CPJ’s Smyth in Harvard Review: Facing impunity is key

Harvard International Review ran a feature article called “Murdering With Impunity: The Rise in Terror Tactics Against News Reporters,” by CPJ’s Journalist Security Coordinator Frank Smyth in its Fall 2010 issue, billed as a symposium focused on changes in journalism and press freedom. Editors-in-Chief Collin Galster and Gloria Park write in the printed issue’s foreword: 

“Opening the discussion is Robert Giles,” curator of Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism, “who juxtaposes the bleak situation of reporters facing physical harm with the rejuvenation of journalism through new digital innovations. Frank Smyth picks up where Giles leaves off, informing us of the chilling statistics of murdered reporters from Mexico to Côte d’Ivoire -and the frequency with which these killings remain uninvestigated and unresolved. Recognizing the danger that Smyth describes, Jean-Francois Julliard presents us with numerous ways in which Reporters Without Borders has sought to protect vulnerable reporters. Next, Andrew Meldrum, a 23-year correspondent in Zimbabwe, gives us a more in-depth look at Robert Mugabe’s repression of the press. And Jane Curry,” a University of Santa Clara professor, “concludes our Symposium with her analysis of the media’s contributions to democratization in Central and Eastern Europe.”


Smyth’s piece focuses on the challenges posed by unsolved journalist murders worldwide, for which the current rate of blanket impunity is no less than 89 percent. “At least 599 journalists have been murdered since 1992, according to CPJ statistics. To put it another way, a journalist is murdered somewhere around the world at least once every 11 days,” writes Smyth.


Most of these murders are concentrated in democratic or at least nominally democratic nations. “Multilateral institutions like the World Bank are only beginning to come to grips with this ongoing problem, and how to factor it into decisions concerning loans and other economic support to nations,” Smyth writes. “In fact, while economic and health indicators like gross national product and infant mortality per capita have long been used to determine levels of economic development, another way to measure development would be to examine the rate of prosecution for murders.”


Smyth’s article can be read online at Harvard International Review