Verifying and responding to cases of murdered
journalists is at the heart of CPJ's mission, and it often cuts to the
In 1997, CPJ confirmed 26 deaths in 14 countries of journalists killed while on assignment or as a direct result of their professional work. Seven journalists were murdered in India, four in Colombia, three in Mexico, and two in Cambodia.
Assassinations also claimed the lives of journalists in another 10 countries:
the Philippines, Rwanda,
Sierra Leone, and Ukraine.
Because the motive behind these attacks is censorship, CPJ urges governments to investigate and prosecute these murders not as common homicides, but as crimes against society. Yet with few exceptions, those believed responsible for the murders have not been apprehended, or even officially identified.
In another 10 cases of journalists reported murdered in 1997, CPJ suspects but could not document a direct link between the killing and the victim's professional work. We have listed such troubling but inconclusive cases as "unconfirmed," and are urging the governments of the countries in which the deaths occurred to undertake thorough investigations. (See: Ten More Journalists Killed: Motive Unconfirmed.)
The seven documented killings in India in 1997 reflect increasing political violence there and heightened risks for local reporters and photographers. Five journalists, members of a television production crew, died while on assignment in Hyderabad in a terrorist car bombing. Two Kashmiri Muslim journalists were murdered in apparent reprisal for their work as government broadcast journalists, bringing to eight the number of journalists assassinated in Kashmir since the onset of armed conflict in 1990 between separatist militants and Indian government forces.
In Colombia, the four 1997 deaths bring to 43 the number of journalists murdered there in the past decade, by far the largest number in the Americas. The three brutal murders of Mexican journalists last year show a disturbing trend toward Colombian-style violence against journalists on the northern border and other drug-trafficking centers.
The two deaths of journalists in Cambodia were casualties of the tragic reversal of what had been a trend toward genuine democratization in the Southeast Asian nation. None of the 26 murders documented in 1997 was more poignant than the case of 23-year-old Michael Senior, a Cambodian who was orphaned as an infant in the Pol Pot terror years and adopted by a Canadian family. Two years ago, yearning to learn about his birthplace, he returned to Cambodia, where he taught English and began to work in the profession he most aspired to, journalism. On July 7 Michael Senior was shot dead by soldiers, before the eyes of his wife and brother-in-law, because his outrage moved him to photograph their looting in the aftermath of the coup two days earlier that brought Hun Sen to full power. "He had put the camera down and was apologizing," his anguished mother told CPJ from her home in Port Moody, British Columbia, "but they shot him anyway."
Whenever CPJ receives word that a journalist has been killed, the region's program coordinator investigates whether the journalist's murder was indeed a manifestation of the most vicious form of censorship. Painstaking, time-consuming research is required to verify the facts of each case and to determine, first, if the victim is indeed a journalist, and, second, that the journalist was killed because he or she was a journalist.
A journalist by CPJ criteria is someone who covers news or writes commentary or works as an editor, publisher, or director of a news organization. Photojournalists, members of radio, television, and cable news teams, and editorial staff of online news publications are journalists to CPJ. When a death is attributable to the journalist's professional work, it is categorized as "confirmed." This includes not just assassination victims, but journalists killed covering armed conflicts, whether they were caught in crossfire or targeted by combatants. When a journalist is killed in an accident, on an assignment that placed him or her in harm's way, that is also considered a death in the line of duty.
This listing almost certainly omits other cases of journalists who were also killed in 1997 because of their profession. The following are cases CPJ has been able to document. It is often extraordinarily difficult to demonstrate that a murder was committed in retribution for someone's professional work. In most of the countries where these murders are committed, the majority of homicides of all kind remain unsolved. CPJ welcomes information on these cases and calls on governments to conduct vigorous investigations into all such deaths and to prosecute those responsible for the killings.
Research by CPJ and Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) indicates that the following individuals were murdered in 1997 because of their work as journalists. They either died in the line of duty on assignment, or were deliberately targeted for assassination because of their reporting or their affiliation with a news organization.
Click here to view Journalists killed in other years.
ARGENTINA (1)José Luis Cabezas, Noticias
Date of Death: January 25, 1997
Place of Death: Pinamar
Cabezas was a photographer for the news magazine Noticias. His handcuffed, charred corpse was discovered on Jan. 25 inside a burned rental car outside of Pinamar, a beach resort where Cabezas was working on a story. He was one of the first photojournalists to take a picture of Alfredo Yabr†n, a well-known and reclusive tycoon described by a prominent politician as head of the Argentine mafia. His murder evoked memories of brutal killings in Argentina's "dirty war" of the 1980s and outraged journalists, who took to the streets in protest and pressured the government for a thorough investigation. The Justice Minister was forced to resign after it became known that he had received phone calls from Yabr†n. Numerous arrests have been made in connection with the murder, among them current and former police officers and Yabr†n's security chief. Journalists covering the investigation have been threatened.
Edgar Lopes de Faria, FM Capital
Date of Death: October 29, 1997
Place of Death: Campo Grande
Lopes de Faria was host of the programs "O Escaramuça" ("The Fighter") on the local radio station FM Capital and "Boca do Povo" ("The Mouth of the People") on television station TV Record. He was murdered on October 29 in Campo Grande, capital of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, while on his way to the radio station. Police believe his murder was carried out by trained assassins, who fired with accuracy and left no trail. Lopes de Faria had reported on the hired killers who investigators say are responsible for recent murders in Mato Grosso.
Chet Duong Daravuth, Neak Prayuth,
Date of Death: March 30, 1997
Place of Death: Phnom Penh
Chet had worked as a reporter for the newspaper Neak Prayuth (The Fighter) and had recently obtained permission to publish a new paper. He was killed March 30 in a grenade attack outside the National Assembly while covering a Khmer National Party rally at which opposition leader Samuel Rainsy was speaking. Other journalists were injured and at least 26 people were killed. The motive for the attack is believed to be political.
Date of Death: July 7, 1997
Place of Death: Phnom Penh
Senior, 23, a Canadian citizen, was born in Cambodia, where he was orphaned as an infant during the Pol Pot terror years. He was adopted in 1975 by a family in Canada, where he was raised. Two years ago he returned to Cambodia, where he worked in Phnom Penh as an English teacher and television newscaster. He earlier worked at the Cambodia Daily in Phnom Penh. Senior was assassinated while photographing looting by soldiers in a public market on July 7 in the aftermath of the coup begun two days earlier by then-Second Prime Minister Hun Sen. He was accosted by the soldiers-Hun Sen loyalists-who shot him first in the knee. As he lay in the street pleading for mercy, he was shot again, executed before the eyes of his Cambodian wife and brother-in-law. Phnom Penh editors say that Senior's pictures, had they been recovered, would have been used in their coverage of the coup.
Gerardo Bedoya Borrero, El País,
Date of Death: March 20, 1997
Place of Death: Cali
Bedoya was the opinion editor of the Cali daily newspaper El País and a harsh critic of drug trafficking. He was assassinated as he was getting into his car on the night of March 20 by a gunman who shot him repeatedly and fled the scene on a motorcycle. Colleagues said in a public statement that they believed the perpetrators of the crime were drug traffickers. Bedoya had three weeks earlier written a column defending the controversial U.S. decision to decertify Colombia as a recipient of U.S. economic aid because of its government's alleged ties to the cocaine cartels. "Even though they call me pro-Yankee, I prefer the pressure of the U.S. government to the pressure of the narcos," he wrote.
Freddy Elles Ahumada
Date of Death: March 18, 1997
Place of Death: Cartagena
Elles was a free-lance photojournalist who drove a taxi to supplement his income. He was abducted by three unidentified individuals in Cartagena on March 17 and found assassinated in his taxi on March 18. He had been shot several times and his body showed signs of torture. Local journalists believe that Elles may have been assassinated in reprisal for his photographs of police violence published in the Bogotá daily El Espectador. Only the spare tire of his taxi was missing, making robbery an unlikely motive for the crime.
Francisco Castro Menco, Fundación Cultural
Castro was president of the Fundación Cultural, a community foundation that broadcast daily by radio in the violence-ridden town of Majagual in the department of Sucre. Castro was at home when he was fatally shot by unidentified killers. While Castro tried to make the Fundación Cultural a neutral forum for community news, it represented an independent voice in a region where both armed guerrillas and paramilitary forces are active. The Fundación provided air time for all three mayoral candidates in the October munipal elections without endorsing any. Castro, a community leader and a candidate for the departmental assembly in October, hosted a daily program on community topics and often called for an end to the violence. Local journalists believe he was murdered because of his appeals for peace, but are unsure if the guerrillas or the paramilitary are responsible.
Jairo Elías Márquez Gallego, El Marqués,
Date of Death: November 20, 1997
Place of Death: Armenia
Márquez was director of the magazine El Marqués, known for its critical reporting on corruption. He was killed in a drive-by shooting by two gunmen on a motorcycle as he was entering his car on a downtown street in the town of Armenia in western Colombia. Márquez had received numerous death threats in the past two years because of his crusade against corruption in the region. Márquez was the fourth journalist murdered in Colombia in 1997. The deaths of two other Colombian journalists are still under investigation.
Jorge Luis Marroquín Sagastume, Sol Chortí
Marroquín was founding director of the local monthly Sol Chortí, which has reported extensively about corruption in the mayor's office. He was also a member of the ruling Partida de Avanzada Nacional (National Vanguard Party) in the department of Chiquimula. He was fatally shot in the town of Jocotán June 5 by two assassins, according to eyewitnesses. Brothers Neftalí and José Gabriel López León, who are being tried for the murder, said that Jocotán mayor José Manuel Ohajaca hired José Gabriel to kill Marroquín. Guatemalan law protects mayors from prosecution for common crimes, but the Human Rights Office of the Archbishop in Guatemala City has petitioned the court to lift the immunity for Ohajaca. The request was rejected by the Sixth Court of Appeals in Jalapa and is pending before the Supreme Court.
Altaf Ahmed Faktoo, Doordarshan TV
Date of Death: January 1, 1997
Place of Death: Srinagar
Faktoo was an anchor for the state-owned Doordarshan television station in Srinagar, Kashmir. He was assassinated on January 1, reportedly by militant separatists, who fired two shots at the journalist with a gun equipped with a silencer. He had received repeated threats from militant separatists because of his work and had been kidnapped and detained by a militant group in 1994. Faktoo had aired pro-government news reports that were critical of the separatist movement. Shortly before his death he started working for a news program about Kashmir that is broadcast by satellite throughout India, but not in Kashmir. He was the seventh journalist assassinated in Kashmir since the militant movement began in 1989 and the third who was specifically targeted because of his work with the state-owned broadcast media.
Saidan Shafi, Doordarshan TV
Date of Death: March 16, 1997
Place of Death: Srinagar
Shafi was a reporter for Doordarshan TV, the official Indian television network, for "Kashmir File," a weekly news program, and "Eyewitness," a five-minute nightly news capsule. He was fatally shot March 16 in an ambush by two gunmen in Srinagar, Kashmir. His personal security guard also was killed in the attack. "Kashmir File" was critical of militant Kashmiri separatists in the state, and he told colleagues he had received threats from separatists for what they said was his "biased" reporting. Shafi was the eighth journalist to be assassinated in Kashmir since the militant separatist movement began in 1989 and the fourth targeted because of his work with the state-owned broadcast media. Both Shafi and Altaf Ahmed Faktoo, killed Jan. 1, 1997, were Kashmiri Muslim journalists.
Production crew, E-TV
Jagadish Babu, producer; S. Gangadhara Raju, cameraman; P. Srinivas Rao and S. Krishna, assistant cameramen; G. Raja Sekhar, assistant
Date of Death: November 19, 1997
Place of Death: Hyderabad
Five members of a production crew of E-TV (Eenadu Television), a private channel, were covering the making of a film November 19 when they were killed in a car bomb explosion. As they were leaving the Rama Naidu Studios, their vehicle caught the brunt of the massive blast, which police said was caused by a remote-control car bomb parked by the studio entrance. The television crew's driver, P. Chandra Sekhar Reddy, was also killed. At least 17 others died and more than 30 were injured. The attack is believed to have been motivated by political rivalry targeted at the film's producer, Paritala Ravi, a former guerrilla leader pardoned in return for his surrender who is a state legislator and member of the governing Telugu Desam party.
INDONESIA (1)Muhammad Sayuti Bochari, Pos Makasar
Date of Death: June 11, 1997
Place of Death: Luwu, Sulawesi
Sayuti was a reporter with the Ujungpandang-based weekly Pos Makasar. He died June 11 of head and neck injuries after having been found unconscious June 9 on a village street in Luwu, 400 kilometers north of Ujungpandang, the provincial capital in the south of Sulawesi. His motorbike, found beside his body, was not damaged, according to news reports. Family members and friends said his bruises and injuries showed that he had been beaten. Sayuti recently had written articles on local officials who had allegedly embezzled government funds earmarked for poverty relief. He had also reported on the front page of Pos Makasar June 1 on timber theft involving a village chief. The editor of Pos Makasar told the Jakarta Post that Sayuti's death was related to his reporting on local corruption. Local police said Sayuti died in a traffic accident. The state-sponsored Association of Indonesian Journalists (PWI) is investigating Sayuti's death.
Ebrahim Zalzadeh, Mayar|
Date of Death: February 22, 1997
Place of Death: Tehran
Zalzadeh was publisher of the monthly magazine Mayar . The magazine, which frequently criticized government censorship practices against the media, was forced to close by the authorities in 1995. Zalzadeh's body was identified in a Tehran morgue on March 29, 35 days after he disappeared on February 22. According to witnesses, there were three or four stab wounds visible on his chest. A coroner's report said that his body had been discovered on or about Feb. 24 by a road in the outskirts of Tehran. Zalzadeh was one of several Iranian writers and publishers who had volunteered to share the punishment of magazine editor Abbas Maroufi, who was sentenced in January 1996 to six months in prison and 35 lashes for criticizing the government.
Jesús Abel Bueno León, 7 Días
Date of Death: May 22, 1997
Place of Death: Chilpancingo
Bueno León was a director at the regional weekly 7 Días (7 Days). His bullet-ridden body was found next to his burned car on a road close to the city of Chilpancingo, the state capital of Guerrero, 120 miles south of Mexico City. Members of the National Union of Journalists (SNRP) said they had asked the governor to protect Bueno León two months ago after the journalist had received death threats. He left a letter to be made public in the event of his death, listing names of those who may have wanted him dead. Topping the list was José Ruben Robles Catalán, former secretary of state for Guerrero, who was suing Bueno León and other journalists for defamation for reporting on criminal allegations against him which were the subject of government investigations. After Bueno León's murder, 50 local journalists marched to the central plaza in Chilpancingo, where they called on the governor to investigate the circumstances of the crime.
Benjamín Flores González, La Prensa
Date of Death: July 15, 1997
Place of Death: San Luis Río Colorado
Flores González was editor and owner of the daily La Prensa in San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora State, in northern Mexico. He was gunned down July 15 as he was arriving at the newspaper's offices. Flores Gonz†lez was known for his aggressive coverage of the drug trade, including a story published in May reporting that a half-ton of cocaine confiscated by federal authorities had disappeared from the Federal Judicial Police Headquarters in San Luis Río Colorado. His newspaper had recently reported on the special treatment being given an imprisoned drug lord. Police arrested a gunman July 18 allegedly hired by the drug lord's brother and charged him with the crime.
Víctor Hernández Martínez, Como
Date of Death: July 26, 1997
Hernández was a police reporter for the magazine Como. He was hit on the head with a blunt instrument July 25, 1997, and died July 26 of the traumatic head injury. Hernández was attacked upon leaving the office of the Federal Judicial Police, where he had gone in connection with a story he was working on. Colleagues at Como suspect that he may have been killed by federal agents working for the judiciary or by individuals connected to the police. Hernández often covered stories on the police and drug trafficking and had received threats and was the target of an attempted car bombing.
Z.A. Shahid, Khabrain
Date of Death: January 18, 1997
Place of Death: Lahore
Shahid was a photographer with the Urdu-language daily Khabrain. He was killed in a bomb blast at a court house. The bombing targeted leaders of the Sipah Sahaba Pakistan, an anti-Shiite party, who were being brought from jail to a hearing. At least 19 people were killed and more than 80 injured. Five of the injured were journalists.
Danny Hernandez, People's Journal Tonight
Date of Death: June 3, 1997
Place of Death: Manila
Hernandez was the news editor of a popular tabloid daily, People's Journal Tonight, for which he wrote a column called "Sunday Punch." He specialized in exposing drug syndicates and police corruption. He was fatally shot in a taxi after leaving the Journal office just before dawn. It was later learned the taxi had been stolen hours earlier and was apparently waiting for him, police said. Colleagues said Hernandez had told them he had been receiving death threats from members of drug rings.
|RWANDA (1)Appolos Hakizimana, Umuravumba
Date of Death: April 27, 1997
Place of Death: Kigali
Hakizimana was editor in chief of the independent bimonthly Umuravumba and former editor of the weekly Intego. He was accosted on his way home, gagged, shot, and killed by two assailants. He had been the target of an attempted kidnapping three weeks earlier. In July 1996 he was arrested and charged with being a Hutu accomplice to a mass killing. He was released August 19.
|SIERRA LEONE (1)
Date of Death: June 3, 1997
Place of Death: Allentown
Jalloh was a free-lance reporter for the independent newspapers Punch, Storm, and Vision. He was killed while covering the June 3 battle at Allentown of the combined battalion of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and Sierra Leone Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) with Nigerian soldiers of the West African peace monitoring force, ECOMOG.
Borys Derevyanko, Vechernyaya Odessa
Derevyanko, editor in chief of Vechernyaya Odessa, a popular and influential thrice-weekly newspaper, was fatally shot at point-blank range on his way to work on the morning of August 11 near the Press House, where the newspaper's offices are located. Colleagues believe the killing of Derevyanko, who was editor of Vechernyaya Odessa for 24 years, was related to the newspaper's opposition to the policies of Odessa's mayor. The chief regional prosecutor declared the murder a contract killing and launched an official investigation. Local authorities announced in September that they had arrested a suspect, described as a professional assassin, who confessed to killing Derevyanko, but they gave no details about his confession.