2012 on Track to Be the Deadliest on Record for Journalists
By Curtis Brainard
June 29, 2012
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago - With 72 journalists
killed so far this year, 2012 is on pace to be the
deadliest on record, the International Press Institute
(IPI) announced here on Sunday.
The media freedom organization's executive director,
Alison Bethel McKenzie, choked up and struggled to speak
as she addressed the group's annual conference.
"From Somalia to Syria, the Philippines to Mexico, and
Iraq to Pakistan, reporters are being brutally targeted
for death in unparalleled numbers," she said.
The most lethal year so far in the 15 that IPI has been
keeping records was 2009, when 110 journalists died.
Last year was the second worst, with 102 deaths.
Syria, where peaceful protests have turned into a
violent civil war, has been the most dangerous country
in 2012, with 20 professional and citizen reporters,
both local and foreign, killed so far, according to McKenzie.
"It is deeply disturbing that in a year still massively
impacted by the once unimaginable-the overthrow of
brutal Arab regimes through people and media power-
journalists are dying on the job in record numbers," she said.
Unlike the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which
also monitors casualties, IPI counts accidental deaths,
such as those of five Indonesian journalists killed when
a plane crashed during a demonstration flight in May.
Still, the two groups are in rough accord on the violent
pace of 2012. According to CPJ, 46 journalists have died
so far this year, on track to match or surpass the 97
lost lives it recorded in 2009, the highest number in
the 20 years the group has kept statistics.
CPJ figures also finger Syria as the deadliest country
for journalists in 2012. As recently as Wednesday,
gunmen attacked a pro-government TV station near
Damascus, killing three journalists and four others,
according to the Associated Press.
"Local reporters have been savagely eliminated. Many
have been brutally tortured," said IPI's McKenzie of the
general situation in Syria.
Cruelty has been global, however. Mexico, whose gruesome
drug war made it the most dangerous country to cover
last year, according to IPI, continues to be a lethal
environment for the media. Two weeks ago, one of the
powerful cartels there kidnapped and murdered Victor
Manuel Baez Chino, who covered crime in the state of
Veracuz for a local edition of the national newspaper
Milenio. He was the fifth journalist be killed in the
state in the last six weeks, the AP reported.
A few days after Baez Chino's murder and halfway around
the world, assailants in Bangladesh stabbed to death
newspaper reporter Jamal Uddin while he visited a tea
stall, according to CPJ. The list goes on and on, and
even more journalists have only narrowly escaped having
their names added to it.
On Sunday, two unexploded hand grenades were lobbed onto
the premises of a privately owned TV news station in
Greece, The Wall Street Journal reported (the South East
Europe Media Organization, an affiliate of IPI, had
noted an increase in attacks against media in the
country a week earlier). And on Monday evening, gunmen
from the Pakistani Taliban opened fire on a privately
owned TV news station in Karachi, injuring two
employees, according to the BBC.
Other forms of press intimidation-from kidnapping in
Honduras, to a beating in Peru, to imprisonment in
Ethiopia-continue to plague news organizations as well,
At the group's conference this week, special envoys from
the United Nations, the Organization for Security and
Co-operation in Europe, the Organization of American
States, and the African Commission on Human and Peoples'
Rights issued a joint declaration calling for
international mechanisms to address crimes against
freedom of expression.
"Impunity is winning," UN Special Rapporteur on the
right to freedom of opinion and expression Frank La Rue
Sadly, he's right, and if governments around the world
don't take immediate and strong action to curb violence
against the press, 2012 will be remembered as the
deadliest year in media history.
Disclosure: IPI paid for my travel and lodging to attend
the conference, where I hosted a panel on covering the
environment, part of which addressed recent reports that
journalists on that beat are also under increasing threat.