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Impunity plagues cases of slain journalists, says new CPJ index

(CPJ/IFEX) - New York, June 1, 2011 - The murders of 251 journalists have gone unpunished over the past decade in 13 nations where justice is failing and free expression is threatened, the Committee to Protect Journalists said in a new report published today. CPJ's 2011 Impunity Index identifies countries worldwide where journalists are murdered regularly and governments are unable or unwilling to solve the crimes.

"The targeted killing of journalists serves as a silencing message to others, ensuring that sensitive issues are not subjected to public scrutiny," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "Many journalists who were murdered had been threatened beforehand but were left unprotected. Governments can either address anti-press violence or see murders continue and self-censorship spread."

CPJ's Impunity Index shows improvement in Russia, where deadly anti-press violence has waned and authorities have obtained two high-profile convictions. In Mexico, where journalists face huge risks, the country's impunity rating worsened for the third consecutive year, with 13 cases unsolved.

The countries at the top of the index - Iraq, Somalia, and the Philippines - registered either no improvements or deteriorating conditions. Iraq, with an impunity rating three times worse than that of any other nation, is ranked first for the fourth straight year. Although crossfire and other conflict-related deaths have dropped in Iraq in recent years, the targeted killings of journalists spiked in 2010.

More than 40 percent of the victims included in the index were threatened prior to being murdered, while nearly 30 percent had covered politics. Local journalists were the victims in the vast majority of unsolved cases worldwide. Only about 6 percent of cases on the index involve international journalists slain abroad.

"Law enforcement must respond aggressively when journalists are threatened, and it must solve the crimes once reporters are attacked," said Simon. "Otherwise, authorities perpetuate a vicious cycle in which impunity breeds violence and ensures silence."

CPJ delegations have met with heads of state in the Philippines, Mexico, and Pakistan, and with senior law enforcement officials in Russia, to seek systemic reforms and convictions in unsolved cases. In each instance, top officials pledged to reverse the record of impunity in their countries, but the task is considerable. CPJ research shows that, time and again, entrenched corruption and dysfunction in law enforcement has thwarted justice in journalists' murders. Suspects have been publicly identified in dozens of unsolved cases examined by CPJ for the 2011 index, but authorities have been unable or unwilling to gain convictions.

The 2011 Impunity Index and full report are available in Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.


BACKGROUND:

CPJ's annual Impunity Index, first published in 2008, identifies countries where journalists are murdered regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes. The 2011 edition includes journalist murders that occurred between January 1, 2001, through December 31, 2010, and that remain unsolved. Only the 13 nations with five or more unsolved cases are included on the index. Cases are considered unsolved when no convictions have been obtained. The index is compiled as part of CPJ's Global Campaign Against Impunity, which is underwritten by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

To read the full report, click here

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