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19 Aug 2013
By Helena Williams
• Almost as many journalists and media support staff died in India as in Syria in the first six months of 2013
• More journalists killed during ‘peacetime’ than in warfare
• Research suggests 100 per cent impunity for killers of journalists in first half of this year
Almost as many journalists died in India as in war-torn Syria in the first six months of this year, according to research by the International News Safety Institute.
Eight journalists lost their lives in Syria alone between January and June, according to INSI’s biannual ‘Killing the Messenger’ survey of news media casualties. The challenges of reporting from Syria have been immense, where countless journalists have put themselves at risk for their stories. They have been attacked, detained, kidnapped and killed in crossfire and by both government and opposition forces. 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, research 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 journalists were also killed in accidents while on assignment: Prem Thakur, a reporter for Asia News International, was killed in an avalanche while filming a snow clearing operation near the Himalayas. Photographer Manjunath Gowda was killed by an elephant after he went to close to take a picture of it.
Pakistan and Somalia were the third and fourth most dangerous countries for journalists, with five and four journalists killed respectively.
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. 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.
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 Islamic militants. Islamic militant group Al Shabaab has been blamed for many of the attacks on Somali journalists in the past twelve months.
Three journalists were killed in Brazil, making it the fifth most dangerous country for the news media. Radio journalist Mafaldo Bezerra Gois and columnist Rodrigo Neto de Faria reported on local corruption and were murdered by gunmen on motorcycles. Photographer Walgney Carvalho, who worked on the same paper as Neto de Fario, was gunned down just over a month later. According to local news reports, Carvalho may have been aware of who might have killed his colleague.
According to ‘Killing the Messenger’, of the 40 journalists and support staff killed in the first half of 2013, over half (21) were killed in peacetime as opposed to warfare.
And alarmingly, the perpetrators of targeted attacks on journalists have enjoyed complete impunity.
The toll compares with 70 for the first six months of last year. However, this is a conservative estimate as INSI has recorded the deaths of an additional 27 journalists and support staff where it was unclear whether the killings were related to their work.
“The death toll reminds us of the immense risks journalists take in the course of their work, and not just while reporting on conflict; journalists continue to be targeted for covering crime and corruption in countries which are officially at peace,” said Hannah Storm, Director of INSI.
“As long as those who murder journalists get off scot free, they will continue to believe they can kill the messenger. We call on agencies, governments and the news industry to work together to reduce the risks for journalists and end impunity for those who threaten journalists.”
MOST DANGEROUS COUNTRIES FOR JOURNALISTS AND MEDIA WORKERS IN 2013
SYRIA – 8
INDIA – 6
PAKISTAN – 5
SOMALIA – 4
BRAZIL – 3
The biannual ‘Killing the Messenger’ report, compiled in liaison with INSI's regional contacts, is an analysis of media casualties around the globe.
Other journalist support groups that are members of INSI maintain separate casualty records based on their own criteria. They include
As a safety organisation, INSI records all deaths, whether deliberate, accidental or health-related, of all journalists, media workers and support staff while on assignment or as a result of their news organisation being attacked because of its work.
For more information, please email Helena Williams at Helena.firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo: Some 200 Turkish journalists march to the Syrian embassy in Ankara, Turkey on Friday August 31, 2012, demanding the release of Turkish cameraman Cuneyt Unal and Bashar Fahmi, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian origin and reporter for Al-Hurra network, who were captured by Syrian forces. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)