights lawyers and the mother of a journalist missing and presumed dead to submit a case to the European Court of Human Rights arguing that Russia fosters a state pattern of impunity in murders of journalists.”
Impunity Index Rating: 0.099 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants last year: Ranked 9th with a rating of 0.113
10. BRAZIL: “With nine unsolved cases, Brazil’s impunity rating has soared in recent years. Despite its expressed commitments to justice, Brazil has recorded no new convictions since 2010. Four journalists were murdered in 2012, the highest annual toll the regional powerhouse has seen in a decade. Three of the four 2012 victims worked for online publications. They included website editor Mario Randolfo Marques Lopes, who had aggressively covered government corruption and police misconduct. Provincial reporters, working out of the national media limelight and in areas where law enforcement is weak or corrupt, have been especially vulnerable in Brazil.”
Impunity Index Rating: 0.046 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants last year: Ranked 11th with a rating of 0.026
11. NIGERIA: “A steady rise in anti-press violence in recent years has pushed Nigeria onto the index for the first time. With five unsolved murders, it has the second worst impunity rating in Africa, behind only Somalia. Those covering the activities of the extremist Muslim group Boko Haram are particularly vulnerable. In 2012, assailants shot and killed Enenche Akogwu of independent Channels TV as he reported on the aftermath of terrorist attacks in the northern city of Kano.”
Impunity Index Rating: 0.031 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants last year: Nigeria was not on the 2012 index
12. INDIA: “Despite its growing international profile, India has lagged in ensuring free expression and the rule of law. No convictions have been won in the cases of six journalists murdered for reporting on local corruption, crime, or politics. Time and again, CPJ research shows, the arrests made after an attack have failed to lead to prosecutions. This is the case for Rajesh Mishra, who died after assailants hit him with iron rods in March 2012. Mishra worked for a Hindi-language weekly and had written about financial irregularities at schools in Rewa. Six suspects were arrested last year but none have been convicted.”
Impunity Index Rating: 0.005 unsolved journalist murders per million inhabitants last year: Ranked 12th with a rating of 0.005
The release of 2013 index, CPJ said, “comes at a pivotal moment in the global struggle against impunity.” It cited a United Nations plan “to combat deadly anti-press violence gets under way this year, with Pakistan being an early focal point,” as well as “to strengthen journalist safety programs and assist member states in developing ways to prosecute the killers of journalists.”
In the Philippine case, the 2013 CPJ report averred that, “the insecurity of witnesses is a key problem in addressing impunity.”
“Authorities in the Philippines… have yet to make headway in the prosecution of dozens of suspects in a politically motivated massacre in Maguindanao province that claimed the lives of more than 50 people, including 32 journalists and media workers, in 2009,” the report said. “Three witnesses in the Maguindanao case have themselves been murdered, one of them dismembered and mutilated.”
“Each time a witness is killed, it affects the morale of other witnesses by showcasing how inept the government is in ensuring their safety,” says Michaella Ortega whose father, prominent radio host Gerardo Ortega, was shot dead in 2011 in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. A key witness to the murder had been killed in jail.
Among other insights, the CPJ’s 2013 Impunity Index also noted that:
— “Local journalists were the victims in the vast majority of unsolved cases on CPJ’s index. Only 11 of the 265 murder cases on the index involve journalists working outside their own country.”
— “Political reporting was the most dangerous beat. Thirty percent of the victims included on CPJ’s index covered political news. Another 20 percent reported on corruption, the second most dangerous topic.”
— “Government and military officials are considered the leading suspects in 26 percent of murder cases on the index.”
— “Responding to threats could save lives. In nearly half of the cases reviewed for the index, victims received death threats prior to their murders.”
— “In dozens of cases, the killers clearly intended to send an intimidating message to the entire press corps. In 48 percent of cases in the index, the victims were abducted or tortured before being killed.”
CPJ’s Impunity Index is compiled as part of the organization’s Global Campaign Against Impunity, which is supported by the Adessium Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations.