At the event, which has been taking place in Trinidad and Tobago since June 23 under the theme, “Media in a Challenging World: a 360 Degree Perspective,” and is due to come to a close today, McKenzie lamented the plight of journalists around the world.
“It is my unfortunate task to inform you that this year is shaping up to be the worst on record for journalist killings since the International Press Institute began keeping count 15 years ago. From Somalia to Syria, the Philippines to Mexico, and Iraq to Pakistan, reporters are being brutally targeted for death in unparalleled numbers,” bemoaned IPI’s executive director.
With 2009 on record so far as the “grimmest ever” with 110 journalists killed, and 2010 as the second worse with 102 journalists killed, this year—with only the first half of the year gone by and 72 journalist deaths already recorded—is proving to be another bloody year for journalists in the line of duty.
In the face of an inexorable global march to democracy, especially under the shadow of the so-called Arab Spring, with civilians standing up and overthrowing entrenched and well-armed tyrannies in Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, in the name of Freedom Now!, we find the report of journalists still being killed in droves around the world to be utterly despicable.
That there would still be leaders and regimes around the world who still believe that by killing the Messengers, they could somehow suppress the Message of Democracy, the Message of Freedom, the Message of Justice and ultimately the Message of Truth, speaks to how foolhardy and boneheaded they are to history.
Are they not aware that the pen will never be silenced? Even just a cursory review of history will show that notwithstanding the determined efforts of some of the most brutish forms of governments, who used every sadistic means at their disposal in an attempt to strangulate the flow of the ink in the journalist’s pen, their efforts were ultimately an effort of futility, brutal as it may have been.
Journalists are vessels transmitting the People’s Voice. They are the People’s Messenger. To silence their pen, would be to silence the Will of the People. But if there is one sure lesson from history, it is that the People’s Will always prevail, no matter the dubious efforts of the powers that be.
But that lesson, it would seem, has sadly not been learnt by those who would still try to hold onto power at all cost. Citing Syria as “the most lethal country in the world for journalist,” McKenzie revealed that so far this year, “a total of 20 journalists and citizen reporters, both foreign and local, have been killed in Syria.”
We deplore the deaths of so many journalists, who in their quest to reveal the truth, have been marked for death in the Syrian conflict. With journalists killed in such droves, we believe strongly that it is time for the international community to act to resolve the worsening Syrian crisis, but especially to send out an unequivocal message that the killing of journalists is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.
Also speaking at the event, President George Maxwell Richards of Trinidad and Tobago, urged for the world to grant journalists immunity in the exercise of their professional duties, not unlike what the Red Cross enjoys.
We would like to go a step further by urging the international community to reach a declaration that would make the killing of journalists by despotic regimes an act equivalent to the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity to put leaders and other diabolical actors on notice that they will pay a high cost at the altar of justice for killing the Messengers of the people.
And even as we in Liberia enjoy an unprecedented environment of press freedom, paid for at no small cost, with Liberian journalists in years past having to suffer all manner of prosecutions, including death, as was the case with Charles Gbenyon in 1985, we want to express our sincere sympathies to the families of all those journalists who have been killed this year in the line of duty—and in years past.
And if there is one assurance that their lives were not lived in vain.