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71 Journalists Killed in 2013

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 19 2013 (IPS) - The Paris based Reporters Without Borders said the annual toll of journalists killed in connection with their work was again very high in 2013, although this year’s number, 71, was a slight fall (-20%) on last year’s.

In its latest round-up of freedom of information violations, the organizations said there was also a big increase (+129%) in abductions and the overall level of violations affecting news providers continued to be very high.

“Combatting impunity must be a priority for the international community, given that we are just days away from the 7th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1738 on the safety of journalists and that there have been new international resolutions on the protection of journalists,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

According to a press release Wednesday, the regions with the largest numbers of journalists killed in connection with their work were Asia (with 24) and the Middle East and North Africa (with 23). The number of journalists killed in sub-Saharan Africa fell sharply, from 21 in 2012 to 10 in 2013 – due to the fall in the number of deaths in Somalia (from 18 in 2012 to 7 in 2013). Latin America saw a slight fall (from 15 in 2012 to 12 in 2013).

Syria, Somalia and Pakistan retained their position among the world’s five deadliest countries for the media (see below). They were joined this year by India and the Philippines, which replaced Mexico and Brazil, although the number of journalists killed in Brazil, five, was the same as last year.

Two journalists were killed in Mexico, while three others disappeared. The return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to power and new government pressure on the media contributed to a sharp increase in self-censorship in Mexico. An increase in self-censorship was probably also the reason for the fall in the number of journalists killed in other countries.

39% of the deaths occurred in conflicts zones, defined as Syria, Somalia, Mali, the Indian province of Chhattisgarh, the Pakistani province of Balochistan and the Russian republic of Dagestan. The other journalists were killed in bombings, by armed groups linked to organized crime (including drug trafficking), by Islamist militias, by police or other security forces, or on the orders of corrupt officials, the press release said.

Of the 71 journalists killed in 2013, 37% worked for the print media, 30% for radio stations, 30% for TV and 3% for news websites. The overwhelming majority of the victims (96%) were men.

The number of journalists killed in connection with their work in 2013 fell by 20% compared with 2012, but 2012 was an “exceptionally deadly” year with a total of 88 killed. The numbers were 67 in 2011, 58 in 2010 and 75 in 2009.

The fall in 2013 was also offset by an increase in physical attacks and threats by security forces and non-state actors. Journalists were systematically targeted by the security forces in Turkey, in connection with the Gezi Park protests, and to a lesser extent in Ukraine, in connection with the Independence Square (“Maidan”) protests.

More than 100 cases of harassment and violence against journalists were registered during the “Brazilian spring” protests, most of them blamed on the military police. Colombia and Mexico also saw major protests that gave rise to police violence against media personnel. Journalists were among the victims of the political unrest in Egypt in 2013, sectarian unrest in Iraq, and militia violence in Libya.

In Guinea, journalists where regularly threatened, by both government and opposition, during protests prior to the elections. India, Bangladesh and Pakistan also saw an increase in threats and attacks against journalists, as well as murders.

There was a big increase in the number of journalists kidnapped (from 38 in 2012 to 87 in 2013). Most of the cases were in the Middle East and North Africa (71) followed by sub-Saharan Africa (11). In 2013, 49 journalists were kidnapped in Syria and 14 in Libya. Abductions gained pace in Syria in 2013 and became more and more systematic in nature, deterring many reporters from going into the field.

Foreign journalists were increasingly targeted by the government and by Islamists groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) and Jabhat Al-Nosra, but their Syrian colleagues were the most exposed. At least 18 foreign journalists and 22 Syrian news providers are currently abducted or missing.

Threats and violence forced a growing number of journalists to flee abroad. The violence of the conflict in Syria led to the departure of at least 31 professional and citizen-journalists in 2013. Many of them are now in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon or Egypt, destitute and vulnerable. Victims of xenophobia and accused of being Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt, interrogated and threatened by the security services in Jordan, and threatened by pro-Assad militias in Lebanon, their situation often continues to be extremely precarious.

Despite the moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani’s election as Iran’s president in June 2013, and despite his promises of reform, 12 Iranian journalists fled the country in 2013 to escape government persecution.

Five Eritrean journalists fled abroad in 2013 to escape their country’s tyrannical regime, refusing to be President Issaias Afeworki’s propaganda slaves or fearing that they could be arrested and held incommunicado in one of the country’s appalling prison camps.

The exodus of journalists continued in Somalia. Most of them end up in neighbouring Kenya, where their safety and living conditions declined in 2013 because of an increase in xenophobia resulting from the military offensive that Kenya launched in Somalia in 2011 and because of the uncertainty surrounding the UN Refugee Agency’s registration of Somali requests for protection.

At least 178 journalists are in prison right now. China, Eritrea, Turkey, Iran and Syria continue to be world’s five leading jailers of journalists (see below), as they were in 2012. The number of imprisoned journalists is largely unchanged in China, Eritrea, Iran and Syria and has fallen somewhat in Turkey. Legislative reforms in Turkey have led to the conditional release of about 20 journalists but fall far short of what is needed to address the judicial system’s repressive practices.

These violations of freedom of information target news providers in the broadest sense, citizen-journalists and netizens, as well as professional journalists. In addition to the 71 professional media fatalities, 39 citizen-journalists and netizens were killed in 2013 (down slightly from 47 in 2012), above all in Syria. These citizen-journalists are ordinary men and women who act as reporters, photographers and videographers, trying to document their daily lives and the political violence and persecution to which they are exposed.

Reporters Without Borders’ secretary-general called for tougher measures to combat impunity when he spoke at a UN Security Council meeting in New York on 13 December on “Protecting journalists.” RWB wants Article 8 of the International Criminal Court’s statute to be amended so that “deliberate attacks on journalists, media workers and associated personnel” are defined as war crimes.

 
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