Journalists killed as CPJ’s ‘Attacks on the Press’ is released

The reports of the respected journalists’ deaths came after the Committee to Protect Journalists released their annual report highlighting the risks journalists take in order to shed light in dark places.

Attacks on the Press was presented by CPJ executive director Joel Simon, alongside a panel including Colin Pereira, head of safety and security at ITN; Maziar Bahari, a journalist who was detained in Iran in 2009, and chaired by award-winning journalist Jenny Kleeman, who has been working with Channel 4’s Unreported World since 2007.

The report outlines the impact the events of 2011 had on news crews all over the world, with hundreds of journalists being imprisoned, censored, supressed and exiled around the world.

“How can you protect journalists when they are close to the action? A certain amount of risk is inevitable, but we have to embrace it. Information is important, valuable, and sometimes it is worth taking a calculated risk for,” said Simon.

It plays a pivotal role in our lives.

“You can’t control the risks – but you can control the people you send,” added Pereira. “But like any machine we get very tired. Our resources are depleted. What is becoming apparent to major broadcasters is that the real risk is not [having] foreign news crews parachuting in to countries, it’s the local journalists.”

Last night, CPJ casualty figures for 2012 stood at six. Last year, over forty journalists were killed. These figures lie in stark contrast to the two journalists killed in World War I.

The terrain journalists cover has changed. From being seen as neutral observers bearing witness to events, they are increasingly being targeted in a bid to silence unfavourable reports against governments.

The tumultuous events of 2011 has seen ‘crackdown’ become a buzzword among press freedom organisations. In Egypt, where documenting the unrest can be seen as highly damaging to the regime, journalists have reported being targeted and attacked. In Iran, threats by the government have extended to the harassment of journalists’ family members.

The panel believed one of the reasons the number of journalists killed has rocketed over the past years is because of a reigning culture of impunity.

“Governments think they can get away with kidnapping, murder and targeting,” said Bahari.

“Frontline news gatherers are increasingly local, online and freelance journalists, and are victims of violence and repression because they work without the same support that journalists with media organisations have,” said Simon.

He urged media organisations and support groups to come together to fight censorship or information and the reigning culture of impunity.

“We need to create a global coalition against censorship, a community of global citizens. [Censorship is] something I feel is an emerging threat and needs to be challenged.”