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Journalist Group Says Reporters' Killers Almost Never Face Justice

  • Charles Recknagel

The killers of Serbian journalist Slavko Curuvija, who was slain in 1999, have never been brought to justice.

The killers of Serbian journalist Slavko Curuvija, who was slain in 1999, have never been brought to justice.

When there is chaos in the streets, some of the first targets for killing are always journalists.

Ukraine is no exception. Seven journalists and their assistants have been killed there in the first six months of this year alone, as groups on both sides have sought to eliminate eyewitnesses and dissenting voices.

Among them, Vyacheslav Veremiy, a reporter for the Kyiv-based newspaper "Vesti," was shot dead after filming vigilantes supporting then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich on February 19.

And Sergei Dolgov, the editor of a pro-Russian newspaper called "Khochu v SSSR" ("I want to be in the USSR") was killed by unidentified kidnappers near Dnipropetrovsk on February 19.

The fact that the identity of none of their killers has been found or prosecuted is par for the course. A new report released on October 28 says that a full 90 percent of those who murder journalists worldwide never face justice.

The report by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a U.S.-based nonprofit promoting press freedom, comes just ahead of the annual UN-declared International Day to End Impunity for those who kill journalists on November 2.



According to the new report, a total of 370 journalists have been murdered worldwide over the past 10 years in direct retaliation for their work.

The vast majority were not war correspondents but local journalists reporting on corruption, crime, human rights, and politics.

The authors of the report note that "criminal groups, government and military officials, illegal militias, paramilitary groups, and others" deliberately kill journalists in order to build a climate of fear that will keep the media from reporting on their activities.

The fact that nine out of 10 times no one -- from the masterminds to the perpetrators of the murders -- is convicted of the crime only helps perpetuate the violence. In many cases, "journalists have no choice but to censor themselves or even flee into exile," the report notes.

"Targeted attacks on the media have kept the world from understanding the full dimension of violence in Syria, drug trafficking in Mexico, militant influence in Pakistan, and corruption in Russia."

The report says that the impunity the killers enjoy is in some cases due to lack of political will and, in others, to conflict. It notes the killers are able to evade prosecution thanks to corruption, political influence, intimidation, and exploiting weak law enforcement.

Ahead of this year's International Day to End Impunity, the OSCE's media freedom representative has called for the group's member states to "take real steps to track down and prosecute those who commit crimes against journalists."

Dunja Mijatovic said in a statement released October 30 that "the political will to confront the issue of impunity is simply too low, and in some cases non-existent. Stern rhetoric is not enough, concrete action is necessary to break the cycle of impunity."

Mijatovic said a partial list of prominent journalists whose murderers have never been brought to justice includes: Serbian journalist Slavko Curuvija (1999); Georgian-born Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze (2000); Serbian journalist Milan Pantic (2001); Belarusian journalist Veronika Cherkasova (2004); Montenegrin journalist Dusko Jovanovic (2004); U.S. journalist in Moscow Paul Klebnikov (2004); Azerbaijani journalist Elmar Huseynov (2005); Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya (2006); Uzbek journalist Alisher Saipov (2007); ethnic Armenian Turkish journalist Hrant Dink (2007); Russian journalist Natalya Estemirova (2009); Russian journalist Khadzhimurad Kamalov (2011); and Russian journalist Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev (2013).