Fifty-two Journalists and Writers Killed in 1998: CJFE Annual Report

Thursday, February 18, 1999
Nineteen ninety-eight was another bloody year for journalists and writers, reports Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) in its annual statistics published today. According to CJFE's "Annual Report", 52 journalists and writers were killed in 1998. Heading the list from CJFE's standpoint is the brutal murder of Tara Singh Hayer, publisher and editor of the "Indo-Canadian Times" in Vancouver - the first assassination of an editor in our country's history. Other notable statistics include: # 94 journalists and writers arrested and still detained # 301 journalists and writers assaulted # 34 journalists and writers threatened with death # 217 legal actions against journalists and writers # 118 media outlets banned, suspended, or closed These statistics represent the cumulative reports issued by the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) Clearing House, a CJFE program which reports the findings of 35 freedom of expression organizations around the world. CANADA Tara Singh Hayer was shot to death in the garage of his suburban Vancouver home on the evening of 18 November 1998. Hayer, who published the "Indo-Canadian Times", Canada's largest and oldest Punjabi weekly, was an outspoken critic of violent Sikh fundamentalists and+ had already been the target of an assassination attempt at his newspaper office in 1988. At the time, he was left partially paralysed. Hayer's son, Sukhdev Hayer, said his father had arrived moments earlier at his Surrey, British Columbia home from his newspaper office, and had just transferred from his vehicle to his wheelchair when he was shot. Hayer's son added that he went back to the newspaper office after the shooting to add a special insert that would let readers know of the killing. Hayer said it was important to continue work on the paper despite the murder because his father had fought for press freedom in Canada. "He has fought for the freedom of human beings here. He always said if they were going to kill him for what he published so be it," said Hayer. Sukhdev Hayer believes the killer was trying to frighten people prior to upcoming Sikh temple elections in Vancouver and Abbotsford because they feared moderates would win. Sikh moderates and friends of Hayer said police have done little to head off the threats and violence of fundamentalists in the region. "The police should have acted on the threats against Mr. Hayer and others before the assassination," said Bikar Singh Dhillon, a former Temple president and victim of a 1991 assassination attempt. "There have been rumours of hitmen in town for weeks and police have done nothing," he added. CJFE called for a full investigation into Hayer's murder, but to date has heard of no progress from British Columbia's Attorney General. WORLD Colombia continues to be the deadliest home for journalists, where eight journalists were murdered and 19 were kidnaped and later released last year. In May of '98, Bernabé Cortes, a television reporter in Cali known for his coverage of drug trafficking and corruption, was shot dead by several men while on his way to an appointment with an individual who had paged him earlier in the morning with "important news." Five journalists were murdered in Mexico last year. In February of '98, Luis Mario García, a member of the editorial staff of "La Tarde", was assassinated. García, the newspaper's judicial correspondent, had been covering the activities of the country's Attorney General. As he was leaving the offices of the Attorney General, four assailants followed him and fired nine shots in García's direction before fleeing the scene. Three writers were found strangled to death within a two week period in Iran in 1998. All three were actively promoting free expression in Iran, and their murders have issued a chilling warning to all journalists and writers in that country. CJFE also reports six journalists killed in Kenya, five in Russia, and two each in Peru and Nigeria in 1998. In 1997, CJFE reported 44 journalists and writers killed in the course of their work. For more information, or for the full statistics report, contact: Wayne Sharpe Executive Director Canadian Journalists for Free Expression tel: 416-515-9622 fax: 416-515-7879 cjfe@cjfe.org

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