In a Bloody Year for Journalists, Body Counts Vary

MANHATTAN (CN) – In a year when Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s gruesome murder inspired Time Magazine to honor fallen reporters as “The Guardians,” press freedom monitors are having trouble keeping count of the dead.

In this Jan. 29, 2011 file photo, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks on his cellphone at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders on Tuesday placed the number at 80 killed, of whom 13 were described as “non-professional journalists.”

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists counted 53 killed.

Both watchdogs agree that reporters increasingly face a deadly climate for newsgathering, egged on by inflammatory rhetoric by world leaders like U.S. President Donald Trump.

“Violence against journalists has reached unprecedented levels this year, and the situation is now critical,” Reporters Without Borders Secretary-GeneralChristophe Deloire said in a statement. “The hatred of journalists that is voiced, and sometimes very openly proclaimed, by unscrupulous politicians, religious leaders and businessmen has tragic consequences on the ground and has been reflected in this disturbing increase in violations against journalists.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists’ editorial director Elana Beiser did not hesitate from denouncing Trump’s response to the massacre inside the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, Maryland, earlier this year, which killed four journalists and a sales associate.

“The day after the massacre, Trump told reporters, ‘Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job,’” Beiser wrote. “But within days, he had resumed his characteristic attacks on the press, calling the media ‘fake news’ and journalists ‘enemies of the people’ on social media and at rallies.”

Trump’s defenses of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, against the conclusions of his own CIA that the kingdom’s de facto ruler ordered Khashoggi’s death, also drew fire from the Committee.

“Essentially, Trump signaled that countries that do enough business with the United States are free to murder journalists without consequence,” Beiser continued.

Journalists in the European Union also face threats to their safety in retaliation for their reporting.

Months after a car bomb killed Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in October 2017, Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée were shot dead this past February.

Both reports on fallen journalists called attention to the vulnerability of reporters in war-torn Afghanistan, where the Committee to Protect Journalists counted 13 killed – more than any year since the watchdog started keeping track. 

Reporters Without Borders found 15 were killed there.

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