Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Journalists on frontline: come and support them

As part of Culture Night, the Belfast Telegraph is hosting a celebration of courageous journalism from around the world, reports Patrick Corrigan

Journalism in this country may be suffering a reputation problem right now but without courageous journalists - both at home and abroad - we are all worse off.

Everyone has the right to give and receive information and ideas without fear or interference.

Yet, throughout the world, journalists face harassment and even death for exercising that right.

While governments have never welcomed the prying eye and the biting pen of the investigative reporter - just ask some of the Belfast hacks working the Stormont beat - journalists have been increasingly targeted for repression in many countries on account of their work.

And, yet, freedom of expression is essential to securing all other rights, because it provides the information and the space in which to campaign for those rights. By attacking journalists, governments and armed groups seek to restrict the flow of information and to diminish the power of the people.

That's why Amnesty International is holding a special event, Journalists On The Frontline, tomorrow at the Belfast Telegraph offices as part of Culture Night Belfast.

And you are invited. You're invited right into the heart of the Telegraph - the boardroom, walls hung with framed front pages telling the story of Belfast's own troubled past - to hear reporters from local newspapers and broadcast outlets tell the remarkable stories of just some of the journalists under attack right now. Let's take a quick trip around the world's newsrooms.

Latin America: Mexico is one of the most dangerous places in the Americas, with journalists who report on human rights abuses and corruption particularly at risk.

On April 28, 2012, the body of journalist Regina Martinez was found at her home in Veracruz. Regina was a political reporter and, for more than three decades, had reported on issues of corruption and drug-trafficking.

Africa: home to some of the most dangerous locations for journalists. In many countries, newspapers, TV and radio stations are closely watched by security agents ready to clamp down on dissent.

In Gambia, the situation for journalists is so dangerous that many go into exile, in fear for their lives. In Somalia, at least 27 journalists have been killed since 2007.

Asia: there's trouble across the region but Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries for reporters.

On January 17, 2012, Mukarram Aatif was shot dead by members of the Pakistan Taliban while performing his evening prayers. A Taliban spokesperson said the group had warned Aatif "to stop anti-Taliban reporting, but he didn't do so. He finally met his fate".

Middle East: while the space for media expression was transformed in some countries which saw uprisings in 2011, attacks on journalists have continued in the region.

Journalists have been killed, or faced jail, torture or harassment in Syria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain, with reporters in Tunisia facing charges for "disrupting public order, or morality".

Europe: 2012 has seen autocratic regimes across the former Soviet Union strengthen their grip on power, choking dissent, and clamping down on protest.

In Russia, allegations of widespread vote-rigging in the parliamentary elections sparked the largest protests seen since 1991. As part of the government response, journalists have faced new restrictions on their reporting.

Journalists here, too, have been in the line of fire. Martin O'Hagan, a Sunday World reporter known for his work on paramilitaries and drug-dealers, was murdered by loyalists in 2001. Last month, another local reporter received death-threats, apparently from the UDA - later denied by that organisation.

Tomorrow is a chance to support all courageous journalists.

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