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World February 27, 2008
Liars Without Borders
By Kirill Pankratov Browse author
Page 3 of 4

To get a fuller picture I compiled a table (shown below) of journalists in the CPJ database according to the way they died. Black squares represent straightforward murders – usually by gunshots, sometimes – by stabbing. Red squares – war or terrorism casualties where journalists themselves were not primary targets, but were killed in the attack. Blue squares – deaths in car accidents; and green squares – all other causes (suicides, heart attacks, etc). I excluded Iraq, Afghanistan, as well as Israel and the Palestinian territories, as well as African countries (although quite a lot of journalists were killed in Somalia, Sierra-Leone and other places). This way the list of countries below includes neither major war zones nor obvious "failed states." Only some countries (typically with a significant number of cases) are represented here.

When you look at this table what becomes immediately clear is that the CPJ has two distinct ways of judging journalists’ deaths based on where they happen. In countries like Russia, Belarus, or Iran, the cases of "confirmed" journalist deaths as a reprisal for their work, the CPJ includes death by any circumstance whatsoever. But in most other countries, a journalist has to either be directly assassinated or die in a war to be listed as "confirmed" killed for his work; no journalists anywhere else in the world are set up for car crashes, suspicious suicides or sudden illnesses for their work. The difference in criteria is huge. The CPJ includes lists those journalists whose death was without any doubt related to their work. For Russia, in contrast, even the slightest suspicion about a journalist’s death automatically qualifies his name to appear in the database of the "regime’s victims" (this trend really started in earnest after 2002).

After I published some of these findings on my Russian LiveJournal blog, I was contacted by The Moscow Times journalist Nabi Abdullaev and by Oleg Panfilov of the Center For Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES). Abdullaev mentioned he already raised very similar issue in his article on CJES site . It seemed clear that the CJES supplies most of the information about journalists’ deaths in Russia to the CPJ. Panfilov himself is as much an anti-Putin activist as one can be. Yet even he is amazed by the "strict journalistic standards" that CPJ applies to Russia: "Several years ago, an NTV television cameraman died in Chechnya after his car slid off a road into a canyon. How could this death be linked to the Putin regime?" Panfilov said.

The countries which represent such huge deviations in the CPJ stats oddly mirror the same countries that Washington policymakers dislike. Is the CPJ an objective and independent body, or is it just an obedient tool of the US government? The evidence is pretty clear. This wouldn’t be the first NGO which acts as an arm of US policy interests under the guise of higher universal standards, but it is the first that specifically uses journalists’ deaths to advance political agendas. Among all of the "double-standards" going on, this has to be a new low: The Committee To Protect Journalists: an organization which claims to defend a profession dedicated to exposing government corruption and lies, is itself revealed as a corrupt tool of less-than-idealistic interests.

CPJ Stats on murdered journalists

CPJ Stats on murdered journalists

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