The number of journalists murdered for their reporting almost doubled in 2018, contributing to another deadly year for the profession after a period of declining casualties.
The rising toll, together with the record numbers of journalists jailed around the world over past three years, amounts to a “global crisis of press freedom”, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday.
The brutal murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi captured the world’s attention this year. But he was just one of 34 journalists murdered because of their work in 2018, up from 18 the year before.
A total of 53 journalists were killed around the world. More journalists were killed in reprisal for their work than died covering war, as places such as Syria and Yemen became less accessible.
The press rights group said the rise in killings was partly due to changes in technology that have meant more people can practice journalism. But it also singled out a lack of international leadership on the safety and rights of journalists, particularly from the administration of US president Donald Trump.
“The White House, traditionally a strong defender of global press freedom, has equivocated on the blame for Khashoggi’s murder,” the CPJ said in its end-of-year report. “Essentially, Trump signaled that countries that do enough business with the United States are free to murder journalists without consequence,” it added.
The report noted Mr Trump’s frequent attacks on the media in the US. Those attacks continued even in the aftermath of the deadliest attack on journalists in recent US history, in which a gunman entered the offices of the Capital Gazette in the city of Annapolis in Maryland and murdered five people.
Essentially, Trump signaled that countries that do enough business with the United States are free to murder journalists without consequence
“Within days, he had resumed his characteristic attacks on the press, calling the media ‘fake news’ and journalists ‘enemies of the people’ on social media and at rallies.”
Europe was not immune to targeted killings of journalists, either. In February, 27-year-old journalist Ján Kuciak, a reporter investigating corruption in Slovakia, was shot dead.
The deadliest country in the world for journalists was Afghanistan, which saw the highest number of deaths in a year since the CPJ started keeping track in 1992. The 11 journalists killed there were were mostly caused by double bomb blasts which had the express aim of killing killing journalists and first responders.
Nine journalists were killed in Syria, three in Yemen, and two Palestinian journalists were shot and killed by Israeli soldiers while covering protests in the Gaza strip. For the first time since 2012, the CPJ did not confirm any journalists were killed because of their work in Iraq.
The CPJ’s findings come hot on the heels of a yearly round-up by Reporters Without Borders, another press freedom group. It found that 80 journalists were killed this year, and 60 more are being held hostage. It said the findings reveal “an unprecedented level of hostility towards media personnel.” RSF’s figure includes professional journalists, non-professional journalists, and media workers.