14 May 2007

Kidnapping as a Political Weapon (2)

A short while ago I posted on the kidnapping of BBC journalist Alan Johnston in Gaza. (See too the banner on my side bar.) The safety and freedom of journalists is crucial to our own safety and freedom. And that comes from someone who has seen how badly the press can behave in pursuit of a story. Some of our local reporters were true jerks when my young son died. At Index on Censorship correspondent Padraig Reidy notes numerous other journalists who've been recent abducted and murdered.

"Johnston’s may be the big story this year, but it’s by no means the only one: indeed, surveys of freedom of the press have discovered a depressing trend as more and more people are now living under regimes where journalistic freedom is either unprotected, or actively attacked, by government.

In Russia, investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered, apparently for digging too deep in to the government’s dirty war in Chechnya.

In the Philippines, six journalists were killed last year, and police have done little to stop the wave of threats and harassment media workers face. Environmental journalist Joey Estriber was kidnapped in March, like Alan Johnston. To date, the police have failed even to mount a search for him.

In Zimbabwe, cameraman Edward Chikomba was abducted and murdered, apparently because he had filmed the violent conduct of the security forces during anti-government protests.

In Turkey, the resurgence of the nationalist, statist right has created an atmosphere where journalists and authors fear to voice their opinions. Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk has left the country: Agos editor Hrant Dink decided to stay, and was assassinated on 19 January.

The list goes on. And it’s getting longer."

Alan Johnston's life is still in danger. Joey Estriber's may be as well. And as this list shows they is not alone. As I wrote earlier: "kidnapping is not a legitimate tool of politics; it is a tool of terror. It is inexcusable and unjustifiable regardless of whether it is carried out by shadowy non-state actors or by governments as a matter of policy" I couldn't say it better myself.

PS: For more information as well as suggestions for individual responses and political action visit Reporters Without Borders / Reporters sans Frontieres / Reporteros sin Fronteras

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