24 JOURNALISTS KILLED FOR THEIR WORK IN 2000 Highest Tolls in Colombia, Russia, and Sierra Leone

New York, January 4, 2001 — Of the 24 journalists killed for their work in 2000, according to CPJ research, at least 16 were murdered, most of those in countries where assassins have learned they can kill journalists with impunity.

This figure is down from 1999, when CPJ found that 34 journalists were killed for their work, 10 of them in war-torn Sierra Leone.

In announcing the organization’s annual accounting of journalists who lost their lives because of their work, CPJ executive director Ann Cooper noted that while most of the deaths occurred in countries experiencing war or civil strife, “The majority did not die in crossfire. They were very deliberately targeted for elimination because of their reporting.” Others whose deaths were documented by CPJ appear to have been singled out while covering demonstrations, or were caught in military actions or ambushes while on assignment.

Colombia: Perennial Deaths

In Colombia, a country riven by civil war for nearly four decades, CPJ’s research documented three journalists murdered for their work in 2000, all shot dead by assassins. CPJ continues to investigate the cases of another four killed journalists in Colombia, whose deaths last year may have been related to their professional work. No arrests have been made, and the people who ordered the killings have never been identified. In the past decade, 34 Colombian journalists have been killed as a result of their work.

In Russia, another country where assassins who murder journalists are rarely brought to justice, another three journalists were killed in 2000—one taken hostage and shot to death by Chechen rebels, another bludgeoned outside his Moscow apartment, apparently because of his paper’s reporting, and the third killed in Chechnya while riding in a vehicle that was blown up.

The ongoing strife in Sierra Leone also claimed three journalists in 2000—a local reporter in Freetown, and two journalists for international wire services who were caught in a rebel ambush. A year earlier, Sierra Leone was infamous as the deadliest country in the world for journalists; 10 died there in 1999, most of them hunted down and murdered by rebel forces angered by their reporting on human rights abuses.

In addition to the 24 cases described in its report, CPJ continues to investigate the deaths of another 20 journalists, where circumstances indicate their killings may have been related to their professional work.

CPJ also fears that a missing journalist, Belarusian television cameraman Dmitry Zavadsky, may have been killed in 2000. Zavadsky disappeared at the airport in Minsk on July 7. An official investigation, conducted in secret, now appears to be stalled. (Click here for more information about the Zavadsky case.)

While wars and civil strife make journalism a dangerous profession, impunity compounds the risk, noted Cooper. “If people who want to silence the press know they will not be held accountable, they will commit—and get away with—murder,” she said. In a few cases, such as those of Georgy Gongadze in Ukraine and Carlos Cardoso in Mozambique, social protests and public pressure for investigations mark an encouraging erosion of impunity. But even in such high- profile cases, said Cooper, “Press freedom groups must maintain pressure for justice, so that all journalists can do their jobs free from the fear of violent reprisals.”

The following list is a brief summary of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of each of the 24 journalists killed for their work last year. Click here for more detailed accounts, along with case reports on the 20 journalists whose deaths CPJ is continuing to investigate.

Journalists Killed In 2000 Because of Their Work


Mir Illias Hossain, Dainik Bir Darpan, January 15, Jhenaidah
Hossain, 43, editor of the newspaper Dainik Bir Darpan, was assassinated in the southwestern town of Jhenaidah by three attackers. The paper had been outspoken against left-wing militant activity in the area, arguing against violence and urging participation in the democratic process.

Shamsur Rahman, Janakantha, July 16, Jessore
Rahman, 43, a special correspondent for the national daily Janakantha and a frequent contributor to the BBC Bengali-language service, was killed by two armed men who entered his office and fired at him from point-blank range. Rahman had periodically received death threats for his reporting on criminal gangs and armed political groups in the region. Local police claimed that a gang of smugglers had plotted his murder. The police made a series of arrests, but all the suspects were subsequently released.


Zezinho Cazuza, Rádio Xingó FM, March 13, Canindé de S‹o Francisco
, a journalist with the local station Rádio Xingó FM in the city of Canindé de S‹o Francisco, was shot to death after leaving a party. Cazuza had regularly accused the mayor, Genivaldo Galindo da Silva, of corruption. The magazine ISTOÉ reported that Galindo had publicly threatened to kill the journalist. Two days after the murder, police arrested a man who said the mayor had hired him to kill Cazuza for about US$1,500.


Juan Camilo Restrepo Guerra, Radio Galaxia Estéreo, October 31, Sevilla
, 26, a community radio station director, was shot dead by a suspected right-wing paramilitary gunman. Government investigators told CPJ that the journalist was apparently murdered in retaliation for his sharp criticism of the local administration. Restrepo’s brother, who witnessed the murder, has gone into hiding. A local source declined to give information about the killers, saying, “That would be like signing my own death sentence.” No arrests have been made.

Gustavo Rafael Ruiz Cantillo
, Radio Galeón, November 15, Pivijay
Ruiz, a correspondent for the regional station Radio Galeón, was shot and killed by two gunmen as he crossed the Pivijay market square. Colleagues said the gunmen were members of a right-wing paramilitary gang financed by “the rich people in the area.” According to one source, gang members had told Ruiz, who covered politics, crime, and general news, to “give up that big mouth’s job.” No arrests have been made.

Alfredo Abad López, La Voz de la Selva, December 13, Florencia
Abad, 36, director of the local radio station La Voz de la Selva (“Voice of the Jungle”), was shot and killed by two suspected paramilitary gunmen on a motorcycle as he was saying goodbye to his wife outside their home. Recently, Florencia has become a power base for anti-Communist paramilitary forces linked to Carlos Castaño’s United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). No arrests have been made.


Roberto Martínez, Prensa Libre, April 27, Guatemala City
Martínez, 37, a photographer for the Guatemala City daily Prensa Libre, was killed when private security guards opened fire on rioters protesting increases in bus fares. A woman standing near Martínez was also killed and a number of people were injured, including two other journalists. At the time of the attack, Martínez and his colleagues were carrying cameras and other professional equipment that clearly identified them as journalists.


Jean Léopold Dominique, Radio Haïti Inter, April 3, Port-au-Prince
Dominique, 69, the outspoken owner and director of Radio Haïti Inter, was shot dead in the early hours of April 3 as he arrived to host the morning news. The station’s security guard was also killed. Dominique was Haiti’s most prominent political journalist and a long-time advocate of free speech.


Pradeep Bhatia, The Hindustan Times, August 10, Srinagar
Bhatia, 31, a photographer for The Hindustan Times, was one of more than a dozen people killed in a bomb attack in the Kashmir capital, Srinagar. The militant group Hezb-ul Mujahedeen claimed responsibility for the attack, which injured at least six other journalists. Most of them were on the scene to report on a bomb that had exploded 15 minutes earlier.


Carlos Cardoso, Metical, November 22, Maputo
Cardoso, 48, editor of the daily fax newsletter Metical, was shot dead by two assassins wielding AK-47 assault rifles as he left his office in the capital, Maputo. He was known for his groundbreaking reporting on political corruption and organized crime in Mozambique, a country still recovering from a 17-year civil war. Although Cardoso sympathized with the ruling FRELIMO party, he often lambasted the government in his editorials. Metical had also reported recently on alleged wrongdoing at the Mozambique Commercial Bank. Though the Mozambican government condemned Cardoso’s assassination and promised a full investigation, local journalists say police have been dragging their feet.


Sufi Mohammad Khan, Ummat, May 2, Shadi Large
Khan, 38, an investigative reporter with the Karachi-based daily Ummat who aggressively covered drug trafficking and organized prostitution, was shot dead by an alleged drug trafficker in the town of Shadi Large, southern Sindh Province. The killer had reportedly visited Khan’s house and warned him not to publish any more stories. On May 2, after another Khan investigation appeared in Ummat, the assassin confronted him and opened fire. Shortly after, the murderer surrendered to police and confessed to the murder.


Vincent Rodriguez, dzMM Radio, May 23, Sasmuan
Rodriguez, a correspondent for the Manila-based radio station dzMM, was killed on assignment in Sasmuan when guerrillas ambushed a boat convoy in which he was travelling. Rodriguez was covering a tour by government officials of village development projects. The Rebolusyonaryong Hukbong Bayan (RHB), a rebel group, claimed responsibility for the attack but apologized for the journalist’s murder. They said local police were the intended target.

Olimpio Jalapit, Jr.
, dxPR Radio, November 17, Pagadian City
Jalapit, 34, host of a morning program on local radio station dxPR, was shot and killed in Pagadian City while on his way to a meeting with a government official. He had received numerous death threats over the years. On the morning of the murder a message on his cell phone said, “I will kill you today.” Jalapit’s program discussed sensitive issues such as political corruption, illegal gambling, the drug trade, and armed separatist movements in the southern Philippines.


Vladimir Yatsina, ITAR-TASS, February 20, Chechnya
Yatsina, 51, a photographer with the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS, was killed by Chechen militants who had taken him hostage. Two former hostages said they had seen Chechen guards shoot Yatsina dead after he fell behind on a forced march. Yatsina had been kidnapped on July 19, 1999, before the latest Russian military campaign against Chechen separatists. A month later, the kidnappers demanded a ransom of US$2 million from his family; they later demanded the same amount from ITAR-TASS.

Aleksandr Yefremov, Nashe Vremya, May 12, Chechnya
Yefremov, 41, a photo-correspondent with the western Siberian newspaper Nashe Vremya, was killed in Chechnya when rebels blew up a military jeep in which he was riding. On previous assignments, Yefremov had won acclaim for his news photographs from the war-torn region.

Igor Domnikov, Novaya Gazeta, July 16, Moscow
Domnikov, 42, a reporter and special-projects editor for the biweekly Moscow paper Novaya Gazeta, was attacked in the entryway of his apartment building on May 12, hit repeatedly on the head with a heavy object, and left lying unconscious in a pool of blood. He died on July 16, after two months in a coma. Both the police and Domnikov’s colleagues were certain the attack was related to his professional activity or that of Novaya Gazeta.


Saoman Conteh, New Tablet, May 8, Freetown
Conteh, 48, a journalist with the independent weekly New Tablet, was shot while covering a demonstration outside the Freetown residence of Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader Foday Sankoh. Sankoh’s bodyguards opened fire on a crowd protesting the May 3 abduction of United Nations peacekeepers by the RUF. At least 19 people were killed.

Kurt Schork, Reuters, and Miguel Gil Moreno de Mora, Associated Press, May 24, Rogberi Junction
Schork, 53, a veteran Reuters war correspondent, and Gil Moreno, 32, a cameraman with The Associated Press Television Network, were killed in an ambush by rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The journalists were traveling in two vehicles with soldiers from the Sierra Leone Army (SLA) when RUF forces opened fire on them east of Rogberi Junction, 54 miles from Freetown. The area had recently been the scene of fierce fighting between rebels and pro-government forces. Four SLA soldiers were also killed, and two other Reuters journalists were wounded.


Ahmed Kafi Awale, Radio of the Somali People, January 26, Mogadishu
Awale, a reporter for warlord Hussein Mohamed Aidid’s Radio of the Somali People, was shot dead while on assignment at Bakara market in Mogadishu. A stray bullet hit Awale as thieves escaping from market guards fired shots to clear their way. Three other people were killed in the incident, and seven were seriously injured.


José Luis López de la Calle, El Mundo, May 7, Andoain
López de la Calle, 63, a regular contributor to the Basque edition of the Madrid-based daily El Mundo, was shot dead outside his home in Andoain. Interior Ministry officials attributed the crime to the Basque separatist group ETA. López de la Calle was an outspoken critic of ETA’s violent campaign for Basque independence, and had received death threats from the group.


Mylvaganam Nimalarajan, BBC, Virakesari, Ravaya, October 19, Jaffna
reported from the besieged city of Jaffna for the BBC’s Tamil and Sinhala-language services, the Tamil-language daily Virakesari, and the Sinhala-language weekly Ravaya. He was shot late at night through the window of his study, where he was working on an article. The assailants also threw a grenade into his house, seriously injuring Nimalarajan’s parents and his 11-year-old nephew. The murder was apparently prompted by Nimalarajan’s reports on vote-rigging and intimidation during recent parliamentary elections.


Georgy Gongadze, Ukrainska Pravda, September 16, Kyiv
Gongadze, 31, editor of the news Web site Ukrainska Pravda (www.pravda.com.ua), which often featured articles critical of President Leonid Kuchma and other Ukrainian government officials, disappeared in Kyiv on September 16.
In early November, a farmer discovered a headless corpse outside the town of Tarashcha. Based on jewelry found at the scene and an X-ray of the corpse’s hand that showed an old injury matching one Gongadze had suffered while covering the conflict in Abkhazia, a region of Georgia, his colleagues concluded the body was indeed Gongadze.

In late November, an opposition leader released an audiotape that seemed to implicate Kuchma and two senior aides in the journalist’s disappearance. By then Gongadze’s body had disappeared. The government claimed to be conducting forensic tests, but accusations that the government was staging a cover-up appeared to pose a serious political threat to Kuchma.


Julio César Da Rosa, Radio del Centro, February 24, Baltasar Brum
Da Rosa, owner and editor of the independent station Radio del Centro, was murdered by former local official Carmelo Nery Colombo, who shot the journalist and then turned the weapon on himself. The attack was apparently provoked by Da Rosa’s on-air suggestion that Colombo was unfit to run for public office.

Documenting the Deaths

CPJ researchers apply stringent guidelines and journalistic standards to determine whether journalists were killed on assignment or as a direct result of their professional work. By publicizing and protesting these killings, CPJ works to help change the conditions that foster violence against journalists. The death toll that CPJ compiles each year is one of the most widely cited measures of press freedom in the world.