September 6, 2012

Where Journalists Risk Their Lives to Report

Killings By Country
Philippines 2009 33
Iraq 2007 32
Iraq 2006 32
Iraq 2004 24
Iraq 2005 23
Syria 2012 17
Iraq 2003 14
Iraq 2008 11
Afghan- istan 2009 9
Pakistan 2010 8
Pakistan 2011 7
Isreal Palestinian Territories 2002 3
Russia 2000 3

#1 — Rank of Syria among the Deadliest Places for Journalists in 2012

This past week, it was reported that American freelance journalist Austin Tice was captured and is being held by the Syrian government–further evidence of just how dangerous the Syrian civil war has become for those who report on it.   

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 38 journalists have been killed in the line of duty since the beginning of 2012 and almost half those casualties (17 deaths) occurred in Syria. That makes it the deadliest country for journalists this year. And with four months still remaining in 2012, those casualties represent more than double the death toll (7) in the most dangerous country in 2011, which was Pakistan.

The most recent death in Syria occurred on August 20, when a Japanese journalist was killed while travelling with rebel soldiers. The death earlier this year of American journalist Marie Colvin, who died during a shelling attack, generated a spike in U.S. media coverage of the Syrian conflict. A PEJ analysis shows that during the week when Colvin was killed (February 20-26, 2012), coverage of Syria accounted for 9% of the newshole, making it the No. 2 story of that week, behind only the GOP primaries.

How does Syria rank among the most dangerous countries for journalists in the past dozen years, since 2000?  According to CPJ data, only two countries-Iraq and the Philipines-have had higher yearly death tolls for journalists.

Every year from 2003–when the U.S. invaded–until 2008, Iraq was the country with the highest media casualty rate.  During this time, 136 journalists were killed while reporting on the conflict and sectarian violence there. The year the U.S. entered the war in Afghanistan, 2001, that country was the most dangerous for journalists, with nine of them killed in the line of duty.

The largest one-year death toll for journalists in the past dozen years occurred in the Philippines in 2009. On November 23, 2009, 33 journalists who were traveling with a political candidate were abducted and killed by his political rivals, along with at least 20 others. Three years later, no one has been punished for the massacre. This is the deadliest attack ever recorded by CPJ, who began tracking journalist killings two decades ago.

Before CPJ designates a journalist as killed in the line of duty, it investigates each case to discover whether the journalist was killed because of his/her work, either a victim of a reprisal act or killed in crossfire. They do this through interviews, research, and verifying with numerous sources. If they are unable to confirm the cause of death, but have reason to believe that the killing was motivated against the press, then that case is marked "unconfirmed".

So far in 2012, there are 24 unconfirmed killings of journalists in the line of duty along with the 38 confirmed ones. Four of those unconfirmed cases are in Syria.

By Monica Anderson of PEJ