We won’t forget. You shouldn’t, writes Asia Sentinel’s John Berthelsen
This is a story about numbers. And while you might find numbers dull, in this case we do not. These are the numbers of our colleagues in the journalism profession who were either murdered or jailed in 2010 for doing their job, compiled by the press freedom organizations, the France-based Reporters Without Borders and the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
The figures, while fewer than in 2009, nonetheless provide a depressing reminder of the fragility globally of the freedom of the press, and of the dedication of the men and women who fight for the public’s right to know. And, as usual, there have been few prosecutions. Of the 843 journalists murdered for doing their job since 1992, when the CPJ started keeping records, there have been no prosecutions in 543 of them.
At least 54 journalists and one media assistant have been killed so far in 2010, according to Reporters Without Borders, with 157 journalists and nine media assistants imprisoned along with 114 bloggers. The Committee to Protect Journalists lists a smaller total, at 42 killed. The discrepancy appears to be over the fact that no motive has yet been established for some journalists’ deaths. The CPJ lists another 28 who died in 2010 under such circumstances.
“Journalists killed” includes “only cases in which Reporters Without Borders has clearly established that the victim was killed because of his/her activities as a journalist,” the organization’s website notes. “It does not include cases in which the motives were not related to the victim’s work or in which a link has not yet been confirmed.”
Nor is the year over yet. On Dec. 17, Alfrets Mirulewan, chief editor of the Pelangi Weekly, a newspaper on the island of Kisar in the eastern Malukus in Indonesia, was found with bruises on much of his body, according to Indonesian media reports. He had been missing since Dec. 14. He had reportedly been investigating black market fuel sales.
“Given the circumstances of his death, there is reason to suspect Alfrets Mirulewan could have been killed for his work. Indonesia is earning a bad reputation as a place where journalists can be killed with impunity,” said Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator. Mirulewan was the third journalist to be killed in Indonesia this year. Two television journalists were killed earlier, but there have been no prosecutions in their cases, the CPJ said.