Killing the messenger

Journalists have risked life while working in conflict zones or under authoritarian regimes. The culture of killings, violence, intimidation, and kidnappings directed towards the members of the Fourth Estate is cause for serious concern, as it compromises the public’s right to know. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in its report titled ‘Targeting and Tragedy: Journalists and Media Staff Killed in 2005’ declared the year the most “dangerous year on record” for journalists not only in the Asia-Pacific region but in the entire world. Altogether 150 journalists and media workers were killed in 2005, out of which 36 were from the Asia-Pacific. The Philippines was declared the most dangerous Asia-Pacific country for journalists with 10 killings, second only to Iraq which claimed 35 media people. Even more troubling is the fact that media workers in the Pacific were killed not in the crossfires or by accidents while reporting but were directly targeted and killed for being journalists.

The IFJ reports that two journalists were killed in Nepal last year. And the working conditions of journalists are particularly difficult. There are frequent reports of their harassment and intimidation by both the warring factions — the security forces and the Maoists. The Maoists have tended to target scribes for allegedly being government spies while the security personnel take action for their alleged involvement with the rebels. THT’s Rupandehi-based reporter, Mahendra Thapa, was injured by police batons while covering a rally in Butwal on January 23, in addition to a number of others in the trade in recent days. The IFJ has donated 6,000 euros to the Federation of Nepalese Journalists to help scribes who came under attack or are in exile since the February 1 royal takeover. Killing the messenger for the message is both undemocratic and foolish, as this step would not lift those in power out of their difficulty. Only wise decisions would do.