Worldwide, violence against journalists hits a new high
Covering Iraq was the most dangerous assignment in 2005, both for foreign correspondents and native journalists.
It was just after midnight. Fakher Haider had finished filing his last report for The New York Times from the satellite phone on his roof in Basra. Then came a knock on his front door. Armed, masked men claiming to be local police insisted that he go with him. Mr. Haider assured his family not to worry. The next day, his body was found with a gunshot to the head and bruises on his back, according to the newspaper.Skip to next paragraph
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Haider, a respected Iraqi reporter and translator, was one of 22 journalists killed in Iraq in 2005. Worldwide, 63 journalists were killed last year - the most since the Algerian conflict, when 57 journalists were killed between 1993 and 1996, according to Reporters Without Borders.
Iraq is currently the most dangerous place for journalists to work. Since the war began in March 2003, 79 journalists and media workers have died in the line of duty. Thirty-five others have been abducted, including Jill Carroll, a freelance writer working with the Monitor and other news organizations, and almost a dozen have been detained by the US military, according to statistics compiled by Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists. Hundreds have been wounded - ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt being the most recent high-profile cases.
"It's an unprecedented wave of violence against journalists," says Joel Simon of the Committee to Protect Journalists, founded in 1981 and based in New York. "It's the most dangerous conflict since we began systematically documenting these kinds of violations."
The Philippines was the second most deadly place for a reporter to work last year. Seven journalists were killed there for their reporting, and dozens were physically assaulted. They were among more than 1,300 worldwide who were attacked. In Bangladesh and Nepal, beatings and assaults were reported almost daily. China and Cuba led the world in locking up reporters, with 32 and 24 journalists jailed, respectively. The total was 126 worldwide.
But Iraq remains the most dangerous place for reporters to work. That's because a chaotic Iraq - with its multiple insurgencies, power struggles between militia groups, and nascent Army and police forces (which sometimes are infiltrated by insurgents) - has exacerbated the dangers for journalists, who daily risk getting caught in cross-fire or hit by roadside bombs.
Foreign correspondents and native local reporters, though, face different challenges. To some attackers, who are accustomed to a government controlled press, foreign journalists are symbols of their home governments rather than independent, objective news gatherers - targets or political pawns rather than information providers.
The "Islamic Army in Iraq," which kidnapped Italian freelancer Enzo Baldoni in August 2004, demanded that Italy withdraw all its military forces. The Italian government declined, and Mr. Baldoni was executed. Other Italian journalists facing the same demand have been released.
In Ms. Carroll's case, the previously unknown "Brigades of Vengeance" that abducted her is demanding that US forces and Iraq's Interior Ministry release all Iraqi women in their custody. Five such women have been released so far.
Of the five kidnapped journalists who've been killed, Baldoni was the only Westerner. Four were Iraqis. The others have been released. The latest video of Carroll indicates she's alive, and intense efforts to win her release continue.