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GLOBAL CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED IN FACE OF PERVASIVE IMPUNITY

Last week, Haiti experienced a small victory in its fight against impunity. According to Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) a second suspect - another gang member - was arrested in the brutal murder of radio reporter Alix Joseph, who was shot to death by gunmen in the northwestern city of Gonaïves on 16 May. Although the killers' motives are not yet known, Joseph had allegedly received anonymous telephone calls protesting the station's appeals for disarming local gangs before his death.

But the arrests are the exception, not the rule. Research by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) shows that justice is served in less than 15 percent of these murder cases, and that impunity promotes a higher incidence of murder.

The irony is that the suspect's arrest came at a time when the director of a panel set up to investigate murders of journalists in Haiti was forced to flee the country, having received repeated death threats. The head of press freedom organisation S.O.S. Journalistes, Joseph Guyler Delva, is also the director of an Independent Commission for Supporting Investigations into Murders of Journalists (CIAPEAJ). The commission was created on 10 August by President René Préval and S.O.S. Journalistes to combat impunity in the recent spate of journalists' murders in the country. Delva has since returned to Haiti, having received a guarantee of protection from Préval himself.

Even when an unlikely victory occurs, rarely are the masterminds convicted, as proven in a recent case in Peru. Last week, the man who carried out the killing of an outspoken and controversial radio commentator, Alberto Rivera Fernández, was given 35 years in prison, reports RSF. But the Superior Court acquitted the mayor of Pucallpa, Luis Valdez Villacorta, who was accused of ordering the murder. The mayor's former right-hand man was also cleared. Lawyers of Rivera Fernandez deplored the acquittals, in view of the solid evidence against the mayor.

Stories like these - and other recent cases in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Iraq, documented elsewhere in this edition of the "Communiqué" - have led the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) to launch their own international campaign to combat impunity. CPJ's efforts seek to build on the success of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), which in 1993 launched a campaign against impunity in journalists' murders in Latin America. According to CPJ, the justice rate in Latin America improved markedly since then. Although there any many reasons why, CPJ says "IAPA's campaign undoubtedly made a difference."

CPJ will focus initially on Russia and the Philippines - two of the world's deadliest nations for journalists, and among the worst in solving these murders.

"Concerted action on a global scale and collaboration with our colleagues and supporters, we believe, is a prescription for success," says CPJ. Find our more about CPJ's campaign by checking out their "Global Campaign against Impunity" website, where you can read special reports on unsolved journalists murders - including a database of journalists killed in the past 15 years, CPJ's ongoing coverage of the Philippines and Russia, and how to get involved: http://www.cpj.org/impunity/index.html

Also visit these links:
- IAPA campaign: http://www.impunidad.com/
- RSF on Joseph's case: http://tinyurl.com/38y9e2
- RSF on Delva: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=24453
- Haiti Support Group: http://haitisupport.gn.apc.org/
- RSF on Peru case: http://tinyurl.com/39cyok
(27 November 2007)

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