Getting Away With Murder 2009
March 23, 2009
CPJ′s Impunity Index spotlights countries where journalists are slain and killers go free
New York, March 23, 2009 -- The already murderous conditions for the press in Sri Lanka and Pakistan deteriorated further in the past year, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found in its newly updated Impunity Index, a list of countries where journalists are killed regularly and governments fail to solve the crimes. Colombia, historically one of the world′s deadliest nations for the press, improved as the rate of murders declined and prosecutors won important recent convictions.
"We′re distressed to see justice worsen in places such as Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Our findings indicate that the failure to solve journalist murders perpetuates further violence against the press," said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director. "Countries can get off this list of shame only by committing themselves to seeking justice."
CPJ's Impunity Index, compiled for the second year, calculates the number of unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of a country′s population. CPJ examined every nation in the world for the years 1999 through 2008. Cases are considered unsolved when no convictions have been obtained. Only those nations with five or more unsolved cases are included on this Index, a threshold reached by 14 countries this year.
Iraq, Sierra Leone, and Somalia—countries racked by armed conflict—top the Impunity Index. But most of the list encompasses peacetime democracies with functioning law enforcement, nations such as Russia, the Philippines, and India.
Brazil is the sole newcomer to the 2009 index. Although Brazilian authorities have succeeded in prosecuting some journalist murders, those efforts have not offset the nation′s high rate of deadly violence against the press.
CPJ began compiling the index in 2008 to raise awareness about a disturbing pattern of impunity in countries across the world. The organization has undertaken a Global Campaign Against Impunity to seek justice in journalist murders, the world′s gravest threat to free expression, and has focused particularly on unsolved killings in Russia and the Philippines.
This year′s report is being released in Manila to mark the fourth anniversary of the murder of Marlene Garcia-Esperat, a Philippine columnist who reported on corruption in the government′s agriculture department. Garcia-Esperat was gunned down in her home in front of her family in a case that has become emblematic of the struggle against impunity. Two government officials are accused of ordering her murder.
"Philippine journalists are clamoring for justice in at least two dozen unsolved cases, and they need government protection from the murderous thugs who are killing their colleagues year after year," said Elisabeth Witchel, CPJ′s impunity campaign coordinator. "We call on the Philippine government to take the hard steps needed to gain convictions: assigning sufficient prosecutors and investigators to these cases, moving trials to safe and impartial venues, protecting witnesses, and providing high-level political backing for all of these efforts."
Among the other findings in CPJ′s Impunity Index:
* All of the countries included in the 2008 Index remained on the list this year. Only slight changes were seen in the rankings and ratings of most countries.
* Unsolved murders were reported in both Russia and the Philippines in 2008. Both countries have had stubbornly high rates of impunity in journalist slayings over the past decade.
* South Asian journalists face particularly severe risks. The region′s nations make up nearly half of CPJ′s index. Six are included on the 2009 list: Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India.
* Even in wartime, journalists are more likely to be targeted and murdered than killed in combat. In Iraq, for example, murders account for nearly two-thirds of all media fatalities.
* Although conditions in Iraq improved in 2008, authorities there have yet to solve a single murder case involving a journalist.
* Worldwide, the vast majority of victims are local reporters covering sensitive topics such as crime, corruption, and national security in their home countries.For more information contact
Committee to Project Journalists
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