Reporters Without Borders has issued a report on the number of journalists killed, detained, held hostage, or missing worldwide during 2019.
According to data gathered between January and December, there are a total of 49 journalists murdered, 57 held hostage, 389 detained, and zero missing. While still a high number, fewer journalists have been killed in 2019 than in previous years.
Amongst the 49 dead, 36 were professional journalists, 10 were non-professional, and 3 were media workers. All were considered to have been killed in connection with their work- 63% deliberately targeted and 37% killed while reporting. Most of them were men but less than half died in war zones meaning that day-to-day national journalism is becoming more and more dangerous.
2019 has the lowest number of dead journalists from the last 16 years, with the number hitting a peak in 2012 and 2013 with 147 and 143 respectively. Last year saw 87 dead media professionals and 74 the year before. RSF attributed this decline to a fall in the number of journalists killed in armed conflicts.
The deadliest countries to be a journalist include Mexico, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia. Overall, Latin America continues to be the most unstable region for the media with 10 killed in Mexico, two in Honduras, one in Columbia, and one in Haiti. The number could actually be higher with other murders reported in Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Honduras, Columbia, and Haiti but they are yet to be verified by RSF.
A number of deaths were attributed to journalists covering protests including three in Haiti, one in Nigeria, and Lyra McKee in Northern Ireland in April. RSF noted that those reporting “moments of public anger and confusion” were vulnerable to attacks from those involved, from authorities, or to accidents in the heat of the moment.
Several other journalists were killed in Pakistan and Ukraine following their work investigating organised crime and government corruption.
In terms of detained journalists, the number rose to 389, an increase of 12% in 2018. The numbers reported by RSF does not take into account those who have been arbitrarily detained for a few hours, days or weeks over the last year. The main culprits for these detentions are China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Syria, and Vietnam with between 1120 and 25 known journalists detained over the last 12 months.
In Turkey, whilst the number decreased from last year, it continues to be one of the world’s biggest jailers of media personnel, continuing to expose them to an entirely arbitrary justice system. The risk to journalists in the country comes from spurious charges such as “terrorist propaganda”, “collaborating with an illegal organisation”, “membership of an illegal organisation” or “insulting the President”. Many others are languishing in jail, on trumped up charges of “affiliation to illegal or terrorist political groups.”
Worldwide, some 57 journalists are currently being held hostage by the Islamic State, Houthis, other terrorist organisations, or unidentified groups. The victims are concentrated over the same four countries- Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Ukraine, and there have been no significant changes in figures from last year meaning many are still being held in unknown locations.