At least 42 journalists around the world have lost their lives this year thus far as a consequence of their work, the International Press Institute (IPI) said today to mark the annual International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on Nov. 2.
IPI’s Death Watch, which since 1997 has tallied journalists deliberately targeted because of their profession and those who lost their lives while on assignment, lists an additional 29 cases still under investigation for links to the journalist’s professional activity.
Of that total of 71, 44 are considered to have been “targeted due to work”, either because of their specific reporting or simply because they were journalists. 15 were killed while covering armed conflict, while an additional 12 died while on assignment.
IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said that while 2017 was currently on track to end with a lower tally than in previous years – an average of 113 journalists were killed per year between 2009 and 2016 – the situation remained dire.
“The killing of a journalist remains the most direct and most effective way of silencing unwanted press coverage,” he said. “Unfortunately, the fight to protect journalist safety continues to be compromised by the failure of governments around the world to investigate such killings and hold the perpetrators accountable. Impunity is the most important factor fuelling the cycle of violence against the media.”
He added: “Today, Nov. 2, we call on all governments to live up to their international commitments and ensure that no one who attacks – much less kills – a journalist is able to get away with it.”
With 13 deaths – including both those confirmed to be work-related and those under investigation – so far this year, Mexico has reassumed the tragic distinction of the world’s deadliest country to be a journalist. Although it had never truly abated, violence against journalists in Mexico has been overshadowed in recent years by journalist deaths in Syria and Iraq related to the Syrian civil war and the activities of the Islamic State group.
The killings in Mexico this year include the murders of prominent investigative journalists Javier Valdaz Cárdenas and Miroslava Breach Velducea. Valdaz, a co-founder of the weekly newspaper Riodoce and a contributor to the national daily La Jornada, was shot 12 times by two men who forced him out of his car in Sinaloa, the capital of Culiacán state, in May. Breach, who also wrote for La Jornada, was gunned down in March in front of her home in the state of Chihuahua. The gunmen reportedly left a note with her body that read, “For being a loud-mouth”.
Both Valdaz and Breach were well-known for their coverage of drug trafficking, organised crime and corruption in Mexico.
Other countries with significant numbers of journalist killings this year include Iraq with eight, Syria with seven, India with six and the Philippines with five.
While 62 of the 71 journalists on IPI’s 2017 Death Watch are men, this year has also witnessed the murders of several prominent female journalists, in addition to Mexico’s Breach.
Most recently, crusading Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bombing while leaving her home on Oct. 18. She is believed to be only the 12th journalist killed in a European Union member state for work-related reasons since 1997, and only the second woman after Elsa Cayat, a columnist for the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo who was killed in a terrorist attack on the magazine’s offices in January 2015.
In India, renowned journalist Gauri Lankesh, who was known as an active critic of Hindu nationalism, far-right politics and the caste system, was gunned down outside her home in Bangalore on Sept. 6, 2017. Lankesh had been sentenced in 2016 to spend six months in prison for defamation and was free on bail at the time.
In August, Swedish freelance reporter Kim Wall disappeared after going to interview Danish inventor Peter Madsen aboard Madsen’s homemade submarine. Wall’s headless torso later washed ashore in Copenhagen. Police have sinced charged Madsen with her murder. IPI currently considers Wall’s murder to be a death on assignment.