For Journalists, Murder, Not War, Is Leading Cause of Death

By Simon, Joel | Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. The IRE Journal, March/April 2005 | Go to article overview

For Journalists, Murder, Not War, Is Leading Cause of Death


Simon, Joel, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. The IRE Journal


GUEST COLUMN

Violence, and the threat of violence, has had a profound impact of the coverage of the war in Iraq. Foreign reporters in Baghdad these days are largely confined to their hotels. They rely on Iraqi stringers to gather information because they are unable to move around the country unless they are embedded with U.S. forces.

Their fear is understandable. Twenty-three journalists were killed in Iraq in 2004, along with 16 media workers. Many more were threatened, assaulted, and kidnapped. Journalists have been targeted by insurgents, caught in crossfire, and killed by fire from U.S. forces.

That death toll from Iraq pushed the number of journalists killed around the world in 2004 to 56 - the highest total in a decade. The deadliest year for journalists since the Committee to Protect Journalists began compiling detailed statistics was 1994, when 66 journalists were killed, mostly in Algeria, Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

But even in a year marked by war casualties, the leading cause of death was murder. Thirty-six of the 56 journalists who died in the line of duty in 2004 were murdered, continuing a long-term trend. As in previous years, most of those killed around the world were local reporters, photographers, editors and camera operators covering events in their own countries.

Even in Iraq, where crossfire was the leading cause of death among journalists, at least nine of the 23 journalists killed were deliberately targeted.

The Philippines, where eight journalists were killed during 2004, was more typical. Radio reporters in the rural and provincial areas have been executed in a shocking series of attacks that has outraged the Philippines press community. Most were reporting on local corruption. Despite pledges from Philippine authorities to pursue the murderers, little progress has been made in any of the cases and Philippine journalists are extremely skeptical that the government has the interest or resources to solve the crimes. Police officials even suggested that journalists carry guns to protect themselves.

The record in countries like Iraq and the Philippines is even more disturbing when one considers that the murder of a single journalist can have a powerful deterrent effect. …

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