A total of 81 journalists were killed this year, 348 are currently in prison, and 60 are being held hostage, according to the annual worldwide round-up of deadly violence and abusive treatment of journalists released Tuesday by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which shows an unprecedented level of hostility towards media personnel.
The widely reported murders of Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the young Slovak data journalist Ján Kuciak highlighted the lengths to which press freedom’s enemies are prepared to go. More than half of the journalists killed in 2018 were deliberately targeted.
Violence against journalists has reached unprecedented levels this year, and the situation is now critical. The hatred of journalists that is voiced, and sometimes very openly proclaimed, by unscrupulous politicians, religious leaders and businessmen has tragic consequences on the ground, and has been reflected in this disturbing increase in violations against journalists.
RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said.
Afghanistan: the world’s deadliest country for journalists in 2018
Afghanistan was the world’s deadliest country for journalists in 2018, with 15 killed. It was followed by Syria, with 11 killed, and Mexico, the deadliest country outside a conflict zone, with nine journalists murdered in 2018. The fatal shooting of five employees of the Capital Gazette newspaper in June brought the United States into the ranks of the deadliest countries.
China remains the world’s biggest jailer of journalists
The number of journalists detained worldwide at the end of the year – 348 – is up from 326 at this time last year. As in 2017, more than half of the world’s imprisoned journalists are being held in just five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey.
China remains the world’s biggest jailer of journalists with 60 currently held, of whom three quarters are non-professional journalists.
Reuters reporters jailed for investigating Rohingya massacre in Myanmar
Despite international protests, Kyaw Soe Oo and Wa Lone, two Burmese journalists employed by the Reuters news agency who have been held since December 2017, were sentenced to seven years in prison in Yangon on 3 September. They were convicted on a trumped-up charge of violating the Official Secrets Act in reprisal for investigating a massacre of Rohingya civilians by soldiers in the village of Inn Dinn, in the north of Rakhine state, in September 2017.
The army had been forced to acknowledge the massacre and seven soldiers were given ten-year jail sentences for their role in the bloodshed. The sole evidence against the two reporters was the supposedly classified documents found in their possession at the time of their arrest. However, a police officer testified during a preliminary hearing that they had been lured to a meeting where they were given the documents and then immediately arrested. The journalists have appealed the decision.
Journalists also live in fear in India
Journalists also live in fear in India. Six were murdered this year and many others were the targets of murder attempts, physical attacks, and threats. Hate campaigns against journalists, including incitement to murder, are common on social networks and are fed by troll armies linked to the Hindu nationalist right.
India has emerged in the world’s five deadliest countries for journalists alongside a first-time entrant in the list – the United States.
Those who murder journalists often use extremely barbaric methods. A village chief in the northeastern Indian state of Bihar killed two journalists, Navin Nischal and Vijay Singh, in retaliation for their reporting by deliberately running them down with his SUV on 25 March. On the same day in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, a dump truck was used to run down and kill Sandeep Sharma, a journalist who had been investigating a local “sand mafia.”
Journalist killed in India
Doordarshan | Killed in Chhattisgarh, India | October 30, 2018
Video journalist Achyutananda Sahu, who worked for the government-run broadcaster Doordarshan, was killed in Chhattisgarh on October 30, 2018, during a firefight between police and a Maoist militant group, according to news reports.
Aj Newspaper | Killed in Chatra, India | October 30, 2018
Chandan Tiwari, a local reporter with Hindi daily Aj in Jharkhand’s Chatra district, was abducted and badly beaten on October 29, 2018. Police said the reporter was found injured in a forest about 175 miles from Pathalgada, in Jharkhand. He succumbed to his injuries the next day, according to NDTV.
Dainik Bhaskar | Killed in Arrah, India | March 25, 2018
Navin Nischal, a stringer for the Hindi-language daily, Dainik Bhaskar, was killed on the evening of March 25, 2018, after an SUV ran him over in the town of Arrah in India’s Bihar state.
News World | Killed in Ghazipur district, India | March 26, 2018
Sandeep Sharma, a reporter for the local News World television channel in Madhya Pradesh state’s Bhind district, was killed on March 26, 2018. He was driving on his motorbike to a government event when a truck veered into him and ran him over, according to the channel’s bureau chief, Vikas Purohit, who witnessed the collision, and a report by NDTV. Purohit told CPJ that he took Sharma to the local hospital where the journalist was declared dead from injuries sustained in the crash.
Rising Kashmir | Killed in Srinagar city, India | June 14, 2018
Several unidentified gunmen fired at Shujaat Bukhari, 50, outside his office as he was leaving for an iftar party (the meal that breaks the Ramadan fast), according to media reports. He suffered injuries to the head and abdomen, according to a report on the Free Press Kashmir news website. Two police officers, who had been assigned to protect him after an attack in 2000, were also fired at, the reports said. All three were rushed to the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital where they died, according to newsreports. The Rising Kashmir office is located in Srinagar city’s Press Colony, a high-security zone that houses other media organizations, according to a report in The Telegraph newspaper.
Three journalists reported missing in 2018
The two journalists reported missing last year in Pakistan and Bangladesh are no longer missing, but RSF registered three new disappearances in 2018 — two of them in the Americas and one in Russia.
Jamal Khashoggi (Saudi Arabia)
Dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October sparked international outcry. Reported missing until the Saudi authorities acknowledged his murder, Khashoggi was strangled and then dismembered, according to Turkish authorities. The operation was reportedly carried out by a team that was dispatched from Saudi Arabia for this express purpose and left immediately afterwards. Living in self-imposed exile in the United States, Khashoggi had gone to the consulate to get the papers he needed to marry his Turkish fiancée. His shocking murder highlighted the appalling nature of the Saudi regime and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s oppressive methods. More than 160 NGOs asked the UN secretary-general to launch an independent international inquiry into Khashoggi’s death.
Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein (Palestine)
Although clearly identified as a journalist, Yaser Murtaja, 30, was fatally shot by an Israeli army sniper on 6 April while covering one of a series of “Great Return March” demonstrations by Palestinians on the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Another Palestinian journalist, Ahmed Abu Hussein, 25, was fatally shot while covering a similar protest at the border two weeks later. Witnesses said he was in a calm area 700 metres from the border when he was brought down by a clearly deliberate shot.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is an international non-governmental, non-profit organization with a recognized public interest function that has consultative status with the United Nations, UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the International Organization of the Francophonie and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Headquartered in Paris, it has bureaux, sections or representatives in 17 cities (Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, Helsinki, Istanbul, Karachi, Kiev, London, Madrid, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, Stockholm, Taipei, Tunis, Vienna and Washington), correspondents in 130 countries and 15 local partner organizations.