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Journalists' killers getting away with murder

Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance News Release - October 16, 2013

Today, on the 38th anniversary of the murder of the Balibo Five in East Timor, the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance is launching a campaign highlighting impunity over the killing of Australian journalists. Find the press release here: http://www.alliance.org.au/documents/131016_pr_balibo_five.pdf.

MEAA has written to Minister for Justice Michael Keenan and Australian Federal Police chief Commissioner Tony Negus demanding that the AFP be properly resourced to carry out war crimes investigations and to deal with impunity cases of Australian journalists murdered overseas. (See http://bit.ly/1aodlUT)

There are three cases outstanding where the killers have not been brought to justice: the Balibo Five in October 1975, Roger East in Dili on December 8, 1975 and Paul Moran in northern Iraq on March 22, 2003.

MEAA federal secretary Christopher Warren said: "It has been six years since the NSW deputy coroner Dorelle Pinch conducted an inquest into the death of Brian Peters and the four journalists killed with him in Balibo on this day 1975. And it is more than four years since the Australian Federal Police (AFP) announced that it would conduct a war crimes investigation into the deaths of the Balibo Five.

"In May this year it was reported that the investigation had stalled after the AFP wrote to the families of the slain journalists saying that it was still seeking access to information. This is the most appalling examples of impunity when it comes to the murder of Australian journalists and it means that the perpetrators are getting away with murder," Warren said

MEAA has also called on the AFP to investigate the murder of AAP journalist Roger East on Dili Wharf a few months after the murder of the Balibo Five with a view to finding the perpetrators and to begin preparations to ensure Mullah Krekar, the individual understood to have ordered the suicide bombing that killed ABC cameraman Paul Moran in northern Iraq, be extradicted from Norway where he is currently in prison to face war crimes charges in Australia.

MEAA believes that although considerable time has passed since the murder of Roger East, the Balibo Inquest was able to uncover several eyewitnesses and valuable evidence that has been able to identify individuals who should be investigated by the AFP. A similar process should be considered to determine who was responsible for murdering East and on whose orders were they operating under.

Paul Moran was the first media person killed in the 2003 Iraq war. According to US and UN investigations, the man most likely responsible for training and perhaps even directly ordering the terrorist attack that killed Moran is Oslo resident Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, better known as Mullah Krekar.

He has escaped extradition to Iraq or the US because Norway resists deporting anyone to countries that have the death penalty. He is now imprisoned in Norway guilty of four counts of intimidation under aggravating circumstances. He is likely to be released in 2015.

Warren said: "The ongoing impunity over the killing of these journalists is a stain on the Australian justice system that, if left unchecked, signals that journalists are "fair game" for powerful people who wish to silence the media and prevent stories getting out. The failure to fully investigate the murder of our colleagues, the failure to bring justice to bear and ensure the murderers are punished does not do Australia any credit when standing up for human rights elsewhere in the world. We should apply the same standards that we demand of others."

MEAA's end impunity campaign begins today and will run until November 23, the International Day to End Impunity – the day when 58 people, including 32 journalists were murdered in the Philippines in the Ampatuan Massacre. It is time the people who kill journalists stop getting away with murder.

Countless citizens, artists, bloggers, musicians and journalists have been harassed, threatened, tortured, intimidated, jailed and worse for exercising their basic human right to free expression. Most crimes against free expression go unpunished.

23 November is the International Day to End Impunity. This day marks the anniversary of the 2009 Ampatuan Massacre, in which 58 people – including 32 journalists and media workers -were murdered in the Philippines. To date, none of the perpetrators have been brought to justice.