The Annual Toll on Journalists

It has been another grim year for journalists. According to Reporters Without Borders, the international press website, 59 journalists have been killed across the globe so far in 2011, with another 169 imprisoned for doing their jobs, along with another 127 bloggers. The death toll has risen slightly, from 54 in 2010.

The US-based Committee to Protect Journalist reports different figures, reporting 43 killed across the globe against 42 in 2010. The differences between the two websites are unclear. But the magnitude of the deaths is an indication, as it is year after year, of the dedication of people who risk their lives to produce truth for power. Almost all of those who have been killed have died in third-world dictatorships, far too often at the hands of governments themselves or business interests who do not want their dealings exposed to the light.

Nor can it be concluded that the toll is finished. On Dec. 15, Gadzhimurad Kamalov, the founder of the independent weekly Chernovik, in Dagestan, Russia, was assassinated. The Committee to Protect Journalists said kamalov had tackled “highly sensitive topics.” On Dec. 11, unknown figures attacked the home of an Indonesian journalist who reported on local corruption, according to CPJ. The journalist’s month-old child was killed in the attack although he escaped.

As an indication of the power of those who order the deaths, they have almost never been brought to justice. Since 1992, at least 629 journalists have been murdered across the globe according to CPJ. Of those, the cases of 559 have never been solved. In all, 890 have been killed since 1992 either by murder, being caught in crossfire or combat, or while serving on dangerous assignments.

There are deep concerns that no one will be punished for a horrific November 2009 incident in the province of Maguindanao in the Philippines, where 33 reporters and other media workers were gunned down in the middle of a political feud ordered by Andal Ampatuan Jr., the son of a local warlord. It appears to be the worst single incident in global history. Although dozens of arrests were made, the trial drones on in a Manila courtroom. Witnesses have been murdered, coerced or bribed not to testify. The trial is expected to take years and there is concern that Ampatuan and others charged will get off.

Another 36 journalists have been reported missing since 1992 and their bodies have never been found. They are presumed to have been murdered as well.

Top 20 Countries, Cases of Complete Impunity

1. Iraq: 93

2. Philippines: 65

3. Algeria: 57

4. Colombia: 35

5. Russia: 30

6. Pakistan: 22

7. Mexico: 22

8. Somalia: 18

9. Rwanda: 15

10. India: 15

11. Turkey: 14

12. Tajikistan: 14

13. Brazil: 13

14. Sri Lanka: 10

15. Afghanistan: 9

16. Sierra Leone: 9

17. Bangladesh: 8

18. Peru: 7

19. Cambodia: 7

20. Angola: 7

Source: CPJ

Reporters Without Borders includes in its total “only cases in which Reporters Without Borders has clearly established that the victim was killed because of his/her activities as a journalist. It does not include cases in which the motives were not related to the victim’s work or in which a link has not yet been confirmed.”

In any case, of the dead, according to CPJ, 19 were murdered, eight were caught in crossfire or combat and another 16 were killed while on dangerous assignments.

As it has far too regularly over the past decade, Pakistan led the statistics of journalists killed, with seven dead in 2011. Reporters Without Borders lists nine killed. Among the most prominent was Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan correspondent for the Asia Times Online website, who almost certainly was murdered by Pakistan’s Inter Service Intelligence bureau, commonly known as the ISI, for reporting links between Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani military. He had been warned at least three times by the ISI over his reporting.

Since 1992, 41 journalists have been confirmed by CPJ to have been murdered in Pakistan for their reporting and another 19 have died for unconfirmed motives.

Deadliest Countries in 2011

1. Pakistan: 7

2. Iraq: 5

3. Libya: 5

4. Mexico: 3

5. Bahrain: 2

6. Afghanistan: 2

7. Yemen: 2

8. Philippines: 2

9. Egypt: 2

10. Brazil: 2

11. Somalia: 1

12. Russia: 1

13. Nigeria: 1

14. Thailand: 1

15. Dominican Republic: 1

16. Vietnam: 1

17. Tunisia: 1

18. Ivory Coast: 1

19. Syria: 1

20. Azerbaijan 1

Sixteen reporters were killed in combat or on dangerous assignments in 2011, more than triple the five who died in 2010, most of them in the Middle East as they attempted to record the events of the Arab Spring. Five died in Libya,

In Somalia, Noramfaizul Mohd, 39, a veteran cameraman for the national Malaysian broadcaster Bernama TV, was struck by gunfire while covering a humanitarian aid mission in Mogadishu, Bernama TV said. Witnesses reported that African Union peacekeeping forces had fired on the Malaysian aid convoy as it was traveling to its base at the Mogadishu airport, according to news reports.