Almost as many journalists died in India as in war-torn Syria in the first six months of this year, says a report by a media safety group.
Eight journalists lost their lives in Syria alone between January and June, according to a survey by the International News Safety Institute. Journalists have been attacked, detained, kidnapped and killed in crossfire and by both government and opposition forces, says the report. Syria was the deadliest country for the news media last year.
The second most dangerous country was India, where there were six casualties. The last time India was among the top five worst countries was in 2010.
Although the tally is high, the INSI report suggests that while one member of the news media was murdered because of his work, three were killed in what is thought to be a case of mistaken identity and two were killed in accidents.
In February, Nemi Chand Jain, a journalist from Chhattisgarh in central India, was found dead with his throat slit and a note clipped to his belt accusing him of being a police informer. The Committee to Protect Journalists later cited local media speculation that both local criminals and the police could be responsible for Jain’s murder.
And in May, three employees from a Bengali language daily were murdered by masked men who forced their way into the office. The unknown assailants killed the manager of the paper, Ranjit Choudhary, and then stabbed a proof reader and a driver to death as they left the building. In an interview after the incident, the editor of the paper said that he thought he was the real target but believed it was a case of mistaken identity.
Two Indian journalists were also killed in accidents while on assignment.
Pakistan was the third most dangerous country with five journalists killed in the first half of this year.
In recent years, Pakistan has consistently ranked among the most dangerous countries for journalists as they are caught between warring political parties, the security forces and militant or extremist networks. The report said four journalists were killed in secondary explosions, a devastating tactic which targets first responders, such as emergency service workers and journalists, who rush to the site of a bomb blast.
At least four more media workers were killed in Egypt after June, making it now the fourth most dangerous country for journalists in 2013 so far.
Last year was the deadliest on record for journalists in Somalia. They continue to be targeted in the on-going struggle between the new government and Islamist militants. Militant group Al Shabaab has been blamed for many of the attacks on Somali journalists in the past twelve months.
According to the INSI report titled ‘Killing the Messenger’, of the 40 journalists and support staff killed between January and June, over half (21) were killed in peacetime as opposed to warfare.
The toll compares with 70 for the first six months of last year. However, INSI said it has recorded the deaths of an additional 27 journalists and support staff where it was unclear whether the killings were related to their work.