Iraqi Journalists Pay Price of War Reporting
Brussels, 19 March - Four years after American-led forces invaded Iraq to depose a dictator and bring democracy, Iraqi journalists are being killed in unprecedented numbers.
According to deadly incidents tracked by the International News Safety Institute (INSI), 187 journalists and support staff have now died trying to report the bloodiest war for the news media in modern times.
A total of 157 were Iraqis, most of them murdered by unidentified insurgents as they tried to exercise their newfound "press freedom" -- a cornerstone of their new democracy -- for the first time.
The death toll of journalists and other professionals in the newsgathering team, such as translators, guides and drivers, has risen dramatically since the war began on 20 March 2003.
It mushroomed in 2006-7 -- and Iraqis increasingly have borne the brunt as it has become ever more difficult for foreign correspondents to travel independently outside their protected compounds.
Twenty-three journalists and other news media staff died in 2003, 42 in 2004, 36 in 2005, 70 in 2006 and 16 this year so far. Seventy-five have fallen in the past year since the third anniversary of the start of the war.
Most of the casualties in 2003 were international, when the war was in its conventional invasion phase. But as the conflict turned into a full-blown insurgency and increasingly towards civil war the Iraqi casualties began to mount -- 36 in 2004, 35 in 2005, 68 in 2006 and all 16 this year.
With foreigners largely confined to their bases, Iraqis have become the eyes and ears of the world on the biggest news story of the day.
This was recognised by Britain's Royal Television Society at its annual awards ceremony in London last month when Iraqi camera operators as a group were given the prestigious Judges' Award in recognition of their "outstanding contribution to the advancement of television journalism ... at extraordinary risk".
"The bravery of the Iraqi journalists is astonishing," commented INSI Director Rodney Pinder. "They are not only being killed in horrifying numbers because of their dedication to their craft, but they are being beaten and exiled and their families threatened. Yet without them the rest of us would be blind.
"Their's is one of the truly outstanding stories of modern journalism."
In addition to the Iraqis, news men and women from 16 countries have died in Iraq. They came from Algeria, Australia, Argentine, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Palestine, Poland, Spain, ukraine, UK and the USA.
Unidentified gunmen and bombers have claimed 148 lives. US forces have been involved in 16 deaths.
As a safety organisation, INSI records all staff and freelance casulties and all causes of death, whether deliberate or accidental, during coverage-related activities.
Details of each of the deadly incidents in Iraq can be obtained from the INSI website at http://www.newssafety.com/casualties/iraq.htm
Other INSI member organisations tracking media casualties include:
The International Federation of Journalists www.ifj.org
The Committee to Protect Journalists www.cpj.org
The International Press Institute http://www.freemedia.at/cms/ipi/
The World Association of Newspapers http://www.wan-press.org