It's New Year's Eve and a press release summed up the frustration, outrage and general despair of a very bad year for this writer, providing a "year's end list" to put an end to all lists. Here's hoping that this record gets the attention it deserves when our desks are jammed with lists of "most admired politicians," "best CD releases," and "favorite celebrities." The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today said that violence against journalists in 2007 has reached extreme levels for the third year in succession with 171 confirmed deaths, just below the record set a year ago. In 2006 the IFJ confirmed 177 journalists and other media workers killed. At the year's end 2007 proved only slightly less deadly -- with 171 deaths. The figures have been compiled in co-operation with the International News Safety Institute. "Violence against journalists remains at extremely high levels for the third year in a row," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. "The scale of attacks on journalists marks a continuing crisis filled with unlimited human tragedy and relentless attacks on press freedom."
Boumela's remarks reminded me of the murder of Radio Okapi journalist Serge Maheshe in the Democratic Republic of Congo in June. OpEd News was the only American news outlet that published the slain journalist's photo. Meanwhile the mainstream press did very little to publicize the plundering and rape of the Congolese people, and focused instead on a few gorillas.
I am thinking, also, of colleagues in exile from countries we cannot mention because we plan to travel there and continue our own work. To even mention the countries involved, associations with persons there, the absolute lies perpetrated by the American government regarding "press freedom" in those countries, would put our work in serious jeopardy, not to mention the families of colleagues. We receive emails on a regular basis which detail extortion, death threats and worse that are directed at colleagues overseas. I worry every time I go through a passport checkpoint that I will be pulled out of the line.
We turn the threats against colleagues over to government contacts and investigators who so far have done nothing. An audit of USAID conservation funding which Congressman James Oberstar requested and was completed in March 2007 has been classified "proprietary."