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IFJ reports 93 media professionals killed this year

31 December 2016

There have been 93 journalists and media professionals killed in 2016 according to new statistics published by the world's largest journalists' organisation. The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which represents 600,000 members in 140 countries, has published its annual killed list. All the deaths listed are work-related incidents and a further 29 media workers have died in two plane crashes.

The killings, including targeted murders, bomb attacks and cross fire incidents span 23 countries in Africa, Asia Pacific, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East and Arab World.

Although the figures for 2016 are down on previous years the IFJ has warned against complacency citing reports of rising threats, intimidation and self-censorship as evidence that attacks on freedom of expression remain at critical levels.

In addition to the 93 targeted killings, 20 Brazilian sports reporters perished in a plane crash over the city of Medellin in Colombia, a country where for the first time in many years no killing was recorded this year (there were three killings listed in the 2015 IFJ report). There were also 9 Russian journalists killed in a military plane crash in 2016.

The figures for 2016 are down from the 112 reported in 2015. Year on year country comparisons show there have been decreases in the number of killings in a range of countries including Honduras, Libya, the Philippines and South Sudan. However, the levels of violence were higher in Afghanistan, Guatemala, Iraq and Mexico. Furthermore, countries such as Yemen, India, Pakistan and Syria saw little or no change in the numbers of killings compared to last year.

The devastating terrorist attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo at the start of 2015, was mirrored by another attack in January 2016 aimed at causing massive loss of life in Afghanistan when the Taliban attacked a staff van of TOLO TV and killed seven journalists and support staff, after declaring the TV station as a military target.

According to IFJ records, the Arab World and Middle East has the highest killing tally with 30, followed by Asia Pacific with 28 killings, Latin America with 24, Africa 8 and Europe with three killings.

The statistics on journalists and media staff killed in 2016 are as follows:

As of 29 December 2016, the IFJ recorded the following cases -

  • Targeted, bomb attacks and cross-fire killings: 93
  • Accidents and Natural Disasters Related Deaths: 29
  • Total number of deaths: 122

Countries with the highest numbers of media killings:

  • Iraq: 15
  • Afghanistan: 13
  • Mexico: 11
  • Yemen: 8
  • Guatemala: 6
  • Syria: 6
  • India: 5
  • Pakistan: 5

The IFJ compiles the annual list of journalists and media staff killed from information from its affiliates and other credible sources, after having established a clear or reasonable link between the killing and the professional activity of the victim. While every effort is made to consider all cases that are publicly known, the list does not pretend to include all killings of journalists and media staff.

The IFJ is aware of journalists who have gone missing and are feared killed but there is not enough information to determine that they have been killed. One case in point is the disappearance of Burundian journalist Jean Bigirimana whose whereabouts remain unknown almost six months after he went missing.

Philippe Leruth, IFJ president, said:

"Any decrease in violence against journalists and media staff is always welcome but these statistics and the continued deliberate targeting of media workers in many incidents causing loss of life give little room for comfort nor ground for hope to see the end of the current media safety crisis.

"These levels of violence in media should spur into action all those committed to protecting journalists. There must be no impunity for those crimes. The IFJ and its affiliates around the world will redouble efforts to mobilise for credible steps to remove the shadow of violence over journalism."

Anthony Bellanger, IFJ general secretary, said:

"The number of journalists and media staff killed for doing their work could be higher if it weren’t for lack of credible information on these missing cases and for the self-censorship by journalists in some countries to avoid drawing the unwelcome attention of crime barons.

"There is therefore urgency in pressing governments to investigate all forms of violence, including killings and disappearances in a speedy and credible manner to protect the physical integrity and professional independence of journalists."

Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, said:

"Remembering our many colleagues around the world who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their dedication to their work is a salutary reminder of the dangers and risks facing far too many journalists.

"Our collective campaign to halt impunity - a scourge that serves as a protective shield for enemies of press freedom - is more vital than ever as we enter a year that will inevitably translate political uncertainty and instability into more attacks on journalists and journalism."

Helen Goodman, chair of the NUJ parliamentary group and Labour Party member of parliament for Bishop Auckland, said:

"Some parts of the world are extremely violent. We only know about what is going on because of the work of very brave journalists and war correspondents. Without them the public would not be in a position to pressure governments over policy or donate to the relief charities. We owe these journalists, photographers, and interpreters a huge debt. I salute them."

Tom Watson, Labour Party shadow secretary of state for culture, media and sport and member of parliament for West Bromwich East, said:

"The number of media professionals killed in 2016 is a sobering reminder that too many journalists pay the highest price possible in the course of doing their jobs. It is thanks to them and others like them that we know the truth about what is happening in places that are afflicted by war, terrorism or state-sponsored violence. Governments must do all they can to ensure that journalists who do the most dangerous jobs are protected as they go about their work. In increasingly uncertain times, now more than ever, the world need robust and uncompromising journalism." 

John Nicolson, Scottish National Party (SNP) front bench spokesman for culture, media and sport and member of parliament for East Dunbartonshire, said:

"Around the world journalists risk their lives to expose injustice, cruelty, war and famine. They frequently work under the most hazardous circumstances. Their coverage is our window on to the world. Every year many journalists pay the ultimate price and lose their lives. Sometimes their deaths are accidental. But too often, in Syria, Russia and elsewhere, they find themselves targeted by despotic regimes determined to silence them. So at this time of year we think of all those journalists working in hazardous conditions. We think of their families and loved ones. And in particular we look back with respect to those who have lost their lives in 2016."

Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, Liberal Democrat Party spokesperson for culture, media and sport in the House of Lords, said:

"It is terrible that journalist continue to die in the line of duty. One of my greatest friends was Marie Colvin, foreign correspondent for The Sunday Times. She was killed in Homs Syria in 2012 doing a job she was passionate about and excelled at. She is just one among so many journalists who have paid the ultimate price for being unafraid to report reality. I believe she was targeted for doing so. I did not just lose a friend, we all lost someone who spoke truth to power. She was the friend of the friend of the friendless."

Sir Peter Bottomley, Conservative Party Member of Parliament for Worthing West, said:

"We rely on national and international journalists and television crew with local helpers. Because of their dedication we know what is happening around the world. We should all be aware of the personal cost to their families and to them. Too many are killed or die because of their commitment to finding news and making it available to us all. Let us remember them; we should do all we can to let them operate safely."

Mark Durkan, Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) Member of Parliament for Foyle, said:

"In an age when it is easy and fashionable to sniff and sneer at the modern media, these details tell of the real bravery of journalists in situations of real risk. As well as the journalists who have lost their lives trying to cover serious events, many others have their rights curtailed in suppression or imprisonment. In the New Year comfort of our own fears for a disordering world, we should appreciate brave journalists whose challenging ethic explores conflict, exposes corruption, covers humanitarian crises, uncovers rights violations, confounds complacency  and confronts prejudice."

Baroness Jenny Jones of Moulsecoomb, Green Party member of the House of Lords, said:

"As the mother of a journalist, I'm horrified by the number of journalists and media workers killed every year, while doing their job. I'm also astonished and impressed by their dedication to their work and the giving of impartial and immediate information to the wider world, in dangerous situations. We all owe them a debt of gratitude."

Access the previous IFJ killed lists on the NUJ website

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