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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 00:24 GMT 01:24 UK
Black year for journalists
By Patrick Jackson
BBC News Online

Physical attacks on journalists worldwide have increased sharply since the war in Iraq with the casualty toll for the first eight months of 2004 approaching the total figure for 2003.

Journalists carry wounded colleague from Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, 8 April 2003
The Iraq conflict has sent the media casualty toll soaring
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) estimates that 83 journalists and other media workers met violent deaths last year.

The toll for this year was 75 as of late August, the organisation's General Secretary, Aidan White, told BBC News Online.

"This may turn into one of the worst years on record," he said.

"Recent deaths in Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Iraq have added to our woes, but the targeting of media staff in Iraq is a serious concern."

It is time for the international community to stand up for our right to report safely
Aidan White
Violence against the media topped the agenda at the IFJ's annual conference in Athens at the end of May and delegates reacted with outrage when news arrived of three new killings in one day.

Two Japanese freelance journalists, Shinsuke Hashida and Kotaro Ogawa, had just died in an ambush in Iraq while newspaper editor Dusko Jovanovic was shot dead in Montenegro.

"It is time for the international community to stand up for our right to report safely," Aidan White said at the time.

Shot or stabbed

Twin suicide bombers who struck in the Iraqi Kurd city of Irbil in February killed nine journalists - most of them apparently local - on a single day, making it one of the worst for the press in living memory.

Jean Helene, killed in Ivory Coast
83 journalists or media staff killed worldwide in 2003 (70 in 2002)
75 journalists or media staff killed in first eight months of 2004 alone
766 journalists detained and at least 1,460 physically attacked or threatened in 2003
Sources: RSF, IFJ

Less than a year before, in the first days of the war in Iraq, the UK's Terry Lloyd was killed in a firefight involving US and Iraqi forces.

French cameraman Fred Nerac and Lebanese translator Hussein Osman were reported missing, presumed dead, in the same incident on a road near Basra.

The conflict in Iraq may be the single greatest factor in the rise in media casualties but the risk of death and injury - to say nothing of imprisonment without trial - extends far beyond the Middle East.

The Ivory Coast saw the separate killings of local reporter Kloueu Gonzreu and French radio correspondent Jean Helene in 2003.

Four journalists were killed in Colombia over the same 12 months - only eight less than the number of actual journalists who died in Iraq, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Attacks are not confined to the world's war zones, either, as a series of killings in the south Russian car factory town of Togliatti testify.

Newspaper editor Alexei Sidorov was stabbed in October 2003 in a car park by his apartment block, bleeding to death in his wife's arms.

Just a year and a half earlier, his predecessor at the Togliatti Review, Valery Ivanov, was shot to death in his home car park. There was talk that he had been working on an investigative report.

Safety first

Journalists have responded to the new climate of violence by setting up an independent body to focus solely on media security: the International News Safety Institute (Insi).

Simon Cumbers, freelance journalist and cameraman, killed working for the BBC
The world needs men like them to show to the world what is happening in areas where the ordinary public dare not tread
Phill Tromans

Created in 2003, the Insi details attacks on reporters on a day-by-day basis and offers advice to members of the media on how to minimise risk in danger zones as well as issuing travel advisories.

The IFJ's general secretary said the attack on a BBC team in Riyadh on 6 June, in which cameraman Simon Cumbers was killed and security correspondent Frank Gardner seriously wounded, only highlighted the need for better protection.

"The targeting of journalists by ruthless terrorists presents media with its greatest challenge," Mr White said.

"In this new climate of terrorism more actions must be taken to protect our people, because we can be sure more attacks will take place."

The Riyadh attack prompted messages of support for the journalists of the BBC and other media organisations who cannot always know when their lives might be in danger through their work.

"The world needs men like them to show to the world what is happening in areas where the ordinary public dare not tread," journalist Phill Tromans told a BBC News Online forum.

John O'Farrell, who once worked with Cumbers, said he was "concerned and outraged by the targeting of journalists by seemingly all sides in the "war on terror".

"There are people out there, state and non-state, who have decided that a free press is not only an inconvenience but a threat," he told the BBC.

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