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IPI director weeps for slain journalists
International Press Institute’s (IPI) executive director, Alison Bethel McKenzie, yesterday wept as she recounted the killings of 72 journalists all over the world for the year so far. Bethel McKenzie cried openly while delivering her report titled The State of Press Freedom Worldwide to the international contingent of journalists gathered at Hyatt Regency, Port-of-Spain, for the IPI’s opening ceremony of its congress titled Media in a Challenging World: A 360 Degree Perspective.
“Today, I am highly concerned and deeply saddened. It is my unfortunate task to inform you that this year is shaping up to be the worst on record for journalist killings since the International Press Institute began keeping count 15 years ago,” she said Bethel McKenzie said from Somalia to Syria, the Philippines to Mexico and Iraq to Pakistan, “reporters are being brutally targeted for death in unparralelled numbers.
“So far this year, 72 journalists have died because of their work,” she said. Last year was the second worst on record with 102 journalists killed and she described 2009 “as the grimmest ever,” with 110 losing their lives in the field. Syria has recorded the highest number killed so far this year, where 20 journalists and citizen reporters (both foreign and local) have lost their lives.
Bethel McKenzie identified the Middle East and North Africa as the most dangerous places for journalists this year. These journalists, she said, have been targeted for harassment and criminal defamation lawsuits. She also cited Asia which has seen a total of 22 journalists killed for the year already. Latin America was identified as the third deadliest region in the world for journalists, where 14 journalists have been killed.
Mexico, which, she said was the deadliest place on earth for journalist last year, has recorded six journalist killings. “All within the space of 50 days,” she added. Bethel McKenzie began to weep as she recalled the death of a Mexican female journalist in Vera Cruz. In the Caribbean, she highlighted one journalist killing in Haiti, but said: “Although much of the Caribbean was marked by a positive free media climate, criminal defamation laws remain on the books.”
In T&T, she said media concerns were raised by the curfew held last year and by a raid on offices of a media outlet. The contempt of court law, she said, was also of concern. The conference which started on Saturday and is being held at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain ends tomorrow. President George Maxwell Richards delivered the opening address. The conference is being attended by international, regional and local media practitioners.
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