Swedish ceremony remembers 137 journalists killed in 2009

Stockholm, May 30 (IANS) A memorial service was held in the Swedish capital to remember 137 journalists, including four Indians, from 33 countries who died performing their professional duties in 2009.

The Stockholm Journalists Memorial has been held annually May 26 since 2003 by the Professional Foreign Correspondents Association of Sweden (PROFOCA) with the participation of the Lutheran, Catholic and Orthodox churches. The memorial alternates every year from the Lutheran church to the Catholic church.

The ceremony, held this year at St Erik’s Catholic Cathedral, remembered among numerous others, four Indian journalists – Anil Majumdar, Venkatesh Chapalgaonkar, Prakash Kumar Nath and Aman Kashyap – who died during 2009.

Majumdar, editor-in-chief of Asaam’s Aji daily, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in Guwahati, while Chapalgaonkar, the bureau chief of Star Majha TV channel in Pune, died in a road accident. Nath and Kashyap, both photojournalists, died in accidents while on assignments.

The poignant ecumenical service, conducted by Reverend Kristina Ljunggren, honoured the memory of the killed journalists in countries ranging from Afghanistan to Venezuela. It was attended by the ambassadors of India, Pakistan, Mexico, Colombia, Georgia, El Salvador and the representative of Palestine.

In his address, Indian Ambassador to Sweden Balkrishna Shetty said: ‘We in India believe in the importance of the freedom of the press and understand its significance for democracy and governance. We are grateful to you for arranging the ecumenical service recognizing the contributions of these journalists who died in the line of duty.’

Diplomats, journalists and representatives of the Swedish Federation of Journalists, the Federation of Radio and Television journalists, Amnesty International and the Swedish finance ministry were also present.

PROFOCA president Francesco Alonzo delivered a moving speech for the dead mediapersons, as well as ‘deep anguish’ for the Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak who has been incarcerated in Eritrea since 2007 for his fight for freedom of speech and democracy.

Alonzo and Swedish journalists and officials later placed white roses on the altar to pray for Isaak’s safety and speedy release.

Other journalists from South Asia commemorated were Uma Singh and Nischal Tapa of Nepal, Tahir Awan, Mohammad Imran, Musa Khankhel, Janullah Hashimzada, Aamir Wakil, Raja Asad Hameed, Wasi Ahmed, Siddique Bacha Khan from Pakistan and Lasantha Wickrematunge and Puniyamoorthy Sathiyamoorthy from Sri Lanka.

Inam Abdul Majed, representing Iraq’s Alfayhaa TV network presented to PROFOCA a painting of Iraqi journalist Atwar Bahjat, killed in 2006 after being shot several times in her back and head.

‘Atwar Bahjat covered many funerals, capturing the grief, indignation and fury of countless mourners struggling to comprehend their country’s descent into sectarian conflict. Even her funeral was attacked. Her sin? The truth and nothing but the truth,’ said PROFOCA’s secretary Luis Jose Belmar in his eulogy for the Iraqi journalist.

(Alfred de Tavares can be contacted [email protected])