From: Alice Taylor
50 Journalists Killed, 387 Detained in 2020

50 journalists were killed in connection with their work between 1 January 2020 and 15 December 2020. The majority of these deaths took place in countries considered “at peace”.

This is according to the Reporters Without Borders 2020 round-up. The number of deaths has decreased significantly over the last 10 years, but the total of those that lost their lives is 937- an unacceptable amount. The worst years for journalist deaths were 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2014, each with over 100 deaths.

While the number decreased this year, RSF noted that there were fewer journalists in the field this year due to COVID-19.

In 2016, 58% of media fatalities took place in war zones, whereas now only 32% took place in war-torn countries like Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan. This year, most deaths occurred in Mexico (8), India (4), and the Philippines (3).

RSF reported that “of all the journalists killed in connection with their work in 2020, 84% were knowingly targeted and deliberately murdered, as compared to  63% in 2019. Some were murdered in a particularly barbaric manner.”

In Mexico, journalists were beheaded and dismembered, others were burned alive or hacked to death with machetes. 

In Iran, the state executed by hanging, journalist Rouhollah Zam, editor of the Amadnews website.

“The world’s violence continues to be visited upon journalists,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Some may think that journalists are just the victims of the risks of their profession, but journalists are increasingly targeted when they investigate or cover sensitive subjects. What is being attacked is the right to be informed, which is everyone’s right.”

In terms of the most dangerous topics to report on, they included misuse of public funds, corruption, covering protests, and the activities of organised crime.

RSF reported that 387 journalists are currently detained in connection with their work. This is virtually the same as a year ago and means the number of journalists detained worldwide is still at a historically high level. 

2020 has also seen a 35% increase in the number of women journalists arbitrarily detained, and a fourfold increase in arrests of journalists during the first three months of Covid-19’s spread around the world. Fourteen journalists who were arrested in connection with their coverage of the pandemic are still being held.

In Central Europe and the Balkans, the authorities have also taken advantage of the pandemic to step up harassment of critical media, whether by means of draconian laws, as in Hungary and Serbia, or by arresting journalists.