Fewer journalist killings in 2010

Reporting from the battlefield is safer but covering crime, gangs and domestic strife is becoming more dangerous

Published December 30, 2010 11:20PM (EST)

Fewer reporters were killed worldwide in 2010 than in the previous year, but media advocacy groups warned Thursday that while the number slain in war zones has fallen, criminals and traffickers have become a greater threat to journalists.

Fifty-seven reporters were killed around the world this year, the Paris-based media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said in its annual report, down 25 percent from 2009, when 76 journalists were killed in connection with their jobs.

Last year's record number of deaths was high because of a massacre in the Philippines that saw more than two dozen journalists and their staff gunned down.

A separate report Thursday from the Brussels-based International Federation for Journalists said 94 journalist and other media personnel were killed in 2010, down from 139 in 2009. The federation count includes other employees of media organizations such as drivers, cameramen or producers.

The insurgency in Pakistan claimed the most victims in 2010, according to both groups. Other dangerous beats included the drug war in Mexico and political unrest in Honduras. Iraq, the Philippines, and Somalia also ranked high.

Media advocates stressed that while massacres like the one in the Philippines or the war in Iraq have pushed up the death toll in recent years, the number of journalists killed in domestic political conflicts has reached an alarmingly high level.

"This year, most of the journalists were killed in countries that cannot be called countries at war, I mean not in the traditional sense of a war," Jean-Francois Julliard, the secretary general of Reporters Without Borders, told APTN. "We have the feeling that murderers of journalists are among organized crime gangs, mafia, militias rather than in conflict zones."

Jim Boumelha, the president of the International Federation for Journalists, said one of the main reasons for the high numbers of deaths in places such as Pakistan and Honduras was that "governments aren't doing anything."

Journalists covering war zones were getting better protection, but when there is impunity for crimes against journalists within a country, it is difficult to protect them from the outside "no matter what we do, no matter how we campaign," Boumelha said in a phone interview.

People working in the media also faced other threats this year.

A total of 51 reporters were kidnapped in 2010, up from 33 in 2009, Reporters Without Borders said. Two French TV journalists, Herve Ghesquiere and Stephane Taponier, as well as their three Afghan assistants, have been held hostage in Afghanistan for more than a year.

Many others were beaten, jailed without a trial, threatened, or prevented from publishing, said Boumelha, pointing to recent disputed elections in Belarus and Ivory Coast.

The foiled bomb plot earlier this week against Danish newspaper Jyllens Posten, which in 2005 sparked outrage by publishing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, was another example of the risks involved in working in the news media.

"Journalists are seen less and less as outside observers," Reporters Without Borders said in its report. "Their neutrality and the nature of their work are no longer respected."


Doland reported from Paris.

By Angela Doland

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