Monday, 15 December 2008

Killing the Messenger in Asia-Pacific

A quick post from Jakarta on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 15 December 2008.

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Here in Jakarta, journalists from across the Asia-Pacific region are gathering to discuss the security issues they face in their reporting. Day one of the International News Safety Institute's (INSI) conference, "Killing the Messenger", has been pretty revealing.

If you've read INSI's excellent 2007 Killing the Messenger report, you'll know the worldwide story: 1000 people from the news media killed during coverage-related activities in 96 countries over a ten-year period, and nine out of ten journalist murders are never solved. And now, as media companies face tough economic times, there will no doubt be pressure to cut corners on equipment and safety training.

Bringing it back to this region, the Philippines is one of the worst countries on earth to be a reporter -- number four on INSI's list, with 55 of those 1000 murders. Journalists are deliberately targeted, and no one seems to raise much concern at all, not even the media themselves. Poor pay leads some Philippines journalists to accept bribes, losing them the respect of their own population. So, when the killings occur, the public express no outrage, and the government doesn't feel any need to address the problem. Impunity reigns, making further murders only more likely.

Philippines media companies are not thought to be taking on even basic safety concerns properly: "Forget about flak jackets and helmets", one journalist from the country said, "we haven't even got a first aid kit in the office."

Hopefully, this conference will help spark some change there. Those attending certainly thought that the unusually frank discussion was a welcome step at least.

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