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CPJ Names 13 Countries Where Journalists' Killers Go Free

The Committee to Protect Journalists says governments in South Asia are among the worst in the world at prosecuting the killers of journalists. In a new Impunity Index that covers unsolved murders over the past nine years, six of the 13 countries that have consistently failed to solve these cases are in South Asia. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

CPJ's new Impunity Index cites 13 countries as having the worst records for letting killers of journalists get away with murder.

"There are many problems confronting journalists around the world - censorship, incarceration - but there is no greater threat to the free circulation of ideas and information than murder," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. "Especially murder without consequence. And that is what this Impunity Index measures."

Simon told reporters at United Nations headquarters in New York that for this first-ever Impunity Index, the press freedom group looked at every country around the world over a nine-year period. Only those nations with at least five or more cases without convictions made the list.

CPJ emphasizes that these are clearly cases where journalists have been targeted because of their work, and does not include situations in conflict zones where reporters are killed in the crossfire.

Six South Asian countries made the list, accounting for 41 of the 199 unsolved murders. They are Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. CPJ Communications Director Abi Wright says these figures show how vulnerable reporters are in South Asia.

"It shows a vulnerability and a preponderance of violence, and I hope it will serve as a call for action for journalists and governments in that region," Wright said.

Predictably, the three countries with the worst record for pursuing reporters' killers are Iraq, Somalia and Sierra Leone - all countries that have suffered from serious conflict. But what is shocking, the CPJ says, is that nine of the countries listed are democracies - including Russia, Mexico and India.

"It is a failure on the part of governments to fully engage with this issue and to devote the resources necessary and the political will necessary to bring the killers of journalists to justice," he said.

The index, released ahead of World Press Freedom Day on Saturday, also includes Colombia and the Philippines.

CPJ hopes its list of shame will motivate governments to take action and solve these crimes, sending a message to other would-be murderers that their crimes will not go unpunished.