Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 23 August 2019

After bloody year, Afghanistan tops list of journalists and media staff killed at work

New report documents 94 dead and highlights on-going safety crisis in journalism

Afghan reporters of Tolo News work in the newsroom at Tolo TV station in Kabul. Journalists faced growing dangers of being targeted for killing for their work in 2018. AFP
Afghan reporters of Tolo News work in the newsroom at Tolo TV station in Kabul. Journalists faced growing dangers of being targeted for killing for their work in 2018. AFP

Afghanistan's deadly year has placed the country at the top of the list for the number of journalists and news media staff killed in work-related attacks, an international trade association said on Monday.

The war-torn country lost 16 journalists in 2018, four more than last year. Ten on a single day in April.

The list, published by The International Federation of Journalists, puts the overall number of journalists killed around the world as of December 27 at 94 — 12 more than in 2017.

Eighty-four were journalists, cameramen, fixers and technicians who died in targeted killings, bomb attacks and crossfire incidents. Ten other media staff members who worked as drivers, protection officers and a sales assistant also lost their lives.

In a year that saw journalists become the unwitting subjects of the news cycle, the rise in work-related deaths signifies a troublesome reversal of the downward trend from the last three years.

The IFJ report lists armed conflict and extremism for most journalists' killings in countries like Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, while an increase in intolerance to independent reporting, in addition to populism, rampant corruption and crime in so-called non-conflict zones remain top concerns.

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The on-going safety crisis in journalism was especially highlighted this year by the murder of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. Khashoggi, along with other journalists targeted for their work, were named Time Person of the Year.

“The numbers on this list are a sad reminder that the safety of journalists will remain elusive as long as countries boasting institutions which should be enforcing the law but have been paralysed by corruption and incompetence in the face of unrelenting assault on journalism,” IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said in a statement.

“As such, they stand as a damning indictment of the authorities for their failure to uphold the journalists’ right to their physical safety and to guarantee an informed public discourse in a democracy.”

Iraq, where 309 media professionals were killed over the past quarter-century, has long topped the federation's annual list. The body identified photojournalist Saad Hadi Al Mashrafawi as the sole victim in Iraq this year.

Mexico was second, with 11 killings, Yemen followed with nine and Syria with eight.

Unexpectedly high on the list, in sixth place, was the United States with five killings. On June 28, a gunman in Annapolis, Maryland, opened fire in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette newspaper and fatally shot four journalists and a sales associate. The man had threatened the newspaper after losing a defamation lawsuit.

In their end of year report the Committee to Protect Journalists highlighted the group's ongoing work to safeguard press freedom in the US, calling on President Donald Trump to "stop his rhetorical assaults on journalists" and issuing safety advisories for journalists covering the United the Right rally.

On World Press Freedom Day in May, CPJ along with similar groups published a joint report that found that Mr Trump's "hostile rhetoric and verbal attacks on the press are exacerbating an already chilling environment for journalists".

Updated: December 31, 2018 03:53 PM

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