Stiletto by Max Kolbe — July, 2010

Fifty-nine journalists were killed because of their job in the first six months of 2010, the Switzerland-based Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) says, up from 53 for the same period in 2009.

According to the Geneva-based organization, journalists are more in harm’s way in Mexico where they are hunted by organized crime while The Philippines, Pakistan, Honduras and Nigeria were not far behind.

PEC Secretary General Blaise Lempen noted that journalists were exposed in countries which were witnessing internal problems.

That goes for the likes of 75-year-old radio commentator, Jose Daguio. The Filipino was shot dead in his home in Tabuk City becoming the first journalist murdered during the Aquino administration.

Police said a lone gunman attacked Daguio, a semi-retired reporter and commentator of Radyo Natin and he succumbed to his wounds while being treated at a provincial hospital.

Daguio’s death provided a backdrop for the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

As the IFJ congratulated President Benigno Aquino as he was sworn in, it put forward an action plan aimed ending the impunity that seems to accompany the murder of journalists.

The IFJ is seeking independent investigations of violence against media people, particularly the victims of last November’s Maguindanao massacre in the Southern Philippines. It also wants passage of the Freedom of Information Bill, which the House of Representatives has failed to ratify.

“It is our view that a robust and independent media sector is essential to democracy and assurance of respect for universal human rights. However, the long-running culture of impunity surrounding the deaths and violent assaults and intimidation of Filipino journalists pervades the Philippines, and is a significant impediment to the full realization of these rights,” IFJ said in an open letter.

In Africa, Nigeria is providing one model for monitoring unwanted people in the trade, while the Taliban in Afghanistan are doing what they think is their level best as well.

In Nigeria, people are fed-up with people posing as journalists. As a result The Lagos State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, in collaboration with the Nigeria Police in the state and Nigeria Press Council, have set up a 14-member task force to arrest and prosecute fake journalists.

The committee is charged with the responsibility of ensuring the arrest of suspects who pass themselves off as journalists and the Commissioner of Police for Lagos State Command, Marvel Akpoyibo commended the initiative of the councils.

He described the move as a ‘self-cleansing mechanism’.

Such puritan actions were also evident in Afghanistan and Pakistan where the Taliban have announced they will soon launch their own “Media Regulatory Authority” to monitor press and TV reports.

Fed-up with perceived slights, the Taliban want to prevent false statements about Islam, and in-keeping with their sense of fun all second-time violators of its media guidelines will be executed.

“Its main objective is to monitor the media closely so that not a single false statement regarding Islam and Islamic ideologies should be broadcast nor any disputed matter could be discussed in (sic) media,” said Taliban spokesman Muhammad Omer.

Anyone violating the Taliban’s media guidelines for the first time would be fined.

Anyone who commits a second violation will “be executed,” he added.

In comparatively moderate Iran, Jila Baniyaghoob was jailed for one year and banned from writing for 30 years following coverage of post-election unrest, the moderate daily Shargh said.

It said Baniyaghoob had been working for a string of best-selling but now closed reformist newspapers.

She was arrested on June 20 last year along with her husband and charged with propaganda against the Islamic regime over her reports on last year’s disputed presidential election.

Others are trying t different tact.

The family of murdered American journalist, Paul Klebnikov, are considering legal action against Russia in Europe’s human rights court because prosecutors have failed to bring anyone to justice for his killing in Moscow six years ago.

“We said in July of 2004 after Paul’s murder that this case was a litmus test for Russia yet so far the Russian government has failed that test miserably,” said Michael Klebnikov, Paul’s brother.

Klebnikov, the editor of the Russian edition of Forbes magazine, was shot four times as he left his office in central Moscow on July 9, 2004. He died of his injuries in a lift which stalled at a hospital.

In Nepal, some tangible results were on display. Following pressure from the Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), radio journalist Keshav Bohara was released.

Bohara, associated with Radio Mandavi of Pyuthan, is believed to have sustained minor injuries after his abduction in late June.

In Hanoi, Viet Nam Communist Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh; President Nguyen Minh Triet; Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung; National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong and Viet Nam Fatherland Front President Huynh Dam attended the funeral for veteran journalist Hoang Tung.

It was an extraordinary turnout and indicative of the esteem held for journalists who tow the party line. Hoang Tung is the former Party Central Committee secretary and editor-in-chief of Nhan Dan (The People) newspaper. He was 91.

Hundreds of delegations of senior Party officials, and representatives of the Vietnam Journalists Association, government offices and media agencies were also among the mourners.

Gushing tributes to Hoang Tung were written in a memorial book. He was described as an “outstanding instructor and teacher and a talented journalist who dedicated his life to the revolution and the nation”.

Politburo member and permanent Central Committee Secretariat member Truong Tan Sang told the crowd that Hoang Tung had “always displayed great willingness and resilience whether during his years in prison or at work.”

Hoang Tung was an award winning journalist. Among the many awards he had taken home were the nation’s highest honour, the Golden Star Order and the Ho Chi Minh Order for his contribution to Vietnam’s independence and development.


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Luke Hunt is a foreign correspondent, author and occasional photographer who has covered much of Asia fr the last 30 years.

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