In 2010, hundreds of Mexican journalists silently marched in downtown Mexico City in protest of the kidnappings, murder and violence against their peers throughout the country. Placards with written protests and photos of slain or kidnapped colleagues were left on the steps of the Ministry of the Interior and covered with red paint. Image by the Knight Foundation
YESTERDAY, NBC NEWS reported that Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel and members of his production team were freed from captors in Syria after a firefight at a checkpoint on Monday. They’d been held prisoner for five days, but were not harmed. This event coincided with CPJ’s report of a sharp rise in journalist deaths this year (67 with confirmed motives), and some other grim conclusions:
From the report:
Syria was by far the deadliest country in 2012, with 28 journalists killed in combat or targeted for murder by government or opposition forces. In addition, a journalist covering the Syrian conflict was killed just over the border in Lebanon. The number of fatalities related to the Syrian conflict approached the worst annual toll recorded during the war in Iraq, where 32 journalists were killed in both 2006 and 2007.
Somalia was second, with a death toll of 12. The report specifies:
Somalia’s high death toll was due in part to a complicated and sensitive political transition and in part to Al-Shabaab militants, who were largely ousted from the capital, Mogadishu, in 2011, according to Mohamed Odowa, deputy director of the independent station Radio Kulmiye.
Pakistan was the deadliest nation for journalists in 2010 and 2011, and continued to have a high death toll in 2012 with seven journalists killed, primarily in Baluchistan, “Pakistan’s poorest region and a scene of protracted violence between separatists, anti-separatists, various tribes and ethnic groups, Pakistani security forces and intelligence agencies, and groups aligned with the Taliban.”
Brazil’s four fatalities in 2012 are part of an overall spike in the percentage of online journalists or bloggers killed. Al-Jazeera correspondent Gabriel Elizondo reported, “In small cities, bloggers and writers for small newspapers and web portals who are calling out corruption are being targeted. The profile is usually the same: It’s a small-town journalist, working for a small outlet, who gets gunned down.”
Mexico was one of more than a dozen countries (including Russia, Thailand, Nigeria, Egypt, India, Iran, Ecuador, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Colombia, Tanzania, Cambodia, Indonesia, and the Philippines) with at least one journalist death with confirmed motives. In Mexico, however, there were at least 5 other journalist deaths where the motive has not yet been confirmed or fully investigated, as well as multiple disappearances.
Earlier this year, VICE’s Shane Smith traveled to Mexico to report on drug cartels, later taking real-time questions at Reddit about the experience. It’s worth mentioning that the series highlighted the violence (and threat to journalists as well as devastation of local communities) in a way that makes it more tangible to viewers as opposed to just statistics and isolated news stories.
May 2013 be a safer year for journalists around the world, and may the work of those killed reporting live on.