Ruben Pat was gunned down execution-style outside a Mexican beach bar. Yaser Murtaja was fatally shot by an Israeli army sniper. Bulgarian Viktoria Marinova was beaten, raped and strangled. A car bomb killed Malta’s Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 sparked an international outcry.
2018 was the worst year on record for deadly violence and abuse toward journalists, according to a report published Tuesday by Reporters Without Borders.
Some Americans would probably be shocked to learn that for the first time, the USA joined the ranks of places where the business of doing journalism is hazardous.
The annual report released by Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based media watchdog that advocates for political freedoms, reveals a marked rise in hostility toward media personnel around the world. At least 80 journalists were killed this year, 348 are in prison and 60 are held hostage, the report says.
After falling for three years in a row, the number of journalists killed in connection with their work increased 8 percent since 2017. The report has been issued since 1995.
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“The hatred of journalists that is voiced, and sometimes very openly proclaimed, by unscrupulous politicians, religious leaders and businessmen has tragic consequences on the ground and has been reflected in this disturbing increase in violations against journalists,” said Reporters Without Borders’ Secretary-General Christophe Deloire.
“Amplified by social networks, which bear heavy responsibility in this regard, these expressions of hatred legitimize violence, thereby undermining journalism, and democracy itself, a bit more every day,” he said.
Conflict-zone Afghanistan was perhaps predictably the world’s deadliest country for journalists in 2018, when 15 were killed. It was followed by Syria (11 killed) and Mexico (nine killed), the deadliest country for journalists outside a conflict zone.
The USA was included among the world’s most dangerous places for journalists because of the fatal shooting of five employees of the Capital Gazette, a newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. Jarrod Ramos had harassed the newspaper for six years on Twitter about an article in 2011 that named him before he allegedly walked into the paper’s newsroom and opened fire with a shotgun in June. It was the deadliest attack on a media outlet in the USA in modern history. Two other journalists, a TV anchor and cameraman, were killed by a falling tree while covering Subtropical Storm Alberto’s extreme weather in North Carolina in May.
Since 1992, 11 journalists have died in the USA doing their jobs, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Eight of those were targeted.
President Donald Trump has denigrated the media as an “enemy of the American people,” often taking to Twitter to describe stories critical of his behavior and administration as “fake news.” European Union officials regularly accuse Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban of demonizing the media and spreading disinformation. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan referred to journalists critical of his rule as “terrorists.” In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte called journalists “spies,” a characterization that drew a chuckle from Trump when the two met in Manila last year. At least 80 journalists have been killed in the Philippines in recent decades, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The number of journalists detained worldwide at the end of the year – 348 – is up from 326 at this time last year. More than half of them are held in just five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. As of 2017, China, which habitually persecutes and even “disappears” journalists on vague charges related to the “subversion of state power,” remains the world’s biggest jailer of journalists. Sixty journalists are held in jails in China, according to the report.
The number of journalists around the world held hostage – 60 – is 11 percent higher than this time last year. All but one – Stanislav Aseyev in Ukraine – are held in three Middle Eastern countries: Syria, Iraq and Yemen.