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Media workers homicides increase due to Iraq wa

Wednesday 16 July 2008

Increase in homicides of media workers due to Iraq war

In many countries, media workers such as journalists, camera/sound operators and translators are being killed due to their jobs, according to just published research by the University of Otago, Wellington.

The study in the international journal ‘Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health’, examined five authoritative data bases to find the number and risk factors for all media worker homicides worldwide during 2002-2006.

The researchers found at least 370 media workers who were killed intentionally, with the highest levels in Iraq, Philippines, Colombia and Russia. There were 214 additional deaths that did not meet the researchers’ strict definition of homicide, although there was evidence that a significant proportion of these were ‘accidents’ or ‘cover-ups’.

Only a small proportion of those killed were foreigners, as 89% of the media workers were local citizens. The confirmed homicides of Iraqi media workers increased from zero in 2002 to over 40 in 2006. There was at least one homicide in 54 countries.

“We found a significant increase in homicides of media workers, with annual homicides doubling from 41 in 2002, to 104 in 2006”, says Dr George Thomson from the Department of Public Health. “They were nearly all nationals of the country they worked in, and less than 25% of the homicides resulted in an arrest or a prosecution.”

The researchers found that the greatest risk to media workers is in countries where Governments are unable to control armed groups. Other risks include levels of political terror and corruption.

“Media workers are under great risk in these countries because a free media is the direct opponent of groups or governments that profit from corruption, that maintain power by force and are not seen as legitimate by the public,” says Dr Thomson.

The researchers argue that the killing of media workers is an important public health issue, because of the media’s role as a determinant of societal well-being. If there is not a free flow of information, the health of a society is likely to be compromised.

The researchers suggest that the organisations that investigate and publicise media worker deaths provide an essential service for the international common good. The organisations reviewed for this study were: the Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, UNESCO, the International News Safety Institute and the International Press Institute.

This study was partly funded by the Wellington Medical Research Foundation.

ENDS

www.uow.otago.ac.nz

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