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10 December 2020

More Than 2600 Journalists Killed In Last 30 Years

More than 2600 journalists have been killed across the globe in the last 30 years, according to a report published by the International Federation of Journalists for International Day for Human Rights today. 

In its White Paper on Global Journalism, the IFJ reports that 2658 journalists have been murdered since 1990, his equating to about two journalists or media workers killed every week. Forty-two journalists have been killed in 2020, and 235 are currently in prison.

Europe is the region with the highest number of journalists in jail, with 91 media professionals in detention, the majority of whom are held in Turkey and Belarus. Africa follows on 62 with Egypt leading the region. Asia Pacific’s list, dominated by China, comes in third place with 47.

The Middle East and Arab World with its tally of 33 claims fourth place, with Saudi Arabia at the top. The Americas are a distant fifth with just cases in Cuba and Venezuela.

Countries with the highest numbers of journalists in prison include Turkey (67), Egypt (21), China (23), Eritrea (16), Saudi Arabia (14), Belarus (11), Yemen and Cambodia (9), Cameroon (6), Morocco and Myanmar (5).

Over 50 per cent of journalists were killed in the 10 most dangerous top spots featuring countries which suffered from war, crime and corruption and a breakdown of law and order. Iraq (339 killed) came top followed by Mexico (175), Philippines (159), Pakistan (138), India (116), Russian Federation (110), Algeria (106), Syria (96), Somalia (93) and Afghanistan (93).

Looking at regional variations, the Asia Pacific region comes first with 681 killed journalists, followed by Latin America with 571, the Middle East with 558, Africa with 466 and Europe with 373.

"For all these 30 years it has almost become a fact of life that the slaughter continues year in, year out. The IFJ has been at the forefront of exposing the scandal of impunity and the failures of governments to bring the killers to justice. In no less than 90 percent of journalist murders worldwide, there has been little or no prosecution whatsoever. In two-thirds of the cases the killers were not identified at all and probably never will be," the IFJ said. 

"This means that it is almost virtually risk-free to kill a journalist – murder has become the easiest and cheapest way of silencing troublesome journalists. Occasionally, a triggerman is identified and brought to trial, but in most cases paymasters go free."

As of 10 December, the IFJ lists Latin America as the most dangerous region with 15 killings, followed by Asia Pacific on 13 murder cases. Africa and the Arab and Middle East region both posted six killings and are in third place before Europe with two cases.

In its 2020 ranking per country, Mexico tops the list for the fourth time in five years with 13 killings, followed by Pakistan (five) while Afghanistan, India, Iraq and Nigeria recorded three killings each. There were also two killings in the Philippines, Somalia and Syria. Finally, there was one journalist killed in Cameroon, Honduras, Paraguay, Russia, Sweden and Yemen.

At least 235 journalists are currently in prisons in 34 countries around the world, in work- related cases. The IFJ’s list does not include other journalists facing charges but who have been released on bail.

In its first global study on journalists in prison, the IFJ found that jailing media professionals is often a form of reprisals against brave journalists who stand up for independent reporting which also serves as a deterrent to others.

This is especially the case in times of political upheaval and civil unrest where Governments resort to a crackdown on media as a means of denying the public access to reliable information.

The study also found many more cases of journalists who were detained for short periods of time before being released without charges, underscoring the fact that their detention had nothing to do with law-breaking but just sheer abuse of power to escape scrutiny for their actions in public office.

The other finding from the study concerns the recurrent allegation of membership of - or support for- groups which are behind the events which journalists cover. This is the case in Turkey, where scores of journalists have been detained after the failed attempted coup of July 2016 on allegations that they supported the coup.

Civil unrest and elections-related protests have also led to massive arrests of journalists and other media professionals, as was the case recently in Belarus. But reporting on the handling of crisis situations, like the outbreak of Covid-19, led to the arrest and detention of journalists in some countries. 

In many cases, the IFJ’s study found that numerous journalists have not been charged with any crime for years after their arrest, even decades for some who are now feared dead, such as in Eritrea.