Attacks on the Press

Sometimes when Im talking to a journalist I know, whos telling me (usually excitedly) about an impending trip to somewhere like Iraq or Somalia, Im tempted to say be careful. But it sounds a bit lame, so I dont.

Next time I mightnt hold my tongue. I think we news consumers have become quite blasé about seeing footage of a reporter doing a piece to camera with bullets whizzing round their head. Wed do well to remember that theyre civilians doing an essential job in a very dangerous workplace.

The Committee to Protect Journalists brought out its annual report today and it makes grim reading. It says that 65 journalists were killed as a result of their work in 2007. Reporters Without Borders goes further and says the number is 86.

The report called the Iraq war "the deadliest conflict for journalists in recent history," with 125 journalists and 49 support workers killed since the March 2003 US-led invasion. 32 journalists were killed in Iraq last year, all but one of them Iraqis, as well as 12 media support workers (translators, fixers, guards and drivers).

The second deadliest country last year was Somalia, with seven media deaths. Five died in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, two in Afghanistan and Eritrea and one in Haiti, Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nepal, the Palestinian territories, Paraguay, Peru, Russia, Turkey, the United States and Zimbabwe.

On Thursday 28 February 2008 well be holding a tribute to the late Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink, who was murdered on Friday January 19th 2007 in front of his Istanbul office. The event will see the premier screening of a 50-minute documentary by Nouritza Matossian of in-depth interviews with Hrant Dink. Only a week or so ago I blogged here about a newly-unearthed plot to gag free speech yet further in Turkey. Here's a clip of the procession in Istanbul to commemorate his murder.

Continuing with the freedom of expression theme, well also be issuing a new report on attacks against journalists in Sri Lanka this Thursday.

And to finish on a more positive note, Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong has been released from prison early, after serving only half his five year sentence for spying. Its not yet clear why he was released early, but its good news. I only hope that its not a one-off and that the Chinese authorities honour their promises to respect freedom of speech in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics.

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