Reporting Spike in Deaths, Media Trade Groups Urge UN Action

People pause for a moment of silence next to a memorial outside near the Capital Gazette building Thursday, July 5, 2018, in Annapolis, Md., for the five Capital Gazette employees who were killed a week ago in one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

MANHATTAN (CN) – Counting a dozen more deaths from the previous year, the International Federation of Journalists reported Monday that 2018 was a highly bloody one for the press.

The 94 slain journalists and media workers are listed by country in the  federation’s report, which describes them as the victims of targeted killings, bomb attacks and conflict crossfire.

While the 2018 figure is 12 higher than 2017, it is still not at peak levels. Since the federation started keeping track in 1990, the year 2006 was the deadliest for the press, with 155 work-related killings. This year’s data meanwhile marks a reversal from the decline observed over the past six years, after 121 people working for news organizations were slain in 2012.

“These brazen acts of violence in utter disregard to human life have brought to an abrupt end the short-lived decrease in journalists’ killings recorded over the last three years,” Philippe Leruth, the president of the Brussels-based federation said in a statement. 

“Once again, the IFJ is asking United Nations’ members states to adopt at their General Assembly the Convention on the Security and Protection of Journalists which the IFJ presented to diplomatic missions at the UN in New York last October,” he continued. “This convention, supported by the profession as a whole, is a concrete response to crimes committed against journalists in full impunity.”

Apart from Mexico, where 11 killings occurred, the deadliest countries for media workers this year were in the Middle East. Afghanistan lodged the highest number of fatalities, 16, while Yemen had nine and Syria eight.

The world’s largest journalism organization – representing 600,000 media professionals from 187 trade unions and associations in more than 140 countries – the federation notes that there are no binding norms to protect media workers specifically. Existing law shields journalists with the same protections that cover civilians under international humanitarian law. 

While in line with those of other media watchdogs, the federation’s 2018 tally is higher than those counted by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (which found 80 killed) and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (which placed the number of 53).  

All three groups cited the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi as an emblem of the safety crisis in journalism. Khashoggi’s grisly murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul inspired Time Magazine to honor fallen reporters as “The Guardians” and continues to put pressure on the Trump administration to reconsider its alliance with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

In the United States, the federation also paid tribute to the five Capital Gazette workers gunned down in a massacre. 

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