They faced the worst human beings have to suffer–bullets, bombs, kidnappings, torture, murder. They sacrificed everything for the truth, a concept reviled by dictators and criminals all over the world.
The end of the year provides the opportunity to look back and consider just how many journalists have been killed in the line of duty in search of the truth. The murderers can be government officials, criminal groups, military officials, or businessmen seeking to prevent news of their corruption and misdeeds from reaching the public, marking reporters as targets for assassination.
As 2011 waned, at least six organizations published annual reports on the number of journalists killed across the globe:
- The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that 45 journalists were killed under a confirmed motive, meaning their deaths were found to be work-related. In addition to these deaths, five media workers were killed, and 35 journalists were classified as “motive unconfirmed” while CPJ continues to investigate. The deadliest countries were Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, and Mexico.
- Reporters Without Borders (RSF in its French initials) also tracks the deaths of journalists. In 2011, its records indicate that 66 journalists were killed. The same countries as those in the CPJ report were found to be the most dangerous.
- The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN) reported that 64 media employees were killed.
- The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reported 106 deaths journalists and media personnel killed.
- The International News Safety Institute (INSI) lists 124 journalists and media staff killed.
- The International Press Institute’s “Death Watch” reports 103 journalists killed in 2011.
The disparity in these numbers results from definitions and methodology. CPJ has a strict approach to defining whose deaths were related to their work as journalists, and many on its unconfirmed list are included on the broader lists of the other organizations. The IFJ list includes drivers and other media workers. INSI counts accidental or health-related deaths.
The lack of effective monitoring systems is another reason for the disparity in numbers. It is often difficult to determine whether the death of a journalist happened in the line of duty or was a natural or accidental occurrence.
These factors make it difficult to say with precision how many journalists were killed last year for trying to report the truth. But whichever number is right, it is far too high.
For more information on journalist safety, see CIMA’s 2009 report Under Attack: Practicing Journalism in a Dangerous World.