Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Committee to Protect Journalists Unveils the Impunity Index

There's a new list of nations that let journalists get killed. The idea is to embarrass leaders whose countries are on the list, so that they'll follow up when someone kills a reporter in their territory.

To get on the list, a country would have to have an outstanding number of cases where a journalist was murdered, and no murderer found or brought to justice. And, maintained this level of inaction for the last nine years.

And the winners are:
  1. Iraq
  2. Sierra Leone
  3. Somalia
  4. Colombia
  5. Sri Lanka
  6. Philippines
  7. Afghanistan
  8. Nepal
  9. Russia
  10. Mexico
  11. Bangladesh
  12. Pakistan
  13. India
The top three, marked in red, are preoccupied with armed conflicts: which tend to make any sort of law enforcement awkward. The others, though, seem to have earned a place on the Impunity Index through sheer merit.

Although I think that reporters can be a royal pain in the neck, they also serve an important function. In theory, at least, reporters find and report facts that people in free societies need.

And no group should fall outside the law's protection.

About the Committee to Protect Journalists' hope that national leaders can be embarrassed by having their shortcomings published: I think it's worth a try.
  • The Source: Committee to Protect Journalists
    • "Getting Away With Murder"
      Committee to Protect Journalists (April 30, 2008)
      "DPJ's Impunity Index ranks countries where killers of journalists go free"
      The lead paragraph told me that we're looking at something a bit off the norm for this sort of report.
      "Democracies from Colombia to India and Russia to the Philippines are among the worst countries in the world at prosecuting journalists' killers according to the Impunity Index, a list of countries compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists where governments have consistently failed to solve journalists' murders."
      The page includes the methodology used, a statistical table, and a video.
    • "Statistics: Journalists Killed"
      "Since 1992, the Committee to Protect Journalists has compiled detailed accounts of every journalist killed on duty worldwide."
      This page links to detailed reports and resources.
  • The News:
    • "New index names 13 countries where killers of journalists get away with murder"
      International Herald Tribune (May 1, 2008)
      "UNITED NATIONS: Thirteen countries are the worst offenders in letting killers of journalists get away with murder — from war-torn Iraq and Somalia to peaceful democracies including Mexico, Russia and India, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.
      "The committee said governments in the 13 countries have consistently failed to solve murders where journalists were targeted from 1998 through 2007.
      "There are at least 199 unsolved murders in these countries during that 10-year period — 79 in Iraq, 24 in the Philippines, at least 20 in Colombia, 14 in Russia, 9 in Sierra Leone, 8 in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan, 7 in Afghanistan and Mexico, and 5 in Somalia, Nepal and India.
      " 'This is a naming and shaming exercise,' Prof. Sheila Coronel of the Columbia University Journalism School, said at a news conference Wednesday at U.N. headquarters launching the new Impunity Index."
    • "Iraq tops 13 countries where journalists' killers are not prosecuted - CPJ"
      KUNA (Kuwait News Agency) (April 30, 2008)
      "UNITED NATIONS, April 30 (KUNA) -- Iraq tops the "Impunity Index" of 13 "democracies" where governments consistently failed to prosecute journalists' killers, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) which released the Index for the first time in connection with World Press Freedom Day to be marked May 3rd.
      The 13 countries where governments are unable or unwilling to prosecute the killers are: Iraq, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Colombia, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Afghanistan, Nepal, Russia, Mexico, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India.
      The committee acknowledged that the first three countries have been mired in conflict, but the rest, it noted, are "peacetime democracies," such as Mexico, where elected governments have failed to protect journalists.

      " 'Every time a journalist is murdered and the killer is allowed to walk free it sends a terrible signal to the press and to others who would harm journalists,' Joel Simon, CPJ Executive Director, told a press conference on Wednesday."
    • "CPJ Names 13 Countries Where Journalists' Killers Go Free"
      VOA ( Voice of America) (April 30, 2008)
      "The Committee to Protect Journalists says governments in South Asia are among the worst in the world at prosecuting the killers of journalists. In a new Impunity Index that covers unsolved murders over the past nine years, six of the 13 countries that have consistently failed to solve these cases are in South Asia. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.
      "CPJ's new Impunity Index cites 13 countries as having the worst records for letting killers of journalists get away with murder.
      " 'There are many problems confronting journalists around the world - censorship, incarceration - but there is no greater threat to the free circulation of ideas and information than murder,' said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. 'Especially murder without consequence. And that is what this Impunity Index measures.' "


Bernardo Alonso said...

I'm surprised with Mexico on the list.

Brian H. Gill said...


I'm not sure what you mean:

Surprised that Mexico is on the list? I'm afraid that, although not well-publicized, the country does not have a particularly good record of law enforcement. The current debacle in Tijuana is a case where economics has, in my view, forced Mexico to make a serious effort to enforce laws. Tourists were getting killed - and more were staying away.

To clarify something: I don't 'not like' or 'hate' Mexico, and I really don't think I'm xenophobic: on the other hand, I try to stay current with general trends, at least in the western hemisphere.

Mark said...

I think the list is a good indicator of how free one is to voice one's opinion, which is a fundamental right not only in the US and a majority of countries where the rule of law obtains, but also according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Brian H. Gill said...


I'd say you're right: The organization I mentioned in this post is focused on journalists, but the degree of tolerance shown toward reporters does seem linked to tolerance toward unauthorized inquiry and communication in general.

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