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“Historically low” number of journalists killed in 2019 - RSF

17.12.2019, 14:18
Photo credit: RSF
Photo credit: RSF

A total of 49 journalists were killed this year, 389 are currently in prison and 57 are being held hostage, according to the annual worldwide round-up of deadly violence and abusive treatment against journalists, released today by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Journalism remains a dangerous profession but the number of journalists killed this year is at its lowest in 16 years.

Unprecedented fall in the number of journalists killed

The number of journalists killed this year – 49 – is the lowest since 2003, and represents a spectacular 44% fall on last year’s figure. This year’s “historically low” figure, compared with an annual average of 80 journalists killed during the past two decades, is above all the result of a fall in the number of journalists killed in war zones.

Covering conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan was two times less deadly for journalists in 2019 – with a combined total of 17 journalists killed in these three countries compared with 34 in 2018.

This unprecedented fall must not however eclipse the fact that the number of journalists killed in countries at peace continues to be as high as in previous years. In Mexico, for example, ten journalists were killed in 2019, the same number as last year.  With a combined total of 14 journalists killed, Latin America is now as deadly for journalists as the Middle East., with all of its wars.

As a result of these dual trends – less deadly war zones, but countries at peace as dangerous as ever – more journalists (59%) are now being killed in countries at peace than in war zones. At the same time, there has been a 2% increase in journalists being deliberately murdered or targeted.

Among others, RSF mentioned Vadym Komarov, a Ukrainian journalist who was well known for  investigating orruption in the city of Cherkasy and who had been the target of several murder attempts in recent years, died in June from the severe head injuries
he had sustained in a violent assault in May. His murder remains unpunished.

The frontier between countries at war and countries at peace is in the process of disappearing for journalists,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We welcome the unprecedented fall in the number of journalists killed in war zones but, at the same time, more and more journalists are being deliberately murdered in connection with their work in democratic countries, which poses a real challenge for the democracies where these journalists live and work.”

Increase in arbitrary detention

Another worrying aspect of this year’s round-up is the number of arbitrarily detained journalists, which has risen yet again. Worldwide, a total of 389 journalists are currently in prison in connection with their work, 12% more than last yearNearly half of these journalists are being held by three countries: China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Having intensified its crackdown on the Uyghur minority, China alone holds a third of the worldwide total of arbitrarily detained journalists.

Worldwide, at least 57 journalists are currently held hostage, virtually the same number as last year. The figure’s stability is indicative of the lack of evolution on the ground. The hostages are still concentrated in the same four countries (Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Ukraine). Stanislav Aseyev, a journalist better known by the pen-name of Stanislav Vasin, was given a 15-year prison sentence in August by the pro-Russian separatist “authorities” in eastern Ukraine’s self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR),” where he has
been held since June 2017. After the separatists seized control of Donetsk in the spring of 2014, he was one of the few independent reporters to continue working in the city, covering daily life there for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and several Ukrainian
newspapers. No outsider has been able to visit Aseyev and no observer attended his sham trial, which ended with him being convicted of espionage, organizing an “extremist community” and inciting “violation of the territory’s integrity.” The only hope for Aseyev, one voiced by colleagues and friends, is that he could be released soon in a prisoner swap between the DNR and the Ukrainian government.  


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