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Each time a journalist is killed, the truth dies with them, says ARTICLE 19 report

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 7 October 2011 - Ten years on, targeted attacks against journalists, media workers and other civilians in Afghanistan have proven US Senator Johnson's immortal words, "the first casualty when war comes is truth". Despite a number of measures by governments and organisations, violence, and in particular, targeted violence, is increasing worldwide against journalists.

According to the Afghan non-governmental organisation Nai, the 10-year conflict has left 22 journalists dead, 6 of whom were women, and seen 23 journalists kidnapped. Nai's figures for violence and intimidation against journalists runs into the hundreds.

In Afghanistan and other conflicts, local and foreign journalists, including war correspondents, are sometimes caught in the crossfire. These are tragic accidents. More often, and particularly so in Afghanistan, journalists are the victims of disproportionate attacks by international armed forces, in violation of International Humanitarian Law. But a particularly disturbing trend is the specific targeting of journalists, their abductions or summary executions. Over the past five years, the leading cause of death among journalists in warzones has become murder.

As noted by renowned war correspondent Sam Kiley, who has covered some of the most protracted conflicts in the world, including a seven-year stint in Afghanistan: "… thanks to the disaster in Iraq and al Qaeda's efforts, journalists are frequently seen as not only legitimate targets but good ways of getting publicity. There was a time when I quite literally was able to walk between opposing front lines during fighting (say, in Mogadishu) and then back again and file [a story], all in the same day. "

Attacks on journalists violate their right to life, undermine the public's right to know and create an environment of self-censorship. ARTICLE 19's work on the right to freedom of expression and the right to information in conflict regions demonstrates that access to comprehensive and accurate information increases people's sense of security, while a lack of reliable information fuels insecurity and fear. Each time a journalist is killed, the truth dies with them.

Click here to read the full report

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