Monday, 23 January 2012

French journalist killed in Syria – accident or deliberate attack on the press?

Gilles Jacquier/YouTube video still
 Just as I wrote my last post, yet another journalist has been killed, this time in Syria,  in what appears to be another deliberate attack on the press.

Gilles Jacquier, 43, an award-winning foreign correspondent for French state television’s France 2, was killed last week in an attack in the divided city of Homs, during a government-escorted media trip, according to an article in the Guardian.

Jacquier, who became the first foreign reporter to die since protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime began in March, was among a group of 15 journalists, when he was hit in the attack, which also killed nine Syrians and injured 25.

Prosecutors in Paris have launched a preliminary murder inquiry as the French government presses for an independent inquiry.

France Télévision filed a legal complaint over the death, saying many unanswered questions remained. The corporation’s editorial director, Thierry Thuillier, said the journalists had been travelling in a convoy with a military escort that strictly controlled media’s movements.

“When the firing started, the Syrian soldiers withdrew, leaving the journalists alone and exposed. Why?” Thuillier asked. He added the fire that killed the journalist seemed to have been very “precise.”

An unnamed source close to president Nicolas Sarkozy was quoted in Le Figaro newspaper saying: “The Syrian authorities were the only ones who knew that a group of western journalists were visiting Homs that day and in which neighbourhood they were in…One could believe it was an unfortunate accident. But it’s a bit of a coincidence for a regime that seeks to discourage foreign journalists and demonise the upbringing.”

Sarkozy has been one of Assad’s most outspoken western critics, calling repeatedly for him to leave office.

Monday, 16 January 2012

IFJ presses UN for action on media killings – 106 journalists and media staff killed in 2011


Last year has been another bloody one for the media. In 2011, 106 journalists and media personnel were killed – many of them targeted and murdered expressly because they were journalists. In 2010, 94 were killed.

The situation is so alarming that the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which compiled the list, is urging the United Nations Secretary General BanKi-moon to take drastic action against governments of the most dangerous countries for media.

The Federation believes journalists have been specifically hunted down and blames governments’ failure to uphold their international obligations for the ongoing violence targeting media.  

The deadliest region in 2011 was the Middle East and Arab World with 32 journalists and media personnel killed – and Iraq had the region's highest death toll with 11 dead.  Among countries with high numbers of media fatalities are: 

Pakistan: 11 
Mexico: 11 
The Philippines: 6 
Libya: 6 
Yemen: 6
Honduras: 5 
India: 5   

This year’s list confirms that journalists are among the primary victims of violence in armed conflict, ethnic and religious tensions, as well as political upheavals, which erupted in many countries during the past twelve months.  

Media professionals are exposed to serious risks as they report from the frontline of conflicts, such as in Pakistan and the Arab world, or crime prevention in the lawless parts of Mexico, where they are considered unwelcome witnesses. 

In a letter to the UN Secretary General, the IFJ calls for effective implementation of international legal instruments to combat the prevailing culture of impunity for crimes against journalists. 

“It is abundantly clear that deadly violence against journalists is not just a blip due to conflicts around the world but has become a regular cycle in many countries where journalists are hunted down, targeted and murdered by the enemies of press freedom,” said the letter signed by IFJ President, Jim Boumelha. “In a situation where governments are in denial or indifferent to what has become a regular pattern of targeted killings of journalists, it is incumbent upon yourself and the United Nations to remind them of their responsibility to protect journalists.” 

The IFJ says that violence targets not just journalists but also colleagues from all sectors of the industry, including cameramen, drivers and fixers and other support staff which are all recorded to underscore their crucial role in news gathering and reporting. 

An additional 20 journalists and collaborators also died in accidents and natural disasters incidents. 

The list of journalists and media personnel killed in 2011 is available here.

The IFJ is the world’s largest organisation of journalists, representing more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries around the world.