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Two journalists killed, two missing, more injured while covering conflict in Ossetia

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is an IFJ media release:

IFJ Calls for "Safe Space" for Media after Two Georgian Journalists Killed in South Ossetia

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on Russian, Georgian and any other combat forces involved in the conflict in the region to respect the rights of media workers and protect their safety after it received reports that two journalists were killed and at least two others wounded in South Ossetia.

Georgian Alexander Klimchuk, a photojournalist working for Russian news agency Itar-Tass, and Grigol Chikhladze, a reporter for Russian Newsweek, were reportedly killed while covering fighting between the Russian and Georgian forces in the separatist region. Two other journalists travelling in the same car, Teymuraz Kikuradze and Winston Federly, were wounded. Other media reports have said that at least eight journalists have been injured while covering the conflict.

"This is tragic news and we mourn the loss of our colleagues," said IFJ Deputy General Secretary Paco Audije. "We call on all combatants to remember that journalists are considered civilians and it is illegal to target them under international law. They should have a safe space that lets them report on armed conflict without being turned into targets."

According to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738, media workers are classified as civilians in armed conflict and targeting journalists is considered a war crime. The IFJ is calling on both armies to launch an investigation into the killings.

"If our colleagues were targeted in any way, those responsible must be held accountable," Audije said.

The IFJ is also concerned about the safety of two Russian journalists who have not been heard from for at least two days.

Expert Magazine's editor-in-chief, V.A. Fadeev, said in a statement that staff member Vyacheslav V. Kochetkov and Igor V. Naidenov, a reporter for the Russian Reporter magazine, have not been heard from since they crossed the border into Georgia on Saturday. Fadeev said there was concern the journalists have been detained and asked for help in locating them.

The International News Safety Institute has put together a safety alert for journalists in the region that it plans to update regularly. You can find it here: http://www.newssafety.com/stories/insi/georgia110808.htm

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 120 countries worldwide.

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