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"Tragedy unlimited" says IFJ as killings of journalists in 2007 maintain record levels

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 31 December IFJ press release:

"Tragedy Unlimited" Says IFJ as Killings of Journalists in 2007 Maintain Record Levels

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today said that violence against journalists in 2007 has reached extreme levels for the third year in succession with 171 confirmed deaths, just below the record set a year ago.

Conflicts in Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia have proved the most dangerous for journalists in a year that has confirmed the high rates of killings in recent years and "tragedy unlimited" for thousands within the global media community.

In 2006 the IFJ confirmed 177 journalists and other media workers killed. At the year's end 2007 proved only slightly less deadly - with 171 deaths. The figures have been compiled in co-operation with the International News Safety Institute.

"Violence against journalists remains at extremely high levels for the third year in a row," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "The scale of attacks on journalists marks a continuing crisis filled with unlimited human tragedy and relentless attacks on press freedom."

Boumelha called for more action from the international community to counter impunity and to eliminate fear and danger from the profession of journalism. "Our colleagues have been targeted because of their work, or killed covering dangerous stories often in the rush to cover breaking news," he said.

There have been more accidental deaths this year and the IFJ says the threats of targeting particularly in combat zones like Iraq continue unabated. As well as the heavy toll in Iraq, there were multiple media killings in Somalia and Afghanistan. Unrest in Sri Lanka and Pakistan also led to journalists' deaths.

In Africa, violent attacks on journalists have continued and the brutal repression of free expression in Eritrea has led to two deaths there this year.

Coverage of drug traffickers led to another high death toll in Mexico. Throughout Latin America journalists were killed for reporting on criminal gangs, drug running and shady politics.

"As usual those most at risk are media staff operating in their home country," said Boumelha. "Violence against media is particularly evident in countries where the political situation is unstable. It is no coincidence that countries like Somalia and Pakistan are two of the most dangerous this year."

The IFJ includes all journalists killed because of their work, including targeted murders, and deaths while covering violent events. It also counts deaths where journalists are killed in accidents while on assignment or on their way to or from a story.

In Iraq, which has been the deadliest country for journalists since the US invasion in 2003, at least 65 journalists and media staff have been killed this year. Of those killed, it is believed that all but one was an Iraqi national.

The full IFJ report with details of each case is released in mid-January based upon conclusion of the cases under investigation.

The IFJ's study makes it clear that local journalists are the most vulnerable to attack. In the vast majority of the cases this year, the media workers targeted were working for national or regional media and were killed in their own communities. It also highlights the problem of impunity that continues to plague the media sector. Many of this year's crimes are unsolved and will remain so.

IFJ General Secretary Aidan White, who this week joined a fresh appeal for action over impunity arising out of the United Nations Security Council resolution issued a year ago calling on all governments to confront the crisis of violence against media, said, "Many killers of journalists are just getting away with murder. Governments must take these issues seriously. Every case must be investigated. Those responsible must be punished."

White, accompanied by Canadian journalists' leader Peter Murdoch, and IFJ Middle East Coordinator Monir Zaarour is visiting Baghdad this week to discuss security with IFJ affiliates the Iraqi Syndicate of Journalists and the Kurdistan Syndicate of Journalists.

Despite the increased attacks, the IFJ says, journalists are still covering news no matter how dangerous it is. "We salute all of our colleagues out there who face danger as they try to provide news for their communities," said Boumelha. "We will continue our fight to make sure that safety conditions improve."

The IFJ recorded the following information for deaths of media workers in 2007:
- Murders and violent deaths 134
- Deaths in accidents 37
- The deadliest region was the Middle East with 68 killed
- Deadliest Countries (for killings) were Iraq (65), Somalia (8) and Pakistan (7)
- Other hotspots were Mexico (6), Sri Lanka (6) and Philippines (5)

The full list of the journalists and media workers killed in 2007 can be found here: http://www.ifj.org/docs/TalllyforWebClean.xls

To read IFJ's full report on media deaths, "Deadly Stories 2007", see: http://www.ifj.org/pdfs/KilledList_Draft5.pdf

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

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