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2012: A deadly year for press freedom

19 Dec

A new report by Reporters Without Borders reveals the bleak dangers that journalists are faced with in their daily work. With 141 people killed, 2012 has been one of the worst years for press freedom in a long time.

“2012 was an extremely deadly year,” says Ulrike Gruska of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The organization’s just-published annual report shows a total of 141 journalists, bloggers and media workers were killed because of their work. Of these, six were media employees and 47 were bloggers – the report describes these as “citizen journalists.” In addition, 88 professional journalists were killed in the course of their duties – more than at any time since the introduction of the RSF annual reports in 1995.

“The 88 journalists killed in 2012 lost their lives while covering wars or bombings, or were murdered by groups linked to organized crime (including drug trafficking), by Islamist militias or on the orders of corrupt officials,” the report said.

Al Husseini Abu Dief 

Al Husseini Abu Dief died filming the unrest in Cairo

Al Husseini Abu Dief died filming the unrest in Cairo

Egyptian journalist Al Husseini Abu Dief was shot dead in early December while filming unrest in Cairo. The 33-year-old photojournalist from the daily newspaper Al-Fagr, who trained at the DW Akademie, was covering the presidential palace, where he wanted to film the clashes between supporters and opponents of President Morsi. According to an eyewitness, Al Husseini Abu Dief was shot at close range by an unknown assailant. Six days later, he died of his injuries.

2012 was particularly dangerous for citizen journalists, bloggers and Internet reporters. Five died in 2011 – but in 2012 there were 47 deaths around the world, 44 in Syria alone. “In Syria, many people have tried to break through the regime’s information blockade,” Gruska said, “by getting information out of the country, whether in the form of blogs and video messages or mobile phone videos. And we had to rely on this heavily in our Syria coverage in Germany because there were hardly any professional journalists on the ground.”

Syria: deadly for journalists

Mazen Darwish

Mazen Darwish – whereabouts still unknown

The report calls Syria a “cemetery for news providers.” “The problem for Syrian colleagues is they very often get caught in the crossfire,” explains Nils Butcher, editor of Zenith magazine, which focuses on the Arab and Islamic world. “To many rebels, employees of state television do not count as neutral observers of the war. Islamist groups in particular have systematically attacked, abducted and executed Syrian state media journalists.”

Even employees of Russian media are in great danger, said Metzger, who last did research in Syria in October 2012. He also gave examples of abuses by government troops, such as the bombing of an opposition press center. A total of 65 media workers were killed in Syria in 2012 while working. Some 21 were imprisoned, including Mazen Darwish. “Being a journalist in Syria is like walking on a minefield”, Darwish once said. “No one can say when a mine will explode.” Among others, the 38-year-old founded the “Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression”. Darwish was arrested in February 2012. Where he has been held ever since is unknown.

Reporters Without Borders is now honoring Darwish with an award for his courage and commitment. Also awarded for 2012 is the Afghan newspaper “8Sobh”, meaning “Eight o’clock in the morning.”

Cameraman at work silhouettes side view (photo: sahua)141 journalists, bloggers and media workers were killed because of their work in 2012

Brazil: World Cup fever and murder of journalists

The report says 2012 was a “black year” for Somalia, where 18 journalists were killed, more than ever before in a single year. In Pakistan, 10 journalists and media workers were killed. For years, the country has been one of the most dangerous places for working journalists, writes RSF.

Journalists also live dangerously in Mexico – especially if they are writing about organized crime, and thus about drug trafficking and the links between criminal bosses and civil servants. Six journalists were killed there in 2012.

Reporters Without Borders also counts Brazil among the most dangerous countries – even though it is the venue for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the Summer Olympic Games in 2016. Five reporters have died here – two were apparently murdered because they were researching cases of drug smuggling.

More journalists in jail than ever

The other numbers RSF released also give cause for deep concern: more than 1,000 journalists and bloggers were arrested in 2012. A further 2,000 reporters were threatened or attacked.

At present, 193 journalists are in prisons worldwide, 70 in Turkey alone. In the case of 42 of them, RSF is sure that there is a connection with their profession. China also imprisons professional and citizen journalists – at present there are about 100 behind bars, most of whom have been there for many years are are living in inhumane conditions. Often corrupt regional officials are behind the judgments, to get rid of their harshest critics.

‘Eritrea arrests journalists and leaves them to rot’

Eritrea currently has 28 journalists in jail – sometimes in solitary confinement in underground cells. The report reserves its harshest criticism for this East African country: “One of the planet’s few remaining totalitarian dictatorships and ranked last in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, Eritrea arrests journalists and leaves them to rot in prison on the least suspicion of posing a threat to national security or taking a critical view of government policies.”

Journalists face dangers in other countries, too: Oman and Cuba, for example, took steps against bloggers critical of the government, the report said. It also leveled harsh accusations at Iran. In Africa, northern Mali was the main source of concern. The report did not offer criticism of Western countries.



Journalist deaths spike in 2012 due to Syria, Somalia – Reports – Committee to Protect Journalists

19 Dec

The number of journalists killed in the line of duty rose sharply in 2012, as the war in Syria, a record number of shootings in Somalia, continued violence in Pakistan, and a worrying increase in Brazilian murders contributed to a 42 percent increase in deaths from the previous year. Internet journalists were hit harder than ever, while the proportion of freelancers was again higher than the historical average, the Committee to Protect Journalists found in its yearly analysis.

With 67 journalists killed in direct relation to their work by mid-December, 2012 is on track to become one of the deadliest years since CPJ began keeping detailed records in 1992. The worst year on record for journalist killings was 2009, when 74 individuals were confirmed dead because of their work—nearly half of them slain in a massacre in Maguindanao province, Philippines. CPJ is investigating the deaths of 30 more journalists in 2012 to establish whether they were work-related.

With 67 journalists killed in direct relation to their work by mid-December, 2012 is on track to become one of the deadliest years since CPJ began keeping detailed records in 1992. The worst year on record for journalist killings was 2009, when 74 individuals were confirmed dead because of their work—nearly half of them slain in amassacre in Maguindanao province, Philippines. CPJ is investigating the deaths of 30 more journalists in 2012 to establish whether they were work-related.

Syria was by far the deadliest country in 2012, with 28 journalists killed in combat or targeted for murder by government or opposition forces. In addition, a journalist covering the Syrian conflict was killed just over the border in Lebanon. The number of fatalities related to the Syrian conflict approached the worst annual toll recorded during the war in Iraq, where 32 journalists were killed in both 2006 and 2007.

Here are other trends and details that emerged in CPJ’s analysis:

  • With two weeks remaining in the year, the 2012 death toll is already the third-highest CPJ has recorded. Along with the 74 deaths recorded in 2009, CPJ documented 70 deaths in 2007, a year marked by a high number of fatalities in Iraq.
  • War, politics, and human rights were the three most common beats among the 2012 victims.
  • About 35 percent of those killed in 2012 were camera operators or photographers, a proportion considerably higher than the 20 percent they have constituted in the death toll over the past two decades. About two-thirds of those killed in Syria carried a camera.
  • In Mexico, where criminal violence has posed extraordinary dangers to the press, one journalist—freelancer Adrián Silva Moreno—was confirmed killed for his work in 2012. However, CPJ is still examining the motive in five other murders during the year. The Mexican government’s failure to carry out basic investigations in many cases makes it extremely difficult for CPJ to determine a motive.
  • One journalist was confirmed murdered for professional reasons in the Philippines, the lowest number since 2007. In Russia as well, one journalist was killed: Kazbek Gekkiyev, news anchor for an affiliate of state-owned broadcaster VGTRK, was shot in the North Caucasus city of Nalchik. Both countries rank poorly on CPJ’s Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered regularly and killers go free.
  • In addition to the 28 work-related deaths in Syria, CPJ has documented the cases of four other journalists whose deaths in Syria came in unclear circumstances. CPJ is also examining the reported deaths of a number of individuals described by local groups as citizen journalists. In these cases, few details beyond the identities are known as yet.
  • Outside Syria, fatalities declined in the Middle East and North Africa. Two work-related deaths were reported elsewhere in the region. In Bahrain, freelance videographer Ahmed Ismail Hassan was shot after filming a pro-reform protest. InEgypt, newspaper reporter Al-Hosseiny Abou Deif died after being struck by a rubber bullet fired by person whom witnesses identified as a Muslim Brotherhood supporter.
  • For the first time since 2003, CPJ did not confirm any work-related fatalities in Iraq. A total of 151 journalists have died in direct relation to their work in Iraq, most of them during the years 2003 through 2008. CPJ is still investigating the deaths of three Iraqi journalists in 2012 to determine whether their work could have played a role.
  • Tanzania recorded its first work-related fatality since CPJ began keeping detailed records in 1992. Daudi Mwangosi, a reporter with the private television station Channel Ten and chairman of a local press club, was killed during a confrontation with police over the arrest of another journalist.
  • CPJ documented the deaths of one imprisoned journalist and one reporter under arrest. Critical Iranian blogger Sattar Beheshti died four days after being arrested on allegations of “acting against national security.” Fellow prisoners said he was tortured while being held at Evin Prison. In Colombia, freelance reporter Guillermo Quiroz Delgado died after being hospitalized for injuries suffered when he was arrested by police while covering a street protest.
  • Other countries where CPJ documented work-related fatalities were NigeriaIndia,EcuadorThailandBangladeshIndonesia, and Cambodia.

CPJ’s database of journalists killed for their work in 2012 includes capsule reports on each victim and a statistical analysis. CPJ also maintains a database of all journalistskilled since 1992. A final list of journalists killed in 2012 will be released in early January.

Committee to Protect Journalists.

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