18 April 2012

2012 looking to be deadliest year for media, says International Press Institute

A Scout holds a poster of Lebanon's television cameraman Ali Shaaban during his funeral. Syria is the deadliest country in the world for the media so far this year
A Scout holds a poster of Lebanon's television cameraman Ali Shaaban during his funeral. Syria is the deadliest country in the world for the media so far this year
Ali Hashisho/REUTERS

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The recent deaths of journalists in Nigeria, Lebanon, Somalia and Indonesia bring the number of journalists killed so far in 2012 to 36 - which means this year is on track to be the deadliest for the media since International Press Institute (IPI) began keeping records in 1997.

"We are witnessing, by a significant margin, the deadliest start to a year for the media in recent memory," IPI executive director Alison Bethel McKenzie said. "As movements for democracy spread across the world, journalists - whose work is critical to any free society - are increasingly coming under violent attack."

Last year at this time, 23 journalists had been killed because of their work or while on assignment. The final tally for 2011 came in at 102, says IPI.

IPI highlighted the particular danger facing journalists operating in or near Syria, where 11 local and foreign journalists have been killed since January. On 9 April, Ali Shaaban, a Lebanese cameraman with the Beirut-based television station Al-Jadeed who was working inside Lebanon near the Syrian border, was killed by gunfire that reportedly originated from Syria.

At least one leading Lebanese politician, former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, accused the Syrian army of aiming to kill the Al-Jadeed crew, says IPI. The Syrian government has been suspected of masterminding previous attacks on journalists, including the February explosion in Homs that killed U.S. foreign correspondent Marie Colvin and French photojournalist Remi Ochlik.

Just today, 18 April, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reported the deaths of four citizen journalists in Syria in the past week.

In Somalia on 5 April, an unknown gunman shot and killed Radio Shabelle reporter Mahad Salad Adan near the journalist's home in the town of Beledweyne. Adan is the fourth journalist killed in Somalia in 2012, says IPI.

Bethel McKenzie said of Syria and Somalia, "Both countries are plagued by rampant impunity, allowing those threatened by the free flow of information to silence critical media without fear of consequences."

According to IPI, one of the journalists to be killed most recently was a cameraman in Benin, Nigeria. Chuks Ogu was killed by gunmen on 14 April, at the home of a couple whose wedding he had been filming, reports IPI. It was unclear if Ogu was the target of the attack.

And on 8 April, a local Indonesian journalist Leiron Kogoya was killed when unknown gunmen fired on a small passenger plane landing at an airport in the country's eastern Papua province. Kogoya had travelled to Mulia to report on elections in Jayapura, Papua's capital. It is not known whether he was targeted.

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