Friday, November 22, 2013

Journalist-Killers At Large



Reporters without Borders (RSF) called for an “overhaul of the entire media” of Honduras after elections are held on Saturday. RSF’s call comes on the international day to end impunity, which, coincidentally, has relevance to Honduras where 27 journalists have been murdered since the coup in 2009 and perpetrators have gone largely free. RSF has also named Honduran journalist Annibal Barrow with nine other murdered journalists to symbolise impunity throughout the world.

It is also a source of pride to this blog that RSF has interviewed Karla Rivas, news director of Radio Progresso on the state of the media in Honduras. Rivas was the winner of the annual Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism in 2011. 


Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington DC as she accepted the award, Rivas gave voice to the parlous state of media freedom and impunity in her country. She said, “Within this context of high insecurity and institutional arbitrariness, the deaths of journalists and media workers remain in the shadow of impunity, because impunity characterises a society based on the rule of the strongest.”

This blog featured the state of media freedom in Honduras in relation to the killing of journalist Manuel Murillo Varela on October 25. Please click here.

RSF said that attacks on journalists and other human rights defenders in Honduras have taken place against a background of generalised violence. The media watchdog demanded, “The protection of journalists and other news providers and the fight against impunity need to be addressed during the next parliamentary period.”

RSF acknowledges that although there are few individual cases in Honduras where those killing journalists have been convicted and punished – and it gives the example of Roger Mauricio Garcia, 22, found guilty of murdering the journalist Héctor Medina Polanco in 2011 – “but motives and instigators have never been identified.”

The impunity enjoyed by those who kill Honduran journalists is not peculiar to that country. And RSF details a horrifying figure of 700 journalists killed in connection with their work in the past 10 years in another statement. Of them, there was last year alone a staggering 88 journalists 47 citizen-journalists.

“This is devastating. The impunity enjoyed by those responsible for this bloodshed encourages them to continue violating human rights and freedom of information. And it creates a climate of fear and uncertainty for journalists that fosters self-censorship,” RSF said.

RSF said that in order to put a “name and face” on the statistics on impunity it was presenting the names of ten journaists: Samir Kassir (Lebanon), Syed Saleem Shahzad (Pakistan), Lasantha Wickrematunga (Sri Lanka), Aníbal Barrow (Honduras), Guillermo Cano (Colombia), Norbert Zongo (Burkina Faso), Didace Namujimbo (Democratic Republic of Congo), Khadjimourad Kamalov (Daghestan-Russia), Hrant Dink (Turkey) and Sattar Beheshti (Iran).

“Those responsible [for the journalists’ deaths] take many different forms and include governments, armed groups and hired killers. Their murders resulted in total or partial impunity. Investigations were sometimes launched only to turn into smokescreens. In some cases, the perpetrators were arrested but instigators were not touched,” RSF said.

Meanwhile, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is marking the international day to end impunity by writing to the governments of Pakistan, Iran and Russia asking them to address impunity for violence against journalists in their countries. IFJ’s campaign End Impunity was launched last month against the three countries with highest death tolls for journalists, IFJ said in a statement.

IFJ said, “End Impunity is already having an important impact, with many of IFJ’s affiliates across the world, including the Iraqi Journalists' Syndicate and the Association of Journalists of the Republic of Poland, showing their solidarity and support by sending their own letters to the embassies of Iraq, Pakistan and Russia in their countries.”

IFJ has also organised a series of activities to raise awareness on impunity that it has detailed in the statement. Please take a moment to read how you can help.

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