December 21, 2006

Iraq Gets Deadlier for Reporters, Too

Casualties in 2005 Casualties in 2006
killed in the line of duty 47 55
death under investigation 17 27
killed in Iraq 22 32

Just as the escalating violence inside Iraq has claimed growing numbers of civilian victims, it has made life considerably more dangerous for journalists, particularly those who are Iraqis.

On Dec. 20, the non-profit New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists released its year-end statistics indicating that a record number of journalists were killed covering what has become, by far, the deadliest conflict for the media in the group’s 25 year history. And this comes from an organization that uses a cautious approach when counting journalistic casualties.

The numbers are grim across the board. Worldwide in 2006, 55 journalists were killed “in direct connection” with their jobs—meaning they were killed in “direct reprisal for [their] work; in crossfire; or while carrying out a dangerous assignment”—compared to 47 the previous year. In addition, another 27 deaths for the year are still being investigated to see whether they fall into the “direct connection” category. (It is expected that a large number will.)

Inside Iraq, the number of line-of-duty deaths rose to 32, up from 22 in 2005, with 30 of the victims being Iraqis. (Two members of a CBS crew killed in a Baghdad car bombing where the only foreign journalist fatalities.) An additional 15 media workers—including drivers, fixers, guards and interpreters—were also killed in Iraq this year.

According to the Committee, there have now been 92 journalists killed in Iraq since the onset of the war in March 2003, making it the bloodiest conflict for reporters in the past quarter century. The second deadliest was Algeria (1993-1996) in which 58 journalists were killed.

The Committee is not the only organization that tracks what happens to journalists in global hotspots. Reporters Without Borders, which is based in Paris, also keeps a tally on its web site. Currently, it lists 81 journalists killed in 2006, up from 63 the previous year. According to this group, 39 of those journalists have been killed in Iraq, a significant increase from 24 in 2005.

There may be some methodological difference in how both sides calculate their casualty counts. (The Committee to Project Journalists stresses that it must independently verify the circumstances of each death.) But in the end, the numbers may not be that far apart. If you add the 27 deaths under investigation to the 55 deaths confirmed by the Committee, you get a number—82—that is close to the Reporters Without Borders total.