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World

Murders of journalists go unpunished

Journalists must increasingly worry about being hurt, abducted or killed during their work. The Committee to Protect Journalists names countries where the killings go unpunished. Miodrag Soric reports from Washington.

Sabah al-Basi was reporting from Tikrit in March 2011 as al Qaeda terrorists seized a government building, where they took hostages. Iraqi security forces finally ended the siege - at a cost of more than 50 lives. Including that of Sabah al-Basi.

Who exactly was responsible for the journalist's death is a question that until now has not troubled the Iraqi judiciary. That, at least, is how Joel Simon, director of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, describes it. "Typical for Iraq – doing their jobs, covering this event.," he said. "Caught up in violence, no investigation."

On November 2, the United Nations will once again remember the fate of people like Sabah al-Basi. The International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists is its annual call for crimes against journalists to not go unpunished.

Simon says he has little hope that those responsible for al-Basi's death will be held accountable. But he expects the Iraqi government to do everything it can to ensure that journalists in Iraq are not persecuted - at least not in the areas that Baghdad controls.

Eight years ago, the Committee to Protect Journalists created the Global Impunity Index to map all the countries where the murderers of journalists do not receive their just retribution. "Somalia, for example, tops the list. For the first time this year, it is the country with the highest level of impunity around the world," said Simon. "Iraq, which has lead the list since we created it, is now in second place. Syria, where we’ve seen a whole spate of violence, is now in third place."

Porträt Anna Politkowskaja 2005

Politkovskaya's case is still not completely resolved

Ringleaders go scot-free

Simon emphasizes that killers of journalists often escape punishment even in many democratic countries, such as Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India and

Bangladesh.

Even so, there has been some progress in the

prosecution of the killers of Kremlin-critical journalist Anna Politkovskaya

in Russia.

Last year, a Moscow court found five men guilty of her death - a good eight years after she was shot outside her apartment. "This is a case where the Russian government has made progress," said Simon. "Some who were involved with the crime have been sentenced. But the ringleaders have not."

A country is added to the index if the CPJ identifies at least five unsolved murders of journalists. This year there are 14 countries on this list, one more than last year.

Worldwide, the organization has investigated 270 cases. It has found that in most instances it's local reporters who are killed, often because they write about corruption. Many are abducted before being murdered. And it is very rare that all those responsible, including the people who ordered the killings, are held accountable, according to the CPJ.

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