72 killed this year
By MIRANDA LA ROSE Tuesday, June 26 2012
THIS YEAR is shaping up to be the worst on record in terms of journalists being killed while on duty in different parts of the world, with 72 being killed so far this year, according to Executive Director of the International Press Institute (IPI) Alison Bethel-McKenzie.
In presenting the Executive Director’s Report, “The State of Press Freedom Worldwide” on Sunday at the opening ceremony of the four-day 60th International Conference of the IPI at the Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, Bethel-McKenzie became emotional as she reported on the brutal torture and slaying of journalists especially in Mexico.
Of that Latin American country, she said, “this is the third most deadly country in the world for journalists”. For this year so far, 14 Mexico journalists have been murdered. She noted that journalists have been specifically targeted for torture and death by vicious drug cartels. Six reporters have been slain in that country in the space of 50 days.
By contrast, in the Caribbean region from January to the present, only one journalist has been killed.
Bethel-McKenzie spoke of a female reporter who in April was beaten and strangled in Veracruz. This journalist was a leading reporter covering organised crime, drug trafficking and the relationship between drug cartels and Mexican politicians. One of her last articles covered the arrest of nine policemen.
On World Press Freedom Day in May, the dismembered bodies of three journalists were found wrapped in plastic bags in a canal. They had left the area where they lived because they had been threatened. Before that month ended, the dismembered body of another journalist was found in a plastic bag.
“So chilling and persistently deadly is the coverage of crime for journalists in Mexico,” Bethel McKenzie said, that “many outlets have announced that they will stop covering crime altogether.”
Last year, was the second worst on record in terms of journalists being killed with 102. The year 2009, she said was the worst since the IPI began record keeping, with 110 journalists being murdered. Thirty-two were massacred in a single convoy in the Philippines, that year.
It was disturbing, she said, that during the overthrow of regimes in the Arab world, journalists have been killed in high numbers. “The most lethal country in the world for journalists so far this year is Syria”, she said, where a largely peaceful pro-democracy protest morphed into a violent conflict with several massacres.
“So far, 20 journalists and citizen journalists, both foreign and local”, she noted, “have been killed in Syria.” Two foreign journalists died when their makeshift news bureau was shelled with large calibre artillery fire. Syrian reporters, she said, “have been savagely eliminated.”
In stark contrast, the Caribbean region has been a journalists’ paradise with the exception of Haiti where a journalist — the director of a radio station — was killed earlier this year. No other Caribbean island or territory has been placed on the IPI’s list of country’s where journalists face clear and present danger in their duties. However, the lamented that press freedom in the Caribbean is still under threat as Criminal Defamation still remains on Statute books in many Caribbean countries. She also spoke of self-censorship due to the withholding of advertisement which is the lifeblood of media houses.