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Friday, 20 April 2012

Deadly Week for Journalists Across the Globe

Killings in Syria, Pakistan, Peru and Brazil; Kazakhstan Journalist Viciously Attacked 

By: Nisha Thanki, IPI Staff

Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Kafranbel, near Idlib, on April 15, 2012. The banner reads, "Revolution until victory". Photo: REUTERS/Raad Al Fares/Shaam News Network/Handout

VIENNA, April 20, 2012, - A series of journalists, and a media activist, were killed this week, and another was viciously attacked on Friday, starkly highlighting the grave global threats to the safety of journalists.

The International Press Institute (IPI) was saddened to learn of the death of several citizen reporters in Syria, in the past few days, despite a ceasefire.

Photojournalists Sameer Shalab al-Sham and Ahmad Abd Fakhriya were killed on April 14 in Homs and Damascus, respectively, according to information received from the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression.

Ahmad Abd Fakhriya was on his way to Dmeir, where he was going to film Syrian army troops arriving when he was shot dead on April 14. Sameer Shalab al-Sham, a journalist for the Syria News Network, died soon after a mortar hit the building from which he was filming.

Meanwhile, photojournalist Khaled Mahmoud Kabbisho was held for questioning in Idlib and then brutally executed on April 17. Media reports said that his head was crushed by a tank.

Earlier this week, IPI reported on the death of a media activist, Alaa Adein Aldouri, whilst detained.

In Pakistan, well-known Pakistani journalist Murtaza Razvi, a senior assistant editor and head of magazines at Dawn, was tortured and murdered in Karachi on April 19. The reason behind the murder is not clear and IPI sources in Pakistan are currently investigating the incident.

In Kazakhstan, journalist Lukpan Akhmedyaroy, who works with the newspaper Uralskaya Nedelya, was brutally attacked in Uralsk on April 19. Reports said that Akhmedyaroy was attacked by five unidentified assailants, who stabbed and shot him in the chest. Akhmedyaroy is in a serious but stable condition after undergoing surgery. It is still unclear whether Akhmedyaroy was targeted because of his work.

According to the OSCE, both Akhmedyaroy and the newspaper Uralskaya Nedelya were well known for critical reporting. In an interview with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), his editor, Tamara Eslyamova, said that Akhmedyaroy had recently written articles criticising the President and also that his wife’s employers had urged her to stop her husband writing critical articles, just days before the brutal attack.

In Latin America, the challenge of combating impunity in cases of crimes against journalists was underscored by the assassination of two law enforcement officials involved in investigations of murders of journalists in Brazil and Peru.

On Saturday, April 14, César Santos Magalhães, one of two police officers assigned to investigate the murder of Brazilian journalist Paulo Rocaro, was shot 13 times by unknown gunmen on a motorcycle while stopped at a traffic light. Rocaro, who worked in the town of Ponta Pora (Mato Grosso do Sul state) along Brazil’s volatile border with Paraguay, was killed in an eerily similar fashion in February this year.

In Peru, prosecutor Luis Sánchez Colona, assigned to investigate last year’s killing of journalist Pedro Flores Silva, was shot six times as he left for work in the morning of April 16 in the northern town of Nuevo Chimbote. Silva was gunned down in September 2011, not long after publishing a corruption investigation into a local mayor.

IPI last month released a special feature warning of increasing violence against journalists in Brazil’s interior and frontier regions.  Of the seven journalists killed in Brazil since 2011, six worked outside major urban areas. An IPI investigation in February found that the majority of attacks on Latin American journalists occur in regional areas, where drug cartels and small-time dictators continue to silence critical media with impunity.

Earlier this week, IPI also reported about the killings of Philippine radio journalist Aldion Layao, and Nigerian cameraman Chuks Ogu. IPI also registered a number of violent attacks this week, including a mob attacking the staff of a magazine in Mumbai and five Azerbaijani journalists beaten on Apr. 18.

IPI Acting Deputy Director Anthony Mills said: “This has been a terrible week for the media. When are the authorities in countries in which journalists are so systematically killed going to act to turn back the tide of impunity? Failure to bring the killers of journalists to account fuels further assassinations and contravenes international human rights commitments.”

According to IPI’s Death Watch at least 35 journalists have been killed so far in 2012 in connection with their work.