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Death toll of journalists increases in 2014

31 December 2014

An International Federation of Journalists' report revealed that 118 journalists and media staff were killed during their duties in 2014, an increase of 13 compared with last year.

A further 17 died in accidents while on assignments.

According to the 24th IFJ annual list, Asia Pacific had the highest death toll with 35 killings, making it the most dangerous region for journalists and media staff in the world for the second year running. The Middle East came second with 31 fatalities, followed by the Americas with a tally of 26. Africa scored 17 violent deaths and Europe nine.

The wars and conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine and the violent insurgencies in Pakistan and Afghanistan accounted for many killings targeting journalists. Pakistan ranked as the most dangerous country with 14 journalists killed, followed by Syria where 12 lost their lives to violence. Afghanistan and Palestine recorded nine killings each while eight journalists were killed in Iraq and Ukraine.

The Federation warned that these new figures are a reminder of the gravity of the safety crisis in media and renewed its urgent call to governments to make the protection of journalists their priority.

It said that the public beheadings of journalists including US freelancers James Foley and Steven Sotloff by the so-called Islamic State militants were a new bloody chapter in the dangers facing those reporting in dangerous countries.

Jim Boumelha, IFJ president said:

"It is time for action in the face of unprecedented threats to journalists who are targeted, not only to restrict the free flow of information, but increasingly as leverage to secure huge ransoms and political concessions through sheer violence.
"As a result, some media organisations are weary of sending reporters to war zones out of fear for their safety, even of using material gathered by freelancers in these areas. Failure to improve media safety will have an adverse impact on the coverage of war which will be poorer for lack of independent witnesses."

The IFJ report highlighted the reckless attacks on journalists and media premises in conflict zones as Ukraine and the Gaza Strip in 2014.

Organised crime's ruthless rule of terror and violence continued to cast a shadow over journalism in Latin America, especially in Honduras and Mexico, where journalists pay the ultimate price for reporting on issues such as corruption, drug trafficking.

This was the conclusion of the IFJ fact-finding mission in September to the Guerrero state, one of the worst violence-hit areas of Mexico, which went on to press the authorities on the need for drastic action to protect journalists.

Beth Costa, IFJ general secretary, said:

"The levels of violence against journalists remain unacceptably high in a number of countries where journalists risk their lives in their daily job. Sadly, many have paid the ultimate price this year and lost their lives to the spiralling violence which is engulfing media, fuelled by the climate of impunity."

In 2014, the IFJ intensified its safety work, including training programmes for journalists from high risks countries, such as the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It also joined partnership with the Council of Europe to establish an online safety platform for journalists and is testing new cutting edge safety tools to maintain permanent contact with journalists while on assignments in dangerous zones.

As of 31 December 2014, the IFJ recorded the following cases of killings:

  • targeted, bomb attacks and cross-fire killings: 118
  • accidents and natural-disaster related deaths : 17
  • Total: 135

Among countries with the highest numbers of media killings were:

Pakistan 14
Syria 12
Afghanistan 9
Palestine 9
Iraq 8
Ukraine 8
Honduras 6
Mexico 5

Tags: , ifj, safety training, syria, pakistan, journalists killed, iraq, ukraine, afghanistan, james foley, honduras, mexico