Tears flowed from the eyes of Alison Bethel McKenzie, executive director of the International Press Institute (IPI), as she spoke of the deaths of journalists worldwide — 72 of whom have been killed so far in 2012.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the IPI World Congress at the Hyatt Regency hotel, Port of Spain, McKenzie said that this year is shaping up to be the worst on record for journalist killings since the IPI began keeping count 15 years ago.
She noted that 2011 was the second worst on record with 102 journalists killed and 2009 was the "grimmest ever" with 110 deaths — 32 of them in a single election convoy massacre in the Philippines in which another 26 civilians were slain.
Journalists, she said, were dying on the job in record numbers, as she disclosed that the most lethal country in the world for journalists this so far this year has been Syria —where a largely-peaceful 'Arab Spring' uprising has morphed into a violent conflict.
McKenzie said that in 2012 so far, a total of 20 journalists and citizen reporters both foreign and local were killed.
She noted further that throughout the Middle East and North Africa journalists continue to be targeted for assault, arrest, harassment and intimidating criminal defamation suits — including countries where things are supposed be getting better such as Tunisia.
In Asia, she said, 22 journalists have been killed for the year thus far and this region is regarded as one of the two most lethal regions in the world for journalists.
McKenzie took the audience on a global journey and pointed out the many journalists who were killed on the field.
She said the third most deadly region in the world for journalists in 2012 is Latin America where 14 journalists have been killed so far.
"At the head of the pack is Mexico —which last year was the most dangerous country on earth for journalists, who were targeted for torture and death by vicious drug cartels. So far this year, six reporters have been slain in Mexico — all of them within the space of 50 days," she said.
McKenzie became emotional and paused at times as she spoke of the murder of a female reporter that was found beaten and strangled in Veracruz on April 29 this year. See Page 5