Rubén Pat was gunned down execution-style outside a Mexican beach bar. Yaser Murtaja was fatally shot by an Israeli army sniper. Bulgarian Viktoria Marinova was beaten, raped and strangled. A car bomb killed Malta’s Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in
Istanbul on Oct. 2 sparked an international outcry. Here’s what should also stir public disquiet: 2018 was the worst year on record for deadly violence and abuse toward journalists, according to a report published Tuesday by Reporters Without Borders.
And, likely shocking for some Americans, for the first time the United States joined the ranks of places where the business of doing journalism carries real hazards.
The annual report released by Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based media watchdog that advocates for political freedoms, illustrates a marked rise in hostility toward media personnel around the world. At least 80 journalists were killed this year, 348 are currently in prison and 60 are being held hostage, the report found.
“The hatred of journalists that is voiced, and sometimes very openly proclaimed, by unscrupulous politicians, religious leaders, and businessmen has tragic consequences on the ground, and has been reflected in this disturbing increase in violations against journalists,” said Reporters Without Borders’ secretary-general Christophe Deloire.
“Amplified by social networks, which bear heavy responsibility in this regard, these expressions of hatred legitimize violence, thereby undermining journalism, and democracy itself, a bit more every day,” he added.
After falling for three years in a row, the number of journalists killed in connection with their work increased 8 percent since 2017. The report has been issued since 1995.
Conflict-zone Afghanistan was perhaps predictably the world’s deadliest country for journalists in 2018, with 15 killed. It was followed by Syria (11 killed) and Mexico (9 killed), the deadliest country for journalists outside a conflict zone.
However, for the first time the U.S. was included among world’s most dangerous places for journalists because of the fatal shooting of five employees of the Capital Gazette, a local newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. Jarrod Ramos had been harassing the newspaper for six years on Twitter about a 2011 article that named him before he walked into the paper’s newsroom and opened fire with a shotgun in June. It was the deadliest attack on a media outlet in the U.S. in modern history. Two other journalists, a local TV anchor and cameraman, were killed by a falling tree while covering Subtropical Storm Alberto’s extreme weather in North Carolina in May.
President Donald Trump has denigrated the media, often taking to Twitter to describe stories critical of his personal behavior and administration as “fake news” or an “enemy of the American people.” European Union officials regularly accuse Hungary’s right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban of demonizing the media and spreading disinformation. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has referred to journalists critical of his rule as “terrorists.” In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte has called journalists “spies,” a characterization that drew a chuckle from Trump when the two met in Manila last year. At least 80 journalists have been killed in the Philippines in recent decades, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The number of journalists detained worldwide at the end of the year – 348 – is up from 326 at this time last year. And more than half of them are being held in just five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. As in 2017, China remains the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, with 60 currently held, according to the report.
The number of journalists currently held hostage – 60 – is 11 percent higher than this time last year. All but one – Stanislav Aseyev, in Ukraine – are being held in three Middle Eastern countries: Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
TIME magazine chose journalists such as Khashoggi and the Capital Gazette staff who have been attacked fighting the “war on truth” as its 2018 Person of the Year.
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