'Abductions of journalists becoming more frequent'
KABUL (PAN): Media advocacy groups have said that the number of journalists killed in war zones in 2010 has fallen, but criminals and traffickers have become a greater threat to them, particularly in Afghanistan and Nigeria.
Fifty-seven reporters were killed around the world this year, the Paris-based media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said in its annual report, down 25 percent from 2009, when 76 journalists were killed in connection with their jobs.
“Abductions of journalists are becoming more and more frequent and are taking place in more countries,” the report said.
“For the first time, no continent escaped this evil in 2010. Journalists are turning into bargaining chips. Kidnappers take hostages in order to finance their criminal activities, make governments comply with their demands, and send a message to the public. Abduction provides them with a form of publicity. Here again, governments must do more to identify them and bring them to justice. Otherwise reporters - national or foreign - will no longer venture into certain regions and will abandon the local population to their sad fate.”
Journalists were particularly exposed to this kind of risk in Afghanistan and Nigeria in 2010. The case of French TV journalists Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponier and their three Afghan assistants, held hostage in Afghanistan since 29 December 2009, is the longest abduction in the history of the French media since the end of the 1980s.
The report said the deadliest continent with regard to incidents of casualties of journalists was Asia with 20 cases, and this was due to the heavy toll in Pakistan, where 11 journalists were killed in 2010.
“Of the 67 countries where there have been murders of journalists in the past 10 years, there are eight where they keep recurring: Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, and Somalia,” the report said.
It stated that Pakistan, Iraq and Mexico have been the three most violent countries for journalists during the past decade. The passing years have brought no changes to Pakistan, with journalists continuing to be targeted by Islamists groups or to be the collateral victims of suicide bombings.
The statistics given in the report said a total of 57 journalists were killed (25% fewer than in 2009), 51 journalists kidnapped, 535 journalists arrested, 1,374 physically attacked or threatened, 127 journalists fled their country, 152 bloggers and netizens arrested and 52 physically attacked.
The details showed fifty-seven journalists were killed in connection with their work in 2010, 25% fewer than in 2009, when the total was 76. The number of journalists killed in war zones has fallen in recent years. Significantly, it is becoming more and more difficult to identify those responsible in cases in which journalists were killed by criminal gangs, armed groups, religious organizations or state agents.
“Fewer journalists were killed in war zones than in preceding years,” Reporters Without Borders secretary- general Jean-Francois Julliard said. “Media workers are above all being murdered by criminals and traffickers of various kinds. Organized crime groups and militias are their leading killers worldwide. The challenge now is to rein in this phenomenon. The authorities of the countries concerned have a direct duty to combat the impunity surrounding these murders. If governments do not make every effort to punish the murderers of journalists, they become their accomplices.”
Another distinguishing feature of 2010 was the major increase in kidnappings of journalists. There were 29 cases in 2008, 33 in 2009 and 51 in 2010. Journalists are seen less and less as outside observers. Their neutrality and the nature of their work are no longer respected.
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