For press freedom by Sunanda Deshapriya
(RSF/IFEX) – 19.12.2012 – This year has been exceptionally deadly, with a 33 per cent rise in the number of journalists killed in connection with their work over 2011. The worst-hit regions were the Middle East and Northern Africa (with 26 killed), Asia (24 killed) and sub-Saharan Africa (21 killed). Only the western hemisphere registered a fall in the number of journalists killed.
This is the worst set of figures since Reporters Without Borders began producing an annual roundup in 1995. The number of journalists murdered or killed was 67 in 2011, 58 in 2010 and 75 in 2009. The previous record was in 2007, when 87 were killed. The 88 journalists killed in 2012 lost their lives while covering wars or bombings, or were murdered by groups linked to organized crime (including drug trafficking), by Islamist militias or on the orders of corrupt officials.
“The reason for the unprecedented number of journalists killed in 2012 is mainly the war in Syria, the chaos in Somalia and Taliban violence in Pakistan,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “The impunity enjoyed by those responsible for violations of human rights, in particular, the right to freedom of information, encourages the continuation of these violations.”
The victims were news providers of all kinds. Citizen-journalists and netizens have been hit hard – 47 killed in 2012 compared with 5 in 2011 – especially in Syria. These men and women act as reporters, photographers and video-journalists, documenting their day-to-day lives and the government’s crackdown on its opponents. Without their activities, the Syrian regime would be able to impose a complete news blackout on certain regions and continue massacring in secret.
To compile these figures, Reporters Without Borders used the detailed information it gathered in the course of its monitoring of violations of freedom of information throughout the year. The victims were journalists or netizens who were killed in connection with the collection and dissemination of news and information. Reporters Without Borders did not include cases of journalists and netizens who were killed solely in connection with their political or civil society activism, or for other reasons unrelated to the provision of news and information. Reporters Without Borders continues to investigate other cases in which it has so far been unable to get all the information it needs in order to take a decision.
The five deadliest countries for journalists
Despite the UN Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 1738 in 2006, stressing the need to protect journalists in dangerous areas, violence against journalists, above all the killing of journalists, continues to be one of the biggest threats to freedom of expression.
Syria – cemetery for news providers
At least 17 journalists, 44 citizen-journalists and 4 media assistants killed in 2012
Bashar Al-Assad’s bloody crackdown in Syria has hit news providers hard because they are the unwanted witnesses of the atrocities being committed by a regime with its back to the wall. Journalists have also been targeted by armed opposition groups, which are increasingly intolerant of criticism and ready to brand journalists as spies if they fail to reflect their views. Because of the polarization of information sources, news manipulation, propaganda, technical constraints and the extreme violence to which journalists and citizen-journalists are exposed, anyone trying to gather or disseminate news and information in Syria needs a real sense of vocation.
Black year for Somalia
18 journalists killed in 2012 in this Horn of Africa country
Twice as many journalists were killed in Somalia in 2012 as in 2009, until now the deadliest year for media personnel. The second half of September was particularly bloody with seven journalists killed, two of them in the space of 24 hours. One was gunned down, the other beheaded. Most are the victims of targeted murders or bombings. Those responsible for this violence are either armed militias such as Al-Shebaab or local government officials who want to silence news outlets. Somali journalists are subject to the most appalling constraints in both the capital Mogadishu and in the rest of the country. The lack of a stable government in this failed state for the past 20 years, endemic violence and generalized impunity all contribute to the grim death toll.
Pakistan, a journalist killed every month
10 journalists and 1 media assistant killed in 2012 – a minefield for the media because of endemic violence in Balochistan and Taliban reprisals
Ten journalists were killed in Pakistan for the second year running – almost one a month since February 2010. It was the world’s deadliest country for the media from 2009 to 2011, and Balochistan continues to be one of the world’s most dangerous regions. With its Tribal Areas, its border with Afghanistan, its tension with India and its chaotic political history, Pakistan is one of the world’s most complicated countries to cover. Terrorist threats, police violence, local potentates with unlimited powers and dangerous conflicts in the Tribal Areas place often deadly stumbling blocks in journalists’ paths.
Journalists targeted by organized crime in Mexico
6 journalists killed
Mexico’s violence, which has grown exponentially during the federal offensive against the drug cartels of the past six years, targets journalists who dare to cover drug trafficking, corruption, organized crime’s infiltration of local and federal government and human rights violations by government officials.
Brazil: behind the scenes
5 journalists killed
Drug traffickers operating across the Paraguayan border seem to have had a direct hand in the deaths of two of the five journalists murdered in connection with their work in Brazil in 2012. Both had covered drug cases. Two of the other victims were blogging journalists, who often find that the least criticism of local officials can expose them to danger.
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