Stiletto by Max Kolbe – July 2006

It’s Official, Iraq Really is that Dangerous

The International Press Institute (IPI) has again called for the killers of the so-called “Balibo Five” — Australian-based journalists murdered in East Timor in 1975, to be brought to justice.

This issue will not go away and has dogged the Indonesian authorities as perhaps the last outstanding blot to be cleaned out of their annexation and occupation of the former Portuguese colony.

Press chiefs pushed Australia, East Timor, Indonesia, Britain and the United Nations “to undertake all necessary measures” to find who killers Gary Cunningham, Greg Shackleton, Tony Stewart of Melbourne’s Channel Seven network, and Brian Peters and Malcolm Rennie of Sydney-based Channel Nine network.

“Despite numerous attempts by relatives and concerned organisations to discover the truth, all such attempts have been blocked by an absence of political will, inconclusive investigations lacking access to witnesses and forensic evidence, and delaying tactics by the authorities,” it said.

“In a period where journalists are targeted for practicing their profession, the IPI membership feels it is essential for the international community to ensure that the perpetrators of such murders do not act with impunity.

“Failure to prosecute increases the risk of the murder of other journalists and self-censorship to the detriment of societies everywhere,” the IPI said.

It would be worth taking the IPI at its word, given that Iraq is entering the record books by proving itself the deadliest war of all for journalists.

In Edinburgh the world’s media chiefs, for whom we owe so much, recently got together to yell concerns for reporter safety in the field. And they had plenty to shout about after the Committee to Protect Journalists announced that since the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, 69 reporters have been killed in Iraq, most of them Iraqi, and that 26 media support workers had also died.

That compares with 58 killed in the 1993-1996 civil war in Algeria, 52 in Colombia from 1986 to the present, and 36 in the 1991-1995 war in the Balkans and according to Freedom Forum 66 journalists were in killed Vietnam between 1955 and 1975 while 68 reporters died in World War II, and two in World War I. 

A sports commentator for state-owned Iraqia television was shot dead in Baghdad. Jaafar Ali, who presents a sports program, was gunned down as he left his home in the Shora Rabia district of southern Baghdad.

That came after two British members of a US news crew were killed and a US reporter was seriously wounded in a car-bomb attack in central Baghdad.

Paul Douglas, 48, a veteran CBS cameraman, and sound technician James Brolan, 42, died as the 450-odd editors, journalists and media executives sat down to denounce the truly rotten side of this business in the Scottish capital.

US correspondent Kimberly Dozier, 39, sustained serious injuries once the makeshift bomb in a parked car exploded in downtown Baghdad.

Rodney Pinder, the director of the International News Safety Institute, said that only 10 percent of reporters’ killers were ever prosecuted and Chris Cramer, the president of CNN International, said covering the Iraq was the single most dangerous assignment in the history of journalism.

The IPI warning stemming from the Balibo Five was probably more than a little late but nevertheless fortuitous. Thirty-one years after the journalists were killed in East Timor the perpetrators remain free and unfortunately the media can only expect that Iraq will continue to re-write the record books.

About Webmaster 841 Articles
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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