15 June 2011

IFEX members call for journalists' protection following deadly week for media

Veteran crime journalist Jyotirmoy Dey from India was just one of four journalists killed in the region last week
Veteran crime journalist Jyotirmoy Dey from India was just one of four journalists killed in the region last week

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It was another deadly week for journalists in Asia, with at least three journalists killed in separate incidents in Pakistan, India and the Philippines. With such abysmal records bringing the murderers of slain journalists to justice - all three countries rank in the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Impunity Index - the outlook is bleak for the latest victims, say IFEX members, who are calling for new ways to address journalists' safety and to counter impunity.

In a pattern that has become all too familiar in the provinces in the Philippines, radio commentator Romeo Olea was shot twice in the back on 13 June in Iriga City, Camarines Sur, while riding his motorcycle to work, reports the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR). Olea anchored the news programme "Anything Goes" on radio dwEB, and often discussed issues concerning the city's government.

According to news reports, Olea's wife reported that he had recently received death threats.

If work related, Olea's killing would be the fourth case of a journalist/media worker killed in the line of duty under the administration of Benigno Aquino III, says CMFR. The first work-related killing under Aquino's rule was that of another dwEB broadcaster, Miguel Belen, who was gunned down on 9 July 2010 and succumbed to his injuries on 31 July 2010.

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) criticised the administration for failing to address continued attacks on journalists despite Aquino's personal pledge to protect human rights.

Meanwhile, in eerily similar circumstances in Mumbai, India, senior journalist and special investigations editor with the daily "Midday" paper Jyotirmoy Dey was shot dead in broad daylight on 11 June by four men on motorcycles as he drove home on his motorcycle, report IFEX South Asian members.

Dey was a veteran of the crime beat in Mumbai and recently published several exclusive reports that exposed Mumbai's powerful oil mafia and money launderers, which may have earned the ire of powerful organised crime syndicates, his colleagues said.

According to CPJ, Maharashtra's State Chief Minister denied demands from Dey's colleagues to take the investigation out of the hands of the Mumbai police and hand it over to the State's Central Bureau of Investigation. Keeping the investigation small disturbs CPJ.

"Too many Indian journalists can be killed without repercussions: it has become a national embarrassment," said CPJ. "India's authorities need to act quickly to address this impunity."

And then in Pakistan, which was the deadliest country for journalists last year, Asfandyar Abid Naveed, a reporter for the daily "Akhbar-i-Khyber", was killed and at least six other journalists were injured when two blasts ripped through Khyber Supermarket, a commercial and residential area of Peshawar on 11 June, report CPJ.

According to Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), 39 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the blasts. Police investigators believe the first low intensity bomb was planted as a trap to attract police and journalists who were expected to come to the site of the explosion to cover the story. The second larger blast, apparently a suicide bomb, then went off after the crowd had grown.

IFJ is urging media personnel and their employers to undertake "urgent measures" to ensure safe reporting in Pakistan, such as being educated on the "frequent recourse to the double-blast strategy" in the region, and knowing which areas are susceptible to attack. Just last month investigative journalist Nasrullah Khan Afridi was killed in an apparently targeted bomb blast in the same market, says PPF.

The double blast came a day after Pakistan's government failed to meet a 10 June deadline, set by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), to establish a judicial commission to investigate last month's abduction and murder of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, reports CPJ.

Bob Dietz, CPJ's Asia programme coordinator, recommends that the media industry attempt to address the problem itself. "The government is unable to protect journalists from attacks. Therefore, media owners, managers and journalists in the field must quickly unite and together work hard on establishing and ensuring their security."

Dietz recommends trying to prevent deaths in the first place - with a Pakistani organisation designated to compile and monitor data on journalists who are threatened or are in immediate danger.

"The goal would be to create a hub of experts and gather knowledge about the assaults, kidnappings and murders of journalists over the years," said Dietz.

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