Eighty-eight journalists and forty-seven citizen journalists were killed in 2012, according to a report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The press freedom group noted this was the deadliest year since it began keeping track of journalist deaths in 1995.
By the numbers, the rate of journalist deaths went up 33%. Eight hundred and seventy-nine journalists were arrested. One thousand nine-hundred and ninety-three journalists were threatened or physically attacked. Thirty-eight journalists were kidnapped. Seventy-three journalists fled their country. Six media assistants were killed. One hundred and forty-four bloggers and netizens were arrested.
RSF reported the journalists died “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.”
Netizen and citizen journalist deaths went up 840%. In 2011, only five died. The spike was attributed to the conflict 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…
The five deadliest countries were: Syria, where at least 17 journalists, 44 citizen journalists and 4 media assistants were killed; Somalia, where 18 journalists were killed by armed militias like Al-Shabaab or local government officials who wanted to suppress news organizations; Pakistan, where 9 journalists and 1 media assistant were killed “because of endemic violence in Balochistan and Taliban reprisals”; Mexico, where 6 journalists were killed; and Brazil, where 5 journalists were killed.
In Mexico, RSF noted, journalists are targeted for “covering drug trafficking, corruption, organized crime’s infiltration of local and federal government and human rights violations by government officials.”
As of December 18, a record number of journalists—193 journalists—were in prison. Turkey imprisoned the most journalists with 42 journalists and 4 media workers detained simply for their work gathering and disseminating news.
The number of journalists currently detained in connection with their work in Turkey is without precedent since the end of the military rule. Limited legislative reforms have barely slowed the pace of arrests, searches and trials to which journalists are subjected, usually on the grounds of combatting terrorism. Based on repressive laws, judicial practices are dominated by security concerns and show little respect for freedom of information and the right to due process.
China imprisoned 30 journalists and 69 netizens. RSF noted, “Most of the hundred or so journalists and netizens currently held are serving long sentences in harsh conditions on charges of subversion or divulging state secrets.”
Twenty-eight journalists were imprisoned in Eritrea. According to RSF, “None of the 28 journalists currently in prison had the right to a trial or access to a lawyer and few have ever been allowed a family visit. Prison conditions are appalling and include solitary confinement, underground cells and torture.”
Iran imprisoned 26 journalists and 17 netizens and Syria held at least 21 journalists and 18 netizens in prison (many who were systematically tortured).
RSF found “the number of arrests and physical attacks” fell “sharply since the fall of Muammar Qadhafi and Hosni Mubarak respectively in Libya (7 arrests in 2012, down from 28 in 2011) and Egypt (33 arrests and 63 attacks in 2012, down from 116 arrests and 104 attacks in 2011).” However, there was a rise in threats or attacks in Tunisia.
Yesterday, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) put up its report on journalist deaths in 2012. Similar to RSF, it found 2012 was “on track to become one of the deadliest years since CPJ began keeping detailed records in 1992.”
The worst year on record for journalist killings was 2009, when 74 individuals were confirmed dead because of their work—nearly half of them slain in a massacre in Maguindanao province, Philippines. CPJ is investigating the deaths of 30 more journalists in 2012 to establish whether they were work-related.
CPJ’s number of journalist deaths is much lower because it appears they use a criteria that is much more strict.
CPJ staff members independently investigate and verify the circumstances behind each death. CPJ considers a case work-related only when its staff is reasonably certain that a journalist was killed in direct reprisal for his or her work; in combat-related crossfire; or while carrying out a dangerous assignment.
Finally, CPJ found most of the victims worldwide were “local journalists,” who were covering unfolding events in their own country. It also listed four international journalists killed, all while conducting work in Syria: “American Marie Colvin, who wrote for the U.K.’s Sunday Times; French freelance photographer Rémi Ochlik; France 2 reporter Gilles Jacquier; and Japan Press journalist Mika Yamamoto.”