War took its toll on journalists in 2003, killing at least 83 reporters and media staff worldwide – 13 more than in 2002, the International Federation of Journalists said today.
The umbrella group for media unions worldwide also condemned what it called widespread government indifference about the fate of journalists in crisis situations.
“We see journalists being targeted for their work in many parts of the world, but many governments simply don’t care about what these tragedies mean for democracy and free expression,” IFJ general secretary Aidan White said at a news conference in Brussels.
Indifference ranged from not finding the killers of seven journalists in Colombia and the Philippines who exposed corruption or organized crime, to US authorities not pursuing complaints about the death of 16 reporters of various nationalities in Iraq this year, he added.
White said the latter contrasts with American outrage at the January 22, 2002, kidnapping and subsequent killing of Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl, 38, in Karachi, Pakistan.
“We find no sense of outrage, no sense of concern in these (Iraq) cases,” White said. “The response from American authorities has not been positive. There is a culture of disregard for mistakes (by the American military) that have been made.”
Of particular concern was the case of British correspondent Terry Lloyd and his ITN television team, who were caught in the crossfire between US and Iraqi forces near Basra on March 22.
Lloyd died and his cameraman Fred Nerac and translator Hussein Osman are still missing and presumed dead. A fourth crew member, cameraman Daniel Demoustier, survived the incident.
White said US officials must yet say why American forces fired on the civilian minibus that ferried Lloyd to a hospital.
Also, the IFJ wants an independent probe into the targeting of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, the base for many journalists and media staff covering the Iraq war. The US military has called the tank firing a “proportionate” response to a threat to American troops.
The firing on a hotel widely known to house journalists, said White, showed a “profound indifference” for the safety of media workers.
The IFJ will organize an international day of protest and mourning on April 8 – the first anniversary of when an American tank fired at the Palestine hotel as US troops took the city, killing two television cameramen.
The group wants governments to bolster international law by making it a war crime to target journalists or not grant them adequate protection in conflict zones.
In 2003, the IFJ said, nine journalists died violently in Russia, seven in Colombia, four in India, and three each in Brazil, Nepal and the Philippines.
The IFJ said the 2003 cases showed again the need to pressure governments to provide “credible answers” to how and why journalists are killed.