“Jamal Khashoggi was a very well-known figure, but you know, the most shocking statistic is that we know that nine of 10 journalist murders remain unpunished in the world” – Philippe Leruth, President of the International Federation of Journalists.
An international trade association says on-the-job slayings of journalists and news media staff rose again in 2018 following an overall decline during the past half-dozen years.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said in an annual report set for release on Monday that 94 journalists and media workers died in targeted killings, bomb attacks and conflict crossfire this year, 12 more than in 2017.
They include Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi critic murdered at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2 by a hit squad sent from Riyadh.
Before the declines seen in five of the past six years, 121 people working for news organisations were slain in 2012.
Since the federation started its annual count in 1990, the year with the most work-related killings, 155, was 2006.
The deadliest country for people who work in the news media this year was Afghanistan, where 16 of the killings occurred. Mexico was next, with 11. Yemen had nine media slayings and Syria eight in 2018. The US came in 6th with five killings.
“Journalists are targeted because they are witnesses,” said IFJ President Philippe Leruth.
Leruth said that beyond the tragedy of lives lost, such killings affect the pursuit of truth and sharing of information in communities and countries where they happen.
“And the result of this, when a journalist or many journalists are killed in a country, you see an increase of self-censorship.”
Iraq, where 309 media professionals were killed over the past quarter-century, long topped the federation’s annual list.
The federation identified a photojournalist as the one victim in the country this year.
The IFJ connects some 600,000 media professionals from 187 trade unions and associations in more than 140 countries.
The group said the new report showed that journalists face dangers apart from the risks of reporting from war zones and covering extremist movements.
“There were other factors, such as the increasing intolerance to independent reporting, populism, rampant corruption and crime, as well as the breakdown of law and order,” the Brussels-based group said in a statement.
Suddenly high on the list, in sixth place, was the United States with five killings. On June 28, a gunman in Annapolis, Maryland, opened fire in the newsroom of the Capital Gazette newspaper and killed four journalists and a sales associate.
The man had threatened the newspaper after losing a defamation lawsuit.
The slaying of Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post who lived in self-imposed exile in the United States, had worldwide impact.
He went to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to formalise a divorce so he could marry his Turkish fiancee, but instead was strangled and dismembered there by Saudi agents.
“Jamal Khashoggi was a very well-known figure, but you know, the most shocking statistic is that we know that nine of 10 journalist murders remain unpunished in the world,” Leruth said.