Credits: All from AP - from left: Martin Mejia (Lima 2000), David de la Paz (Mexico City 1999), Jose Luis Magana (Mexico City 1998), Nasser Nasser (Ramallah 2002), Srdjan Ilic (Kosovo 1998) & Nasser Nasser (Ramallah 2000).
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"Two journalists killed every week over last 10 years", says first comprehensive journalist safety survey

One thousand news media personnel around the world have been killed trying to report the news over the past 10 years - that's almost two deaths every week, according to a new report released today (Tuesday, March 6 2007).

The statistic is one of the main findings of the world's most comprehensive inquiry into the deaths of journalists and other news media professionals.

The survey was conducted between January 1996 and June 2006 by the International News Safety Institute (INSI) - a coalition of media organisations, press freedom groups, unions and humanitarian campaigners dedicated to the safety of journalists and media staff. The full report is available to download from the INSI website www.newssafety.com

The survey found:

  • One thousand news media personnel have died trying to cover the news around the world in the past 10 years*.

  • Only one in four journalists died in war and other armed conflicts.

  • At least 657 men and women were murdered in peacetime - reporting the news in their own countries.

  • In two-thirds of cases the killers were not even identified, and probably never will be.

    "In many countries, murder has become the easiest, cheapest and most effective way of silencing troublesome reporting, and the more the killers get away with it the more the spiral of death is forced upwards," says Rodney Pinder, Director of INSI.

    "Most of those killed were murdered because of their jobs; eliminated by hostile authorities or criminals as they tried to shine light into the darkest corners of their societies," he says.

    The Chair of the special INSI inquiry - BBC Global News Director Richard Sambrook - says: "The figures show that killing a journalist is virtually risk free. Nine out of 10 murderers in the past decade have never been prosecuted. This encourages more of the same. This is the most shocking fact at the heart of the inquiry.

    "Ongoing impunity for the killers of journalists, who put themselves in harm's way to keep world society informed, shames not only the governments who are responsible for their own lack of action but also the democracies that stand aside in silence. Following this inquiry, the most comprehensive ever in its field, they can no longer plead ignorance of the scale and nature of the problem," he continues.

    The report's recommendations challenge the United Nations, international development institutions (such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund), various payday loans companies, national governments, military and security forces, news organisations and journalists to support measures that will improve the safety of security of journalists.

    The recommendations include:

  • Governments to pledge to live up to their responsibilities under UN Security Council Resolution 1738 which condemns attacks on journalists and other news professionals by putting an end to such practices.

  • Governments to pledge to respect the letter and spirit of the Resolution and ensure an end to impunity for those who harm journalists by prosecuting those responsible for serious violations.

  • International development institutions, like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, should include a country's record on the murder of journalists when assessing the granting of aid.

  • Individual governments must ensure crimes against journalists are investigated thoroughly and all perpetrators prosecuted.

  • All militaries should recognise the right of news media personnel to be present in the battle space.

  • Every military and national security entity should hold full and open inquiries whenever a member of the news media is killed in an incident involving its personnel.

  • All news organisations should provide proper safety training (including those covering hostile environments) and equipment for staff.

    Highlights of the findings

  • One thousand news media personnel have died trying to cover the news around the world in the past 10 years*.

  • Only one in four died in war and other armed conflicts.

  • The great majority died in peacetime, covering the news in their own countries.

  • Most of those killed were murdered because of their jobs; eliminated by hostile authorities or criminals.

  • Nine out of 10 murderers in the past decade have never been prosecuted.

  • The news media death toll has increased steadily since 2000. The last full year covered by the report, 2005, was a record with 147 dead. It has since emerged that 2006 was even worse, with 167 fatalities, according to INSI's annual tally.

  • The Top 21 bloodiest countries over the past 10 years have been Iraq (138), Russia (88), Colombia (72), Philippines (55), Iran ** (54), India (45), Algeria (32), the former republic of Yugoslavia (32), Mexico (31), Pakistan (29), Brazil (27), USA (21), Bangladesh (19), Ukraine (17), Nigeria, Peru, Sierra Leone & Sri Lanka (16), Afghanistan, Indonesia & Thailand (13)

  • Shooting was by far the greatest cause of death, accounting for almost half the total. Bombing, stabbing, beating, torture, strangulation and decapitation were also used to silence reporting. Some men and women disappeared, their fate unknown.

  • In war, it was much safer to be embedded with an army than not - independent news reporters, so-called unilaterals, accounted for 92 per cent of the dead.

  • Overall, armed forces - regular or irregular - police and officials accounted for 22 per cent of killings.

  • The death toll was evenly split between press and broadcast. But news agencies, which are fewer in number, were relatively badly hit with six per cent of the total.

  • Most of those who died were on staff -- 91 per cent against 9 per cent freelance -- and one-third fell near their home, office or hotel.

    It will be noted from the report that many details of fatal incidents over the decade are unclear or unknown. Records are often inconsistent and lacking in precision, sometimes because of the absence of proper investigation, other times because the circumstances were not fully recorded and still others because death so often is cloaked in the fog of war.

    No one central authority records the deaths of news media staff on a regular basis. The main journalist support groups that regularly monitor casualties include the International Federation of Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Press Institute, the World Association of Newspapers, Reporters Without Borders and INSI. Their recording methods differ.

    *INSI's researchers counted all news media personnel -- journalists as well as support workers such as drivers, translators and office personnel, whether staff or freelance -- provided they died because of their work gathering or distributing the news. All causes of death were included, from murder through accidents to health-related.

    ** Iran's figures were swollen by one air accident in December, 2005. A military aircraft carrying news teams to cover exercises in the Gulf crashed in Tehran, killing 48 journalists and media technicians aboard.

    Issued by International News Safety Institute

    For further information: Rodney Pinder, Director
    rodney.pinder@newssafety.com
    Mobile +44 7734 709 267

    6 March 2007

    Editor's notes

    International News Safety Institute (INSI)

    INSI a non-governmental organisation completely dedicated to the safety of journalists and media staff. It is a network of media organisations, press freedom groups, unions and humanitarian campaigners working to create a culture of safety in media in all corners of the world.

    The working programme of the Institute provides an information service covering all aspects of news safety and includes an extensive programme of risk-awareness training for media staff in poorer regions where news gatherers are routinely under pressure, but where economic and social conditions deny them access to basic safety services.

    The Institute is led and managed by media professionals. It supports and contributes to a global network of press freedom groups and promotes safety standards that will make journalism safer and more professional.

    INSI is non-profit, supported entirely by membership contributions from organisations and individuals. It seeks to raise money from international donors to provide safety training free of charge to news media staff in danger and lacking the resources or knowledge to secure their own. It is the only organisation doing this in a focused and sustained way.

    Background to survey

    INSI was invited to undertake this inquiry by press freedom and media support groups at a meeting in Geneva in 2004 called to discuss the rising news media death toll around the world.

    It formed an international Committee of Inquiry, led by Richard Sambrook and comprising news organisations, individual journalists, journalist support groups and international legal experts.

    The Inquiry team conducted a series of interviews with affected journalist and support staff in critical areas and compiled a database containing details of the deaths of journalists and media workers in violent circumstances which goes back 10 years to 1996. The database includes details for 1,000 individuals of 101 nationalities, who died in 96 countries.

    Recommendations

    International

    "Law can only function as the guiding principle of society when there is sufficient transparency to hold government and business accountable for their actions. That transparency disappears when … the news media cease to be able to carry out their most important functions," Robin Shepherd, senior trans-Atlantic fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, writing in the International Herald Tribune, October 21 2006.

    We call on governments to live up to their responsibilities under UN Security Council Resolution 1738 condemning attacks on journalists and other news professionals by putting an end to such practices.

    We call on governments to respect the letter and spirit of the Resolution and ensure an end to impunity for those who harm journalists by prosecuting those responsible for serious violations.

    We call on international development institutions, such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, to reinforce the Resolution by including a country's record on the murder of journalists when assessing the granting of aid and other assistance.

    National

    "Whenever one journalist is exposed to violence, intimidation or arbitrary detention because of his or her commitment to conveying the truth, all citizens are deprived of the right to express themselves and act according to their conscience… We must declare war on impunity," UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura, on World Press Freedom Day, 2003

    Impunity for the killers of journalists must end. We call on all governments to respect their laws against murder and other forms of violence and ensure that crimes against journalists do not go unpunished. All violations must be investigated thoroughly and all perpetrators prosecuted. By failing to act, governments allow criminals to dictate what citizens read and see.

    We urge individual governments routinely to include an assessment of a country's record in this respect when considering whether to grant aid and other development assistance. Free and independent media must be recognised as a key dimension of efforts to eradicate poverty.

    We urge governments and international organisations sponsoring media training in developing countries to include an element of safety training.

    Military and Security Forces

    We call on all militaries to recognise the right of news media personnel to be present in the battle space, whether accredited to or embedded with the forces involved, attached to adversary forces or operating unilaterally. They should understand that "embeds" would have no legitimacy without independent reporting from the "unilaterals".

    We urge all militaries to follow the lead of the British Ministry of Defence in its 2006 "Green Book" of media-military operations in wartime where it recognised for the first time the issue of journalist safety and the right of correspondents to move freely in the battle space. It pledged that UK forces will never deliberately target either individual correspondents or civil media facilities.

    We call on every military and national security entity to hold a full and open inquiry as soon as practicable whenever a member of the news media is killed in an incident involving its personnel in order to establish accountability. Any fatal incident involving a journalist should be investigated as a police criminal case from the start. The death of a media worker on foreign soil should be investigated with no less rigour than a death in the home country of the military involved.

    We call on militaries at war to provide the news media with regular and timely briefings on danger zones, to respect media markings on vehicles and personnel and ensure the presence of the media in the battle space is communicated swiftly to military units in the same area.

    We urge militaries, police and other security forces to include media understanding in basic training. Soldiers and Police have to understand that reporting an opposing point of view does not make an individual journalist or news organisation an enemy.

    News organisations

    We call on all news organisations to observe the INSI Safety Code and other professional ethics guides and recognise they have a duty of care for all people in the newsgathering team, whether staff or freelance. There is a responsibility to provide proper safety training and equipment in peacetime and in conflict.

    We call on them to develop and sustain safety provisions that work all the time, whether their staffs are covering domestic stories such as crime and corruption, disasters and demonstrations or health issues or international armed conflict.

    We urge Editors and managers to seek greater awareness of the dangers surrounding their staff when covering hazardous stories and to familiarise themselves with the provisions of hostile environment and other risk-awareness training.

    We urge news executives routinely to provide confidential professional counselling to journalists who have experienced trauma and other forms of extreme stress in the course of their duties.

    We urge international publications and broadcasters to publicise more widely the murder of a journalists in his or her home country as well as the deaths of those on foreign assignment. Journalists working in daily danger say their political and business leaders pay attention to adverse publicity by global news organisations: "One Editorial in the New York Times is worth a thousand words in a national paper." (INSI Inquiry).

    Journalists

    "Journalists have to make clear they matter by raising the level of their work. We must build up what we do so it is unassailable, so that journalism is seen at its highest," Ethan Bronner, deputy Foreign Editor, New York Times, at a panel discussion on "Finding Solutions for Journalist Safety".

    "I firmly believe that the best personal security measure a journalist can take is to be honest, objective, ethically responsible and really independent," Latin American journalist to INSI Inquiry.

    We urge fellow journalists to recognise they have a duty of care to themselves. The job is not risk free and the risk is not confined solely to conflict. Journalists must understand they too have responsibilities for their own safety, alongside those borne by militaries and governments. There is a danger of some journalists, especially international war reporters, assuming a right to invincibility - special pleading that journalists have a right not to get hurt.

    We urge colleagues to help themselves by being true to quality, independent reporting. The support of our societies is essential in our campaign against those who kill and physically attack our colleagues.

    We call on journalists to support one another in hostile environments and to put competitive issues aside when lives are in danger.

    We urge all news media staff to seek our professional hostile environment training before venturing into conflict or disaster zones, and to observe that training when they get there. No journalist should go to war without proper training and preparation, including knowledge of first aid and munitions.

    We strongly recommend all journalists to video and photograph incidents of physical attack on their colleagues both to publicise and provide evidence to any inquiry.

    We urge conflict reporters to understand that media-military dialogue and understanding is a two-way street. Lives have been lost through journalists assuming a competence on behalf of the military that is not always there - as well as assuming the safety of the media is a prime concern of soldiers under fire.

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