Journalists' killers getting away with murder, prompting recognition of International Day to End Impunity

On Wednesday, Nov. 23, for the first time, the world will recognize the International Day to End Impunity, held to coincide with the anniversary of the Nov. 23, 2009, massacre of 32 journalists in Maguindanao in the southern Philippines. The inaugural day is being organized by the International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX) as a "call to action to demand justice for those who have been killed for exercising their right to freedom of expression and shed light on the issue of impunity," according to IFEX.

IFEX counts more than 500 journalists killed in the past 10 years, and the killers have gone free in nine out of every 10 of those cases.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) maintains an impunity index, which shows that the countries with some of the worst rates of impunity, such as Iraq, Somalia, the Philippines and Mexico, continue to show no improvement when it comes to bringing journalists' killers to justice.

In Latin America, according to the 2011 index, Colombia made strides in terms of prosecuting crimes against journalists, but Brazil was added back to the index. Total, CPJ counts 887 journalists killed worldwide since 1992, and 40 have been killed this year alone -- 22 of which were in Latin America, reported Prensa Gráfica..

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) said that 2011 is the "most tragic year" in two decades for the Latin America press.

An editorial in The Nation points out that it's not just governments that need to take better action to end impunity: "Media-owners are equally as responsible for the safety of their staff as much as the individual journalists themselves. Above all, the fight to end impunity is a fight by the people who must hold their governments accountable and demand justice after these heinous crimes."

SImilarly, IAPA's Ricardo Trotti, in a column published in Mexico's Vanguardia newspaper, wrote that a more concerted, global effort is required to fight impunity, suggesting that perhaps the World Bank and other institutions that offer financial development aid should condition their assistance on proof that countries have concretely reduced impunity. "Often, an empty wallet is the only thing that mobilizes us," he wrote.