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A Deadly Year For Journalists

Journalists around the world continue to risk harassment, arrest, and even death to report the news. The Committee to Protect Journalists says that in 2005, forty-seven journalists were killed while trying to do their jobs.

Klein Cantoneros was one of them. A Philippines radio broadcaster known for his hard-hitting commentaries against local corruption, Mr. Cantoneros was shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen on the island of Mindanao.

Journalists were also murdered in Lebanon, Russia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka and other countries last year. But by far the most dangerous place for journalists was Iraq. Committee to Protect Journalists director Ann Cooper says twenty-two journalists were murdered in Iraq in 2005:

"Insurgents are actually deliberately targeting Iraqi journalists, because they are journalists, because they are helping in many cases western media report on the conflict there or they are working for local Iraqi media. Simply doing your job has become incredibly deadly in Iraq."

It's disturbing, says Ms. Cooper, that those who murder journalists are often not brought to justice:

"That has a terrible effect because in a place like the Philippines or like Russia, where the murderers go unpunished, the cycle of violence continues against journalists. That is where we hold governments responsible. They may not be responsible directly for the murders but they are responsible for law and order in their countries, they are responsible for seeing justice done and if they are not bringing to justice the warlords or criminals who are killing the journalists, they are stifling the media."

Murder is not the only tool for governments that wish to censor news. In many countries, journalists who dare to criticize government officials are subject to arrest and imprisonment. Ivan Hernandez Carillo is one of twenty-four journalists still detained in Cuba following a 2003 crackdown on the independent press. He was charged with sedition and, following a Stalinist-style show trial, was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison.

It is essential for governments of free countries, along with non-governmental organizations like the Committee to Protect Journalists, to speak out on threats to press freedom. Without journalists who can report facts without fear, no nation can be free.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.