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Journalists continue to be killed in high numbers in the Americas and the vast majority of these murders go unpunished due to state inaction, says a new decade-long study by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

Between 1995 and 2005, 157 journalists were killed in 19 countries of the Americas for motives possibly connected to their jobs. As of the end of 2007, only 32 of these cases had resulted in a conviction, says IACHR's Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression.

According to the study, investigations into these murders have proceeded at an excessively slow pace and most of the investigations show serious deficiencies in the way they are conducted. Of the 32 cases in which there has been some type of conviction, the sentence has not always been put into effect, nor have all those responsible for the crime been punished.

The largest number of murders took place in Colombia, with 75 reporters killed. Only seven of those cases resulted in a conviction. Brazil followed, with 23 journalists killed, with nine convictions. Not far behind was Mexico, with 20 reporters murdered and only four convictions.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression is demanding that the members countries of the OAS give the "highest political priority to addressing and resolving the state of impunity surrounding the murder of journalists," from in-depth investigations into the cases and effective punishment for the perpetrators, whether they are state agents or private individuals.

"We are aware than many of the murders could be tied to drug trafficking, other forms of organised crime, paramilitary forces, and dissident armed groups," says Special Rapporteur Ignacio Álvarez. "However, it falls to the states to investigate and punish those cases through their courts and other competent entities. Impunity is the responsibility of the states," he says.

Read the "Special Study on the Status of Investigations into the Murder of Journalists" here:

(1 April 2008)

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