By Hedvig Lundström
Most sources report fewer killings in 2016 than in 2015. However, it seems as if violence against journalists has become increasingly deliberate, meaning that they are murdered as a direct consequence of their journalistic work. This is to contrast with media workers that are killed while reporting, but who are not intentionally targeted because of their profession. Reporters Without Borders specifies that 72 per cent of the journalists killed during the past year were murdered or deliberately targeted, whereas 28 per cent were killed while reporting.
While Syria continues to be the most dangerous place in the world for journalists, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan also figure on the list as some of deadliest countries for media workers. Many war zone journalists have been forced to leave their countries, creating worrying news and information “black holes” in these places, according to Reporters Without Borders.
Mexico continues to be unsafe for media workers, who face threats from organised crime and corrupt officials. Among the nine Mexican journalists reportedly killed last year, the motive has been confirmed for two of them: Marcos Hernández Bautista, a reporter with Noticias, Voz e Imagen de Oaxaca who often covered stories on political violence and organised crime, killed on 21 January, and El Sur reporter Elidio Ramos Zárate, who was shot dead on 19 June.
WAN-IFRA addresses these crucial media freedom challenges as a part of its Strengthening Media and Society Programme. Mexico is one of the three Latin American countries included in the programme, and in November WAN-IFRA organised a first regional panel on media freedom.
WAN-IFRA’s Strengthening Media and Society Programme is also active in the Philippines, another country that has a high number of killed journalists. According to the statistics, three Philippine journalists were killed in the past year: Elvis Banggoy Ordaniza (dxWO FM), Alex Balcoba (People’s Brigada) and Larry Que (Catanduanes News Now). However, the motive of the killings is yet to be confirmed.
Moreover, two tragic air accidents led to the deaths of 29 journalists in 2016. 20 journalists died in a plane crash on 29 November while travelling with a Brazilian football team for a match in Colombia’s second city Medellín, and nine journalists were among the victims when a Russian plane crashed in the Black Sea on 25 December.
The International News Safety Institute (INSI) reports that there have been four arrests and two people charged with the deaths of journalists in 2016. This should be interpreted as a small sign of hope as the perpetrators of crimes against journalists rarely are brought to justice. Globally, the impunity rate has been as high as 90 per cent.
However, impunity still remains the rule, and there is a serious shortcoming of the international community to address issues linked to the security of journalists. For these reasons, WAN-IFRA, Reporters Without Borders and media worldwide launched a global campaign in 2016 to appoint a Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for the Safety of Journalists with the specific goal to ensure that journalists can work in a safe environment. There is hope that the process will move forward during the following year, and that there will be concrete action to ensure the protection of journalists in 2017.
Sources: Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and International News Safety Institute's (INSI).
WAN-IFRA actively monitors the cases of media employees who pay the ultimate price in their efforts to bring us the news. See the full list of journalists killed in 2016 here.