"In the real world, the right thing never happens in the right place and the right time. It is the job of journalists and historians to make it appear that it has." ?Mark Twain
Different research show that violence against journalists increased many folds and the rate of killing the journalists is getting alarmingly high day by day. It is a great concern that over the past 15 years more than 1,100 journalists and media staff have been killed in the line of duty globally, including Bangladesh. They died because someone did not like what they wrote or said, or because they were in the wrong place in the wrong time.
World Press Freedom Index 2015 of the Paris-based organization Reporters without Borders (RSF) recently mentioned, "A total of 110 journalists were killed in connection with their work or for unclear reasons in 2015; 67 of them were targeted because of their work or were killed while reporting. These 67 deaths bring to 787 the total number of journalists killed in connection with their work since 2005. It has not been possible to clearly establish the circumstances or motives of 43 other deaths of journalists last year.
27 citizen journalists and seven media workers were also killed in 2015. This disturbing situation is largely attributable to deliberate violence against journalists and is indicative of the failure of the initiatives so far taken to protect media personnel. In 2014, there were 66 such fatalities. Among others, Iraq, Syria, India, Mexico, Philippines, Honduras, Yemen, South Sudan, France were the deadliest places for the journalists, the report added.
The report also placed the spotlight on 54 journalists who were held hostage at the end of 2015; 26 of them were in Syria. And 153 journalists were taken into prison, 23 of them in were China and 22 in Egypt. India was the 'deadliest' Asian country for the journalists. The RSF report also singled out India, where nine journalists had been murdered since the start of 2015 --- some of them for reporting on organized crime and its links with politicians and others for covering illegal mining. Their deaths confirm India's position as Asia's deadliest country for media personnel, ahead of both Pakistan and Afghanistan, RSF said, urging the Indian government to establish 'a national plan for protecting journalists'.
Regarding Bangladesh, New York-based organization Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) informed, in Bangladesh, Islamic extremists killed a publisher and four bloggers. Of 69 journalists who were killed in relation to their work in 2015, Islamic militants were responsible for killing 28 of them, which is 40 per cent of the total number. "Non-state actors ranging from Islamic militants to criminal gangs have become the most lethal threat to journalists worldwide, and account for the vast majority of killing that took place in the past year," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "Reversing this terrible trend will require delivering effective justice while also ensuring that journalists on the front line have the information and support they need to stay safe," Joel added.
According to CPJ's most recent annual prison census, more than half of the 199 journalists jailed by governments around the world are jailed on anti-state charges-showing how the press is being squeezed by terrorists on the one hand and by authorities purporting to fight terror on the other.
One third of killings worldwide came at the hands of criminal groups, government officials, or local residents-in most cases, drug traffickers or local authorities suspected of being involved with organized crime. The most common beat covered by victims was politics, followed by war and human rights. Broadcast reporter was the most dangerous job, with 25 killed. Twenty-nine victims worked online, CPJ told.
The Reporters without Borders has addressed several recommendations to the UN secretary-general, the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly for improving the mechanisms for protecting journalists throughout the world. Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of Reporters without Borders said, "The creation of a specific mechanism for enforcing international law on the protection of journalists is absolutely essential." Non-state groups perpetrate targeted atrocities while too many governments do not comply with their obligations under international law. The 110 journalists killed this year need a response that matches the emergency. A special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for the safety of journalists must be appointed without delay, Christophe added.
The South Asia Media Commission is worth the note, which, with regards to Bangladesh situation, blames the 'harsh reprisals by political parties' on reporters whose reports are critical of the political parties or the government. World Press Freedom Index 2013 mentioned, Bangladesh is not far behind. Its journalists are frequently targets of police violence. When they are not acting as aggressors, the security forces stand by passively while enemies of the media enjoy impunity and are rarely brought to justice. The killers of the journalists Sagar Sarowar and Meherun Runi, and those behind the double murder, remained at large, mysteriously out of 'catch and touch'. Different bodies of journalists protested and condemned the attacks time to time on journalists in the past and present. In separate statements, leaders of Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists, Dhaka Union of Journalists, Dhaka Reporters' Unity, Crime Reporters' Association of Bangladesh, Political Reporters' Forum and Rural Journalists Foundation also demanded arrest and punitive actions against those responsible for violence against journalists and media.
The situation is more violent than before against the journalists in our country, and in the globe. In fact, violence against journalists means violence against truth, human rights, peace, democracy, good governance, independence, freedom of expression, conscience of the nation, right to information and many more.
Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights mentioned, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
In April 29 to May 3, 1991, the Windhoek (Namibia) Declaration proclaimed, "The establishment, maintenance and fostering of an independent, pluralistic and free press is essential to the development and maintenance of democracy in a nation, and for economic development."
Considering the grave situation of violence against journalists, global experts urged the states to take stern actions through exemplary punishment against the perpetrators. Moreover, the states must be friendly to the journalists and media to stop all types of violence and harassment against journalists. Though it is said that a good journalist does not have any friend, but a journalists and media-friendly state is good to the people of all over the world.
Parvez Babul is journalist, columnist and author. Email: [email protected]