The Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom award of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), has been dedicated in 2015 to all Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty.
“Since 1992, more than 1,100 journalists have been killed just because they brought the truth to light or manifested their points of view,” said World Editors Forum President, Marcelo Rech, in dedicating the award during the opening ceremony of the 67th World News Media Congress, 22nd World Editors Forum and 25th World Advertising Forum in Washington D.C.
“The tragedy of this massacre is amplified by a staggering statistic: in nine out of 10 murders of journalists, the authors remain unpunished. Ultimately, this is the fuel that feeds the slaughter: impunity encourages new crimes, tarnishes the whole of society with blood, and denies the right every citizen has to a free press,” Mr Rech said to an audience of more than 900 publishers, chief editors and other senior newspaper executives from around the world.
WAN-IFRA has presented the Golden Pen of Freedom since 1961 to recognise the outstanding action, in writing or deed, of an individual, group or institution in the cause of press freedom.
An exceptional award made to honour fallen colleagues and focus the international spotlight on the issue of safety and impunity for journalists worldwide, the dedication of the 2015 Golden Pen of Freedom to Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty aims to send a powerful message to the perpetrators of crimes against the media, as well as to legislators and those with the power to enact better laws and enforce stronger protections for newsgatherers around the world.
Statistics from New York based Committee to Protect Journalists show that 87% (approximately 980) of those who have died since 1992 were local journalists. Overlaid with the deadliest countries for journalists during the same period – among them Iraq (166 deaths since 1992), Syria (80), Somalia (56), Pakistan (56) and Mexico (32) – the message is clear: local journalists, likely less well trained, financed, and supported, are covering beats foreign journalists can either no longer access, or to which their news companies are no longer willing to send them. The moral responsibility to better protect colleagues, wherever they may be, is indisputable.
Conflict and war still account for a large proportion of the total number of recorded deaths. Where identifying as ‘Press’ might once have provided an element of protection, in the years since records began the dangers of doing so have become significant. Overall, 426 journalists have died covering war while an estimated 224 have lost their lives in combat or crossfire situations. A further 146 journalists were killed on dangerous assignments.
Of particular note for WAN-IFRA and its community, 51% of all deaths recorded since 1992 have involved journalists working in print media.
“There is no freedom without freedom of expression. And there is no freedom of expression without protection and safety for the practice of journalism,” said Mr Rech. “That is why we are here today, to celebrate freedom, and to reaffirm our commitment to all those killed in the line of duty that we will not falter, we will not let their sacrifice be in vain. Our answer will be now and always, to strive for the highest ideals of journalism: to denounce all forms of injustice and thus to contribute to a more peaceful and to a free world,”