Journalism: Still a Dangerous Assignment

Reporters continue to systematically lose their lives on the job

Fifty-four journalists have been killed on the job so far this year, according to a media Death Watch maintained by the International Press Institute (IPI).

Calling it a ‘similarly grim toll,’ IPI interim-director Alison Bethel McKenzie, told the 60th annual IPI World Congress that the death rate in the first  eight months of 2010 is only four fewer than the same period last year.

“Journalists continue to systematically lose their lives to conflict, militants, paid thugs, governments, drug dealers, corrupt politicians, unscrupulous security officers and others,” Bethel McKenzie said.

One out of five of those killed this year fell victim to the drug wars in Mexico, which led the list of most dangerous countries for journalists. This, and another ten journalists killed in Honduras and other countries in the region, made the Americas the most perilous continent, taking over from Asia which led last year’s list.

“The threat to peace and understanding among nations and peoples is today as great as it was upon IPI’s founding,” Bethel McKenzie said in her report The State of Press Freedom Worldwide. “For the moment, there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel.”

In addition, South Africa, long considered the “press freedom beacon” on the continent, seems to have taken a step backwards with the proposal of new media structures and laws, Bethel McKenzie said.

In Europe, traditionally relatively safe,  “pockets of grave concern” to press freedom have emerged in Ukraine, Turkey, Greece, Russia, Italy and other countries, Bethel McKenzie said.

However, the death toll in the Middle East amounted to four so far this year, far below the numbers recorded during the early years of the Iraq war.

Bethel McKenzie also highlighted the signing in May of the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act as a positive development. The act requires the U.S. State Department to scrutinize to what extent press freedom is threatened in its annual country human rights reviews.

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