ISLAMABAD: As many as 94 journalists and media staff were killed in work-related incidents around the world last year, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
Out of the 94 people killed, five were from Pakistan.
The new death toll marks a slight increase, up from 82 killings recorded the previous year and represents a reversal of the downward trend from the last three years.
In its 29th list released on the last day of 2018, the IFJ — which represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries — said that last year’s roll call of loss of lives to violence included 84 journalists, cameramen, fixers and technicians who died in targeted killings, bomb attacks and cross-fire incidents. It added that 10 other media staff members who worked as drivers, protection officers and a sales assistant also lost their lives.
There were six women among the 94 victims. There were also three work-related accidental deaths.
According to IFJ’s list for 2018, armed conflict and militant extremism accounted for most journalists’ killings in countries like Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, while there was a steep drop in violence against journalists in Iraq since armed groups lost ground in the country.
There were, however, other factors such as the increasing intolerance to independent reporting, populism, rampant corruption and crime as well as the breakdown of law and order afflicting countries like India, Pakistan and the Philippines.
These factors contributed to perpetuating an environment in which, consistently, there are more journalists killed for covering their communities, cities and countries than for reporting in armed zones.
According to the records for 2018, the Asia Pacific had the highest killing tally with 32, followed by the Americas with 27 killings, and the Middle East and the Arab World recording 20 cases. Africa comes fourth with 11 killings before Europe with four.
The IFJ list for 2018 painted a situation of ongoing safety crisis in journalism, which was highlighted by the cruel murder of the Washington Post columnist and Saudi national, Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. This was the latest in a series of devastating attacks on media professionals, including the multiple bomb attacks which turned Afghanistan into a killing zone for journalists and the reign of violence by organised crime in Mexico which remains firmly trained on journalists.
“These brazen acts of violence in utter disregard to human life have brought to an abrupt end the short-lived decrease in journalists’ killings recorded over the last three years,” said IFJ President Philippe Leruth.
“Once again, the IFJ is asking United Nations’ members states to adopt at their General Assembly the convention on the security and protection of journalists which the IFJ presented to diplomatic missions at the UN in New York last October,” he said.
“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 remain paralysed by corruption and incompetence in the face of unrelenting assault on journalism,” said IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger.
He said that as such the numbers stood 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.
Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2019