Political conflict and unrest proved deadly for journalists in 2011, while governments failed to prosecute those who targeted reporters for their work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ year-end survey of journalists killed in the line of duty.
At least 43 journalists were killed worldwide in direct relation to their work this year. Seven deaths occurred in Pakistan, where 29 journalists have been killed in the past five years. Libya and Iraq, each with five fatalities, and Mexico, with three deaths, also ranked high worldwide for journalism-related fatalities. Regionally, most deaths occurred in the Middle East, where 18 journalists perished this year, many while covering the uprisings that swept the Arab world.
“The combination of dangerous assignments turned deadly and targeted murders that remain unsolved is a double challenge to free expression,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Combatants must recognize the right of journalists to cover conflict, while governments must be held accountable for investigating and prosecuting those who carry out crimes against the press.”
Fatalities on dangerous assignments such as street protests reached the highest rate since 1992, CPJ’s survey shows, while the proportion of murders has declined over the years, accounting for less than half the deaths in 2011. Nonetheless, assassinations continued in places where governments have failed to prosecute previous crimes. CPJ research shows that about 90 percent of journalist murders go unsolved even though most victims-70 percent in 2011-reported receiving threats prior to their deaths.
“Of the seven journalists killed in Pakistan this year, five were murdered. Mexico — increasingly a global leader, which will assume the G20 presidency in 2012 — holds a similarly atrocious record,” Simon said. “Despite many promises, authorities in Pakistan and Mexico have made no progress in solving these crimes, and their failure to do so perpetuates this climate of violence.”
The global tally is consistent with the 2010 toll, when 44 journalists died in connection with their work. CPJ is investigating another 35 deaths in 2011 to determine whether they were work-related; 20 of these cases are in Latin America, where the web of crime, official corruption, and weak law enforcement often obscures the motive.
More than 80 percent of those killed were local journalists. Photographers and camera operators suffered steep losses in 2011, constituting about 40 percent of the overall death toll — approximately double the proportion since CPJ began documentation in 1992. Internet journalists registered eight fatalities this year, including a murder in Mexico which was the first worldwide directly linked to journalism on social media. The number of freelancers killed on the job has also increased steadily over the years, constituting nearly a third of the 2011 poll. Five media support workers were also killed this year.
CPJ has compiled detailed records on journalist fatalities since 1992. Staff members independently investigate and verify the circumstances behind each death. CPJ considers a case work-related only when reasonably certain that a journalist was killed in direct reprisal for his or her work; in crossfire; or while carrying out a dangerous assignment. Cases involving unclear motives, but with a potential link to journalism, are classified as “unconfirmed” and CPJ continues to investigate.