Some say journalism is having a revival with all of the political upheaval the world over, but so is retaliation against reporters working to bring such stories to light.
The Committee to Protect Journalists found that at least 53 journalists were killed this year, a 12 percent increase from last year’s 47, and that at least 60 percent of this year’s total were “singled out for murder,” an all-time high, according to the group’s annual report. There are an additional 23 deaths still under investigation, but which have not been included in the year’s totals.
Although the CPJ admitted that the cause of the increase is “complex,” it was generally tied to the ability of technology and social media to give more journalists a platform, making them “expendable to the political and criminal groups who once needed the news media to spread their message.” Time magazine highlighted their sacrifices in this year’s choice of Person of the Year, The Guardians, with four separate covers depicting the staff of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Maryland, the site of a deadly June shooting; Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi; photographs of imprisoned Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and Maria Ressa, chief executive officer of news site Rappler.
Afghanistan was the deadliest country for reporters over the last year, with 13 killed, and Syria came in next at 9, but the U.S. is on the list for the first time, with four killed — the same number as Mexico and one more than the Central African Republic. The U.S. number is attributed to the June shooting at the Capital Gazette, which is owned by the Baltimore Sun. The killer attacked the paper because of its coverage of a legal case he had been involved in years earlier.
As for the global increase, the CPJ cited “a lack of international leadership on journalists’ rights and safety” — most notably from the U.S., which has generally been a booster of press freedom and protection, being one of the few countries that has such a notion within the Constitution. Another is Sweden.
The murder of Khashoggi, who lived in self-imposed exile in Virginia and was apparently killed in a Turkish consulate, has seen President Trump (who has referred to the press here on multiple occasions and in varying degrees as an “enemy of the people”) largely shrug off the violence.
“Essentially, Trump signaled that countries that do enough business with the United States are free to murder journalists without consequence,” the CPJ wrote.
The group also noted the irony that the most pointed renouncement of Khashoggi’s killing has come from none other than Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose government is the largest detainer of journalists worldwide, with at least 68 currently being held for their reporting work.
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