Tuesday, 6 March 2007

1000 Journalists Dead

This originally appeared on my Reuters AlertNet blog on 6 March 2007.

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A comprehensive study released today finds that 1,000 journalists and news media support staff have died as a result of their reporting over the past ten years. On average, that’s two a week. The new report, entitled Killing the Messenger, was produced by the International News Safety Institute (INSI) and draws on an impressive number of sources, including input from the International Federation of Journalists, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Press Institute, the World Association of Newspapers, and Reporters Without Borders.
Apart from the headline figure, other key conclusions were

-- Only one in four died in war and other armed conflicts. The great majority died in peacetime, covering the news in their own countries.

-- Most of those killed were murdered because of their jobs; eliminated by hostile authorities or criminals.

-- Nine out of ten of their killers have never been prosecuted.

Inquiry Chairman Richard Sambrook, Director of BBC Global News, says in the executive summary: "The figures show… it is virtually risk free to kill a journalist. In many countries, murder has become the easiest, cheapest and most effective way of silencing troublesome reporting, and the more the killers get away with it the more the spiral of death is forced upwards."

"This is the most shocking fact at the heart of the inquiry. Impunity for the killers of journalists, who put themselves in harm's way to keep us all informed, shames governments around the world."

And the situation seems to be getting worse. The inquiry found that the news media death toll has increased steadily since 2000. The last full year covered by the report, 2005, was a record with 147 dead. It has since emerged that 2006 was even worse, with 167 fatalities, according to INSI's annual tally.

INSI's researchers counted all news media personnel -- journalists as well as support workers such as drivers, translators and office personnel, whether staff or freelance -- provided they died because of their work gathering or distributing the news. All causes of death were included, from murder through accidents to health-related.

The report comes with a number of recommendations and will no doubt become the seminal reference point for discussions of journalist safety for years to come.

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